Writing and editing this story has taken me a whole month, mostly because listening to Lorena* talk about her struggle with Kachwiri, crack- heroin for a few years was heart wrenching.
This story is part of the Kachwiri series that I am sharing to create awareness about the scourge that is destroying so many young people in my circles.
He was a third year student at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, I met him while visiting a friend at a hostel most people called Tripoli, him and his friends were leaving to go for drinks at a nearby shop. He was quite tall, lanky and when he smiled you could see how white his teeth were. I thought he was sexy. There was something off about him though, he looked a little too skinny but still handsome. I didn’t know him or his friends but when I asked my friend about him, I was told to stay away from him. My friend said the guy was called Fred* and he was in third year with his friends but they partied a lot. I didn’t seem to care much, a cute guy had smiled and winked at me.
A few weeks later on, I was getting something to eat with a classmate at a restaurant near campus and there he was with his friends again. They were drinking beer from a shop nearby and they seemed drunk. Was this how university life was? You leave class and start partying immediately after?
I came from a Catholic single girls’ school that I had been in all my life, it had both primary and secondary branches so my parents didn’t see the need to change schools for the different levels.
My parents have always had money but were strict on us since we were children. I was the last of three so I used to get away with a few things; two girls and a boy. My elder sister is 14 years and my brother 10 years older than I am; so growing up, I was like the baby in a house full of adults. By the time I was a teenager, my sister got married and moved to America. My brother, got married when I was in my senior six vacation and moved to the UK.
So when I started university, I was alone with parents at home. My Dad is a retired civil servant and my mother was a business woman, but she was always around when we were growing up.
The first time he kissed me, I remember him smelling like herbs and when I asked him what that was, he said mary jane. I was naive, lived a very protected life, had never even tasted alcohol all my life. He was my first kiss and later my first sexual encounter.
I didn’t know what “mary jane” was, I asked my roommate and she said it was marijuana. Its strange how his being dangerous seemed even more attractive to me. I used to have dreams about him rescuing me from a lot of things, you could say I had read too many novels.
Whenever we would hung out, I would smoke some of the weed and found myself liking it. Of course the first time, it was really hard, it gave me nausea because of the smell and all the coughing but he taught me how to inhale it gently and after awhile, I was doing it so well. I just wanted to impress him.
One night, he came to my room late at 3AM. I had an exam the next day so I was trying to do some early morning reading. Sheila*, my roommate had slept at her boyfriend’s hostel so I was alone. He was really high and smelled funny and looked really dirty. He got into my room and just blacked out.
The next morning, I went for my test and came back to find him and his friends in my room rolling weed and drinking, I didn’t like the way my room smelled but he was my boyfriend and I wanted him around.
They gave me some weed to smoke but told me to smoke this one gently since its the “high grade” and we all laughed, I honestly don’t remember anything after that. My roommate said she came back to find me on my bed, looking like I was dosing but not sleeping. He was on the bed besides me while his friends were blacked out on the floor. She assumed we were high, picked her things and left.
I hung with him for a while and we started smoking together what I later learned was called, brownsugar. I even knew the dealers and would go purchase it from them, sometimes I would smoke three sticks in a day and it started to slowly affect my school work. I missed one class, then two, then a whole month and finally I got expelled.
I never told my parents, I just kept partying and hunging with Fred and his friends but this time, it was me buying the alcohol and the drugs. When I started running out of money, he would take some of the things in my room and sell them then buy us the drugs.
My roommate got tired and moved out of the room, then the hostel kicked me out. That’s when I realised he didn’t have where to stay and we would party all night then sleep on the balcony of the bars.
The day I realised I had a problem, is when I went to a restaurant to steal forks and sell them to buy drugs for an extra high. He had disappeared out of the blue and I had been looking for him every where, when I ended up fainting in the trading center near my hostel. One of the boda boda men who had taken me to my parent’s home on a couple of occasions recognised me and took me back home.
I was admitted for dehydration in the hospital later on that evening, but when the doctor came back with the tests it turns out I was pregnant.
I had never been so scared in my life, I didn’t know where he was or who his family was and my parents were strict Catholics who had raised a good girl but here I was three months pregnant and a drug addict.
My father was the first to hear the news, he was shocked but very calm till the doctor told him he had noticed some drugs in my system. He walked away from my bedside, he looked disappointed and sad at the same time. My heart broke at the sight of him like that.
My mother walked in and was told the news, she fainted.
I didn’t attend the burial, my father said it was better I stayed in Kampala as they buried my mother. At that time, I was going through what they call withdrawal, I wanted to leave the house and go buy some brownsugar to feel better. I was in pain, sweating and vomiting almost every minute but the security guard and maid were told not to allow me to go anywhere or see anyone.
It turns out, my mother was diagnosed with high blood pressure after the university called her about my expulsion from campus and the news in the hospital had been the last straw, she died immediately after collapsing in my hospital room.
That night, I wanted to kill myself. I was in pain physically and emotionally, I had killed my mother. My sweet mother who did everything to make sure I was happy, I would never see her smile again, I deserved to die. I looked for rat poison in the kitchen but didn’t find any then mixed jik (bleach) and omo (detergent) with water and chugged it down. I don’t remember much after that, the maid found me lying down covered with foam on my lips. I woke up a few days later in the hospital with my siblings glaring at me and father’s concerned face hovering over me. I had lost the baby.
A few months later, Dad took me to Nairobi and checked me into a rehabilitation centre. Three months there and I was well on my way to recovery, then I met another patient who was from a well to do family and could afford to sneak in some drugs into the facility. We became friends, we would smoke some weed in the toilet; you inhale then exhale into the toilet bowl so that the smoke doesn’t hover for long but you have to put your head halfway into the bowl.
One night, we stole some aspirin and crushed it then added it to the weed. That was a very good high, but we were caught since were too high to notice the night Supervisor walking into the bathroom.
I was kicked out of the rehabilitation that very week, my father was not pleased. He was not angry, he didn’t even yell or beat me. He just brought me back home and got me a Counselor to talk to.
After a few weeks in therapy, I still wanted to get high. My sister made arrangements for me to be taken to her former school’s Convent in the UK. She said, someone had told her how the Nuns had discreetly helped a few friend’s relatives. Dad thought it was a good idea and a few weeks later, I was in Convent filled with no nonsense Nuns under a full watch of their house doctors and therapists.
The first few weeks, were horrible. I was having the pains again and would have done anything for any high that could take that pain away, in the previous place in Nairobi I was given very few painkillers to help with the pain but in this case there was nothing. I wanted to die, I begged for them to do it but they held me most nights when I cried and told me it would get better.
It got better after awhile, I was eating food, participating in the daily activities of the Nuns and also speaking to my family on phone. I was allowed one call daily from the main phone in the main office. I love books, so I used to help Sister Theodora in the Library and once in awhile they would allow me to access the internet.
Its on those days that I saw his Facebook page, I had not seen him in months. I was going to send him a friendship request but remembered the therapist had told me to keep away from anything that triggers my addiction and Fred was the genesis of it all. I closed my Facebook account and decided to focus on working on myself.
I have been sober for 2 years and 43 days now, I am happy that my family never gave up on me. I have come to terms with my mother’s death, of course the guilt never goes away but my family has been my strength through everything. I joined a Narcotics Anonymous group, where we share and hold ourselves accountable on this journey of healing. I also have a sober coach who has helped me with my life after addiction.
I am one year into my Psychology studies and I want to help people for the rest of my life. I want to help many more heal especially families that have been affected by addiction. You see, once there’s an addict in the family, a lot breaks among them and it takes a lot of effort to repair that. I want to help them do that.
* Not real names of the people in the story.