Reviews & Profiles
What it Means To... Be addicted to drugs
Posted Wednesday, January 23 2013 at 00:00
That substance abuse happens in Uganda is a fact. However, individuals coming out to admit that they do it are rare. A 40-year-old man breaks the silence and tells his experience with substance abuse for half of his life.
I battled substance abuse for 20 years. I made 40 years this year and I’m still trying to pick up the pieces of my life. How I ended up like this, is a question I cannot answer, but what I know is I have been abusing substances for a long time.
When it started
It all dates back to sometime in 1977 when my father was posted to Belgium on diplomatic service. Naturally, this came with an entertainment allowance because we had to host guests from time to time. I started drinking from home gradually and when I joined peer groups, it just spiralled out of control. This is where my journey with substance abuse started because I started drinking at a very young age during some of these parties.
We got invited for parties by other embassies and being the large family that we were, our father usually chose me and my sister to represent the rest. This came with a lot of questions from the other mothers at these parties who kept on asking how the other siblings were. I was often shy and didn’t like answering, so I drank to get rid of that shyness. By the time we got back to Uganda 10 years after, I had a very fine taste for alcohol.
It got worse
This only got worse when I joined Senior One in 1988. At that time, there was a prominent bar for the youth called the Cave located where Kampala Coaches presently park. I went there more often and drank alcohol progressively.
At school I met knew friends who introduced me to weed or marijuana. I loved reggae music so much at that time, and it was a cool thing back then. We idolised the reggae musicians and their culture which involved taking weed. I smoked it every day at school and it went on from bad to worse.
I had friends who supplied us with the marijuana on a daily basis, some of them experimented with a lot of drugs and at some point sniffed even aviation fuel, and glue but I did not indulge so much in that because it was a very crude way of getting high.
My academics suffered so much because of drinking and I would dodge school to be in bars. I took a sabbatical of one year from school because of substance abuse.
By 1990, I realised that I had a problem with alcohol because I was totally hooked. I knew my life had taken a turn but didn’t do much about it. I got back to school again in 1993 but it was not long before I dropped out again and never went back.
Some of the most interesting people I met were drug addicts and drunkards. Most of my friends were drunkards so it was cool to hang around them, but I had friends who disregarded my substance abuse and they segregated me. I could only hang out with them when I was sober.
Generally, when you are high on such substances, you lose your inhibition, I started to have temper tantrums and sex with multiple partners repeatedly. There are women that you would never give a second glance, but I slept with all of them. It became a repeat cycle. One time I slept with a friend’s girlfriend well knowing that he was HIV positive. He passed on a few months after and this was a wakeup call for me. I did lots of things that could have cost me my life.
It was after that incident that I tried to quit drinking, but each time I tried I would get serious withdrawal symptoms. I would get back to drinking.
I could not maintain a relationship let alone hold a job. I spent most of the money that I could have used to buy an asset on alcohol. There are many times I put a drink over an appointment.
An addict is the most selfish person ever, we tend to put ourselves over others. My family took a lot of heat for my addiction. Most of my family hopes laid on me. I was a bright student but I let them down. A task at home would be put on hold, waiting for me to sober up. My siblings who were born again Christians prayed and the rest just hoped that I could change some day.
I want to believe that my family did not give up on me, but on many occasions they wondered when I would stop.
First attempt at getting help
One night, I bought alcohol and for some reason, I held on to the bottle. I reached home, slept and woke up with the same bottle in my hands. I woke up and found my little brother staring at me. The look on his face has never left my memory. I could see so many things in that look, hopelessness, despair, sadness and anger all at once. In my heart I wondered whether he thought I was a lost cause.