Overcoming 20 years of drug addiction and depression

Saturday May 4 2019

Top: Gloria Akech addressing some of the

Top: Gloria Akech addressing some of the participants that attend counselling sessions. PHOTO BY CHRISTINE KATENDE 

By Christine Katende

Smartly clad in a dark army green coat, black pants and jungle shoes, Gloria Akech’s genuine smile welcomes me to her home. The dark-skinned beautiful psychologist, 33, is a mother of three and the last born of the six children who were raised by a single mother.

Akech’s problem started at a very tender age while at home, but no one seemed to pay attention. Her mother provided everything they needed as children including taking them to good schools. “I am the only girl among five boys. I was always sickly and did not walk at the normal age, like any other children. Many said I was a curse and called me all sorts of bad names,” Akech recalls.

Having contracted smallpox that presented with blisters all over the body, many people distanced themselves from Akech. Only her mother stood by her. This made socialising with other children very difficult.
“I believed no one loved me. Most of the time, I would leave home for school but only ended up sitting under a tree till evening. This is where I found peace. This tree never said anything bad to me. It never called me weird names but provided a conducive shade for me,” Akech narrates.

Drinking, smoking and drugs
Apart from her mother, Akech says she was never liked. She was called names, beaten and shownhate for unexplained reasons. One day, Akech says she decided to try out smoking, hoping that her misery would be gone once and for all. Even when the smoke chocked her so bad the first time she tried, she later found refuge in smoking.
When Akech joined O-level, she would smuggle in cigarettes into the school and secretly smoked them behind the dormitory but no one suspected her. Despite the drinking and smoking, Aketch was also a bully in school.

“My mother knew about my ill manners but she mistook it for being assertive. I was a very clever child too. This is why, somehow, the teachers liked me,” she reveals. Apart from drinking and smoking, Aketch was introduced to drugs by her peers. “From my Senior Four vacation till university, drugs became my new- found friend. Apart from the first time headaches, weed gave me a beautiful feeling,” she recalls.

Despite this, Akech never carried a pen or book to the lecture room but mastered everything taught during lectures and excelled in tests and examinations. Due to drugs and alcohol intake, Akech reminisces how she once spent all the tuition on alcohol and drugs. “I hardly ate but drunk and smoked, at least two packets of cigarettes daily. I bought the cheapest brands of waragi of Shs500,” she explains.

During her second year at university, Akech conceived. She chose to keep the baby and continued with her studies. Apart from clearing the hospital bills, her mother stayed by her side through delivery time. She says due to too much alcohol in her body, she was affected by the anaesthesia administered prior to the operation. This instead made her body swell, resulting into lower backache that she has suffered since then.

I hardly ate. I smoked at least two packets of cigarettes daiy and drunk sachets of waragi”.

At the time Akech was in the theatre, the same day her fellow students were sitting third year end of second semester exams. Her plans to resume studies months after she gave birth were thwarted when she discovered that she had conceived again, three months after giving birth, “This was bad news for me. I did not know that a woman can conceive while breast feeding. The experience with the second born was so horrible,” Akech painfully recounts.

Trouble sets in
Akech’s life became a living hell when her spouse left her. During the same time, she was fired at her workplace when they discovered that she had conceived again. This experience pushed Akech to the wall but she never gave up. Months later, after giving birth, she decided to venture into a jewellery business. She started with capital worth Shs50,000. She purchased and hawked jewellery for survival.

At 23 years then, Akech realised that no one could complete her. She resumed smoking, drinking and partying. However, several months later, she fell in love with a man, -the father of her third born, who took care of her, loved not only her but even her two other children. She later stopped her hawking business because he provided everything”.
With the good life, Akech could not smell the hell that loomed ahead. Things turned sour when the man lost his job under unclear circumstances. “I was so broken. I felt like I was a curse. I believed that I will never have anything in this world,” she excruciatingly narrates.
Akech resumed the jewellery hawking business because she had to make ends meet. She says it was very tasking to balance the responsibilities of being a mother, wife, working woman and dealing with depression. She resorted to drinking and using drugs again.

“I nearly drove myself to death, I hated being at home and everyone around me, partying and drinking became the order of the day, I only found comfort in being outside my home. I just got my children and walked out of the marriage thus separating from the father of my third born,” she notes.
Though she drank and smoked marijuana, this did not give her the kind of happiness she was searching for, until a couple introduced her to cocaine. “My head almost exploded and nose was on fire but the woman comforted and assured me that everything would be fine,” she says.

Akech vividly remembers the night she jumped out of a car moving at 80km/hr. At that time, she wanted to go to another bar and her boyfriend wanted her to go home, a thing she did not like. “I did it because I did not want anyone to dictate how I should live my life. This man had no right to stop me from proceeding to another drinking joint where my friend was. I had made up my mind despite him increasing the speed,” she says.
She was seriously injured and was rushed to hospital. Regardless of the bad the condition she was in, she requested the doctor to release her, four days later. Even after this incident, Akech never wanted to stay with anyone.

Turning point
A random friend invited her for a party and while there, she asked her why she kept walking in and out of marriages. She probed her further to tell her what the problem was but she could not figure it out herself.
She then invited her for a fellowship at church in 2013. Attending church services had never crossed her mind. But she remembers the pastor preaching directly to her despite the fact that she had never revealed anything about her life experience to him.

She later met a psychologist who was her friend’s mother. And when they talked, she said the exact words that Akech wanted to hear. She offered to meet her twice a week. According to Akech, opening up fully to the therapist took her a full year as she needed to gain trust in her. “She was so kind, motherly and never judged me,” she recounts. She says the psychologist continued to check on her even when she went back to the US. She would send her money for upkeep with continuous encouragement of staying in church

In 2015, she decided to give her life to Christ and she has never been the same. “I made a vow with God, promising Him never to forsake Him after fixing me,” she discloses in a joyful tone.
In 2017, she enrolled for a psychology course and obtained a certificate in the same field. She majored in crisis counselling, human behaviour, dealing with addiction and adolescents.
In her five years of a counselling career, she has helped people to reconsider suicide plans, uphold marriages, among other horrible acts. She has fixed many unruly children whose parents are finding it difficult to put up with. Her passion is to make a positive impact in people’s messy lives.

Akech is now an empoweredwoman, a practising psychologist, a motivational speaker, life coach, preacher and the chief executive officer of, ‘Unchain Your Mind and Becoming a Better You campaign’.

Making money
Many times she is invited to schools, conferences, mentorship and team building sessions, showers and bachelor parties. Akech has also written books, including Out of the woods. “I am not writing these books to make money but my aim is to speak to a broken woman or man, a child nobody understands,” she says.

To Akech, it is about self-discovery. She advises people to strive to be better and pray to God to give them a clear path. “Believe in yourself, accept your mistakes, do not explain yourself to the world because the world will never judge you right neither will it appreciate you, it will instead sink you deeper,” she says.

Future plans
Akech plans to set up a rehabilitation centre and establish several counselling branches in most of the African countries aimed at transforming lives as well as restoring hope to the broken hearted.