My alcohol addiction started when I was 3
Posted Sunday, September 29 2013 at 00:00
This is not the kind of revelation one would expect to hear from a person who looks the way Martial Magirigi does. With his well-kempt looks, he effortlessly exudes confidence, poise, class and a hint of quiet elegance. As far as first impression goes, one would quickly assume he has had an easy and polished life.
I took my first sip of alcohol at the age of three in Kiyaga village, Bumbaire Sub-county Bushenyi District. My parents brewed tonto for a living. That sip started a long journey that cost me my childhood ambition of becoming a priest.
I studied from Kitabi Seminary then Katigondo Minor Seminary before joining Gaba National Seminary where I was ordained a deacon in 1979. After ordination, it was discovered that in my previous two seminaries, I had had an alcohol problem and was advised to take a year off to reform before I could be ordained a full priest.
Instead of reforming, my situation worsened. When I left the seminary, I got a job with Kenya Transport Company (KENTCO) in 1980 as a clerk manager in the Uganda office. I could afford to buy myself all manner of alcohol. Within two years, I married and had two children. I rented a one-room house in Kamwokya for them. After two years of work, I went to Kenya to get my KENTCO staff saving totaling to Ksh12,500. I squandered it all before reaching home. After all, my family knew little about my salary. In 1984 the company went under and it was placed under receivership.
With no job, I started bringing sweet potatoes and bananas from Kayunga to Kampala. I ended up distributing them for free to different bar owners to cater for my drinking.
Less than a year after the closure of the Kenyan company, my relatives worried about my life. One had a clearing and forwarding company. He offered me a job on condition that I quit drinking. I committed myself on paper. I underwent on-job training in clearing and forwarding before being posted to Malaba as the company branch manager.
A drunken life full of lies
While in Malaba, there was no day I was sober, and reports of my excessive drinking eventually reached Kampala. My bosses and wife tried to talk to me out of the ill habit, but nothing was changed. I had been enslaved by the bottle. Finally, I was asked to return to Kampala since I had broken the job terms.
On leaving Malaba, I stole a Raleigh bicycle which was kept in the room provided by the company. I spent one night in Kampala before heading to my mother’s home in Bushenyi where I sold the bicycle at Shs500,000.
The morning after the sale, the person who helped me get the buyer found me in the bar and told them I was being sought for selling a stolen bicycle.
Early the next day, the same man found me in the bar and told me that the police were hunting for me for having stolen a bicycle.
I fled and hid in a thicket, two villages away. It is from there that I was accosted, tied up with banana fibres and taken back home. My mother sold her five goats to buy back my freedom.
A week later, I returned to Kampala but the news of my theft had already spread and I was embarrassed. I became jobless and no one was willing to bail me out. My wife and children started to resent me because I was stealing from my wife to drink.
Thoughts of suicide
Towards the end of 1987, I was tired of life and thought of committing suicide. I had three alternatives, swallowing tablets, throwing myself towards a speeding car, or jumping off the bridge in Jinja.
I didn’t have money to go to Jinja but went to Ggaba and scouted for a place where I could drown myself. I wrote a note and kept it with me in case of death. “If you come across my dead body I have not been killed by thieves. I have killed myself because I have failed to stop taking crude waragi.”
On my way to Ggaba, I went to see a Dutch priest Fr Fleskans. I knew him from Katigondo Minor Seminary. I told him of my plans, but had got a change of mind and instead wanted to go to Gomba and see if I could quit drinking. I wanted him to give me transport. He instead directed me to Fr Gellinas Morris at Bishops House in Nsambya. He too was on an alcoholic recovery programme. He told me I had a disease called alcoholism and offered to take me to Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) meetings for help.