Ugandan musician Qute Kaye. PHOTO/FILE/HANDOUT


Qute Kaye on drug addiction, recovery

What you need to know:

  • At his worst, Qute Kaye was arrested for stealing a car side mirror to fund his addiction. But on his release from jail, all he wanted to do was buy more cocaine to help him get rid of the withdrawal symptoms.
  • On the mend, Kaye warns of the dangers of addiction and why he is now preaching the gospel of staying sober.

When Ivan Kawuma, popularly known as Qute Kaye woke up one morning all drenched in sweat but shivering at the same time he knew he was sick. Other symptoms such as nausea, headache and hunger but with no appetite got him more worried and prompted him to immediately call someone.

However, when his ‘friend’, who had introduced him to heroin said he only needed more of it to feel better, Kaye knew he had messed up. Although it was just his third time using heroin, he could no longer live without it.

Start of addiction
Kaye says it all started with taking one beer, then two, three, and with time, more. When he became the ambassador of a beer company, he would just take without abandon. Someone later introduced him to cigarettes, saying if taken with beer, it would give him the best feeling in the world. He was then introduced to marijuana, which he was told would make him feel even better. 

Kaye was adamant until one day when he gave in and smoked some. Although he finished a pack this time, there was no significant change; all he remembers is the fact that he was happy. He went back a second and third time and that is when the withdrawal symptoms began.

“I knew that something was not right and I started crying. I did not have family around to talk to and I could not risk many people knowing about my addiction. I had a reputation to keep. So, even when I felt like I was dying, I kept quiet,” he says.

To feel better, Kaye bought a pack of heroine at Shs5,000. With time, he upped his use to the point that his thirst could no longer be quenched with one pack. In one sitting, he would spend all the money he had at the time.

For any slight pain, heroin became his painkiller and because it helped ‘cure’ the withdrawal symptoms, he took even more. He started missing appointments because he would get wasted and forget or become too weak to even move.

Ugandan musician Qute Kaye is seen before he had stopped using drugs. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

One day, he was given a down payment of Shs800,000 to perform at a wedding. He spent all the money that very day on heroin, and could not make it to the event. And when the money ran out, he started selling household items.

The theft
Without any more money, a colleague suggested another way to make some. 
“He told me the side mirror of a car could fetch as much as Shs50,000. That was about 10 packs of cocaine. I was in. When we identified the car, he removed the mirror (as a demonstration) and gave it to me. When someone sounded an alarm, he sped off and I was arrested,” he narrates.

Upon his release a few hours later, the ‘turkeys’ had returned. He needed a refill, which happened every three hours. 

“Even when journalists were all over taking pictures and asking questions, all I could think of was getting my next dose,” he says. 

However, when he went back home and saw his image in the mirror, Kaye knew he had to do something. He thought of salvation.

“I went to Pastor Kayanja’s Miracle Centre Cathedral in Lubaga. However, I did not disclose the real problem. I thought all I needed was salvation. And I tried. I abstained for three days but relapsed since I could not control the withdrawal symptoms,” he says.

When he went back to buy more heroine, a recovered addict took him to rehab but although he accepted to stay, he left after a month.

“With no plan and incomplete therapy, I could not withstand the pressure. I could not be the old Kaye people wanted me to be. I relapsed after one month and took myself back to rehab,” he recounts.

However, three months later, he left again. He started making plans with his manager to make music again but unfortunately, he relapsed again two months later.

The turning point
One day as Kaye walked from his usual drug dealer’s place at 2am, he was arrested and beaten by a security guard who suspected him of being part of a gang that had robbed someone in the neighbourhood. He was taken to police but was released due to lack of evidence. Even with his wounds, he went back to his dealer for more drugs.

“I knew this would eventually kill me but I did not want to die like this.  I wanted a better life and so, I went  back to rehab,” he says.

Six months later, he was discharged but he did not feel ready. Without a plan, he knew he would relapse. He needed something to keep him busy. 

Fully recovered: Qute Kaye says the biggest problem he faced was not having someone to talk to before his addiction became worse. PHOTO/courtesy

He says, “I read the Bible (from Genesis to Revelation), and other books which helped me learn how to control what comes into my life by having a positive perception of things.”

He spent another four months in rehab and used this time to research about addiction and its effects. He started Chance Foundation through which he would share his story and help others in the same situation.

“When I left rehab in 2018, I started visiting various schools and rehabilitation centres to encourage others. I am also planning to open a skilling centre for people who leave rehab and do not have a starting point,” he says.

What experts say
According to Evelyn Lufafa, a counselling psychologist with the Uganda Counselling Association, addiction is a chronic disease characterised by a compulsive drug or alcohol seeking behaviour.

She says that for most people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, their initial decision was voluntary or were persuaded by a friend. After repeated use, drug and alcohol use can lead to brain changes that later challenge an addicted person's self-control and interfere with their ability to resist the urge to continue intoxicating.

Some of the commonest ways that people start is through social events, experimentation, peer pressure, dysfunctional families and early childhood trauma.

What help is there?
Help for people with drug addiction is psychological, social, medical, and spiritual. Through counselling, a client goes through general assessment for many other options depending on the stage of addiction.

During assessment and treatment, Lufafa says, it is important for the addict to accept that they are weak and need help.  They need hope, surrender, courage, willingness, humility, love, integrity, responsibility, discipline, awareness and service.

“For people who are out of control, there are several rehabilitation centres in Uganda where the patient will receive both medical and psychological support. There are support groups for former addicts and the commonest is Alcoholics Anonymous where former addicts and those on the recovery programne meet and share through fellowships on how to get better and avoid a relapse,” she says.

According to Evelyn Lufafa, a counselling psychologist with the Uganda Counselling Association, treatment depends on the stage of addiction and it can involve detoxification, laboratory tests to asses functioning of important organs and psychotherapy, among others. It is important that the addict is supported by family since rejection can cause a relapse.

Since different people present differently, each case of addiction is handled differently and the time at the rehabilitation centre varies. At the end of therapy, former addicts usually need to have a plan on how they will live with relapsing.

“Relapse is common and so, one needs to continue with therapy and be willing to quit former places and people who lure them back into addiction and drug use,” she adds.