We despise them, look down on them, treat them like they are lesser humans, the list is endless. But when they die, because alcoholism kills, we will organize lavish funerals, sing their praises even where none existed. We will put up their photos and want some form of association, albeit publicly because inwardly we are probably saying good riddance.
If we look back over the years, Kenya has lost great names to the bottle, some close to us, others we have probably never heard of. Thespians, musicians, filmmakers, comedians, etc. When alive, they are a problem to us and to society and we shun them at all costs. We can remember the death of Othuol Othuol, whose death from TB would have been prevented had he been treated for a much deeper problem, alcohol abuse. We remember Ayub Ogada, the greatest musical brains George Zirro, and many others who died from alcohol addiction. The list goes on.
But, do we ever stop to ask why? We are quick to dismiss that person next door who comes home drunk every day. We are quick to avoid that friend who calls asking for some money, we are quick to drop the employee who reports working drunk and justifiably so. But after dismissing, avoiding, and firing the person, do we ever bother to find out how they are doing out there? The answer is a BIG NO. Once the problem is out of our hands, we breathe our reliefs until something tragic happens. We can avoid all that, we can point the person in the right direction. Treatment.
Addiction treatment doesn’t sound cool and is expensive. It is one of those things we associate with wealthy families who take their loved ones to exclusive rehabs to hide the shame and stigma associated with the disease. But the question remains, can ordinary folks like you and me walk into a treatment center and be taken for treatment? The answer is yes and no. Yes because there are a few centers open that will take an addict in but will probably struggle to offer the right treatment due to financial strains. No, because apparently governments the world over don’t allow for the advertising of rehabs, so their existence is less known. The question however is, does the condition require a more public approach with concerted campaigns to create awareness of addiction treatability?
Lives lost could have been saved, skills reserved, knowledge & resources retained. All that is only possible if addiction is addressed more openly and realistically. There are living examples of those who have recovered from alcoholism and are doing really well with their lives. Some I could mention but is best left to them to come forward and speak of their experiences.
I have tried to talk about this for the last 3 years but I must have addressed myself because it never made it far. I am part of the problem because I couldn’t act on someone close to me until it was almost too late. When I chose to act, unfortunately, I find myself going against the grain. It is a long path, and I can’t solve everything, but at least I can talk about it.
That is where I am, addressing it one step at a time.
- November 30, 2021