“I overcame alcohol addiction” – Albert Elwa

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Drug addiction can easily destroy one’s life and future. Indeed, many intelligent and educated men and women have literally gone to waste, thanks to drug addiction, especially alcohol. Families are breaking down due to alcohol addiction. However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel; drug addiction can be managed and overcome. Albert Elwa, 36, has a successful story of overcoming alcohol addiction. He has been battling with the problem of alcohol addiction for a long time and he is in the final stages of his recovery journey. He is currently a Director at Focus on Recovery- Uganda, a non-government organization that reaches out to schools, places of worship, treatment centres and work places sensitizing the public about the dangers of alcohol and other drug addictions. He has also managed to save and start his own business. He shared his story with Bloom Magazine and below are the excerpts of the interview:

I was the Best at Primary Leaving Exams
My name is Albert. I am 36 years old. I was born and raised in Kampala. I was raised in an extended catholic family that comprised 14 children, nine of whom are from my mum. We lived in a two- bed roomed flat, but despite our already big numbers, several other relatives joined us mainly because of the war in Northern Uganda and extreme poverty at that point in time. My dad was fairly well-to-do which made him a target of both real and perceived friends and relatives. Our home was a bee-hive of activity. I was the brightest among my father’s children. In primary seven I was among the best in the country. I was admitted to Uganda’s most prestigious boys’ school; St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK).

I Enter Into Drugs
I started drinking at the age of 15. My dad was a very tough man. He punished with strokes of the cane. I was afraid of being caned. So I resorted to hiding outside our home. This is how I joined the older boys club in the neighborhood.
My school performance deteriorated. My parents were concerned; also after noticing a change in my lifestyle. I started experimenting with cigarettes, alcohol, night clubs and I enjoyed the new experience. I shared my situation at home with older friends who qualified my parents as old fashioned. I began paying less attention to my parents and instead moved on with friends. The chains of habit became too light to notice until they became too strong to break.

I am expelled from school
I was expelled from school at Senior Three. I joined St. Lawrence College for my S.3 but I was expelled after a month for not wearing school uniform. My dad was so furious. He let me spend the rest of the year at home. I felt remorseful. I needed to return to school, but dad insisted that I make a choice between school and my friends.

Due to staying away from school for long I started hanging more with the older boys and jobless kids around. It intensified my drinking and night life. I was sharpened. I became a coach for my peers returning from school. I was a local ‘hero’. After a full year I returned to school in senior three, but I attended for only two terms and dad stopped paying my fees, citing my lifestyle. I began considering my dad and all those who lectured me about my lifestyle as the enemies.

I joined Aga Khan for my Senior Four. I studied for one term and sat for the Final Exams. I was out for Senior Four vacation, a time for wild partying. I did about three stints in police cells, sometimes as long as five days.

I developed cancer
I always felt in control and got all my problems solved when I was on drugs. However I began to get depressed. I was deserted by my family and friends. I decided to distance myself from them. I drunk more after discovering I was alone in my ‘world’.

It was fun and excitement at some point but it later turned to depression.
I however discovered that there is complete happiness in a life free of alcohol or other drugs. My life was being destroyed. Drug addiction is hell in a cell if I borrow from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

At age 33 I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a deadly cancer with a survival rate of only 15%. This cancer usually attacks people in their 50’s and above. Doctors were at a loss for words as no one could clearly explain how I had developed this cancer at 33.

ABOUT FOCUS ON RECOVERY – UGANDA

We visit Places of interest, teaching people, sharing stories of recovery and encouraging people to stay away from alcohol and other drugs. We are involved in prevention, intervention and the whole recovery program. We have a magazine that we will soon distribute to schools, treatment centres, places of worship and all other places of interest. This will be a country wide program meant to create as much awareness about drug addiction and its consequences as possible.

ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE
There is no formula, stay away from anything addictive. Addiction is like falling into an abyss. ■

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