By Secondary school, Pius Kinobe was already a serious alcohol addict, but he managed to stay under the radar for some years until he reached the breaking point. Now in rehabilitation, he shared his story with Job Bwire.
My name is Pius Kinobe. I was born on August 30, 1983. My parents separated when I was five years old so my paternal grandparents took care of me until I became of age.
I grew up a healthy boy, with no serious ailments. However, I regularly encountered stomach-aches and at 15-years, the problem got worse. In my Primary Seven vacation, (November 1998), a friend of mine advised me to use waragi. Its pain-killing effect was instant and splendid. It gave me such relief when I went to bed.
The next day, I did not wait for the stomach-ache; instead, I drank 'my pain killer'.Gradually, I became a daily drinker. The money for drinking came from the sales of my fine art works, a product of the talent God gave me. By the time I was 16, I would freely access and drink alcohol with old men and women in bars and other drinking joints.
Trouble at school
I continued to drink in secondary school. I stocked my alcohol in mineral water bottles or disguised it as juice to escape detection by the school authorities. I would also sneak out of school with a flask and when caught, they thought I was carrying tea, yet it was alcohol.
Whenever I was under the influence of alcohol, I would start fights. I often broke school regulations and disrespected school authorities. My conduct got me expelled from four different schools. I remember in 2002 when I was in senior four, I attended three different schools in three terms.
Towards the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations, I never had a school to sit my final examinations, but since I was already registered, I was allowed to do them under the watch of two armed policemen. This was done because the school feared that I might cause chaos.
Making my own alcohol
Despite finishing O’level as an alcohol addict, I was admitted for A’level studies in physics, chemistry, mathematics and art. Due to the shortage of resources, I used my knowledge in chemistry to mix my own ethanol and make crude waragi at an average concentration of 60%. This is higher than the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics’ highest standard of 40%. It is also more concentrated than any alcoholic drink.
The availability of self-made alcohol (ethanol) made me a dependent to the extent that I could not do without it. Without alcohol, I would get tremors and feel feverish.
To avoid such conditions, I had to take a sip (really a gulp) all the time. As a result, I would roam the school compound, sometimes even in the class room with a mineral water bottle to disguise my alcohol as water.
The opportunity to make my own alcohol ran out when I completed A’level studies. During my Senior Six, vacation I got jobs at two schools to teach mathematics and physics. My objective of continued access to laboratories was achieved and the ethanol enabled me to make my alcohol.
I joined Kyambogo University for a Diploma course in telecommunications engineering. I did not want to be identified as an addict so I started stocking tot packs in strategic places such as toilet water tanks where I would easily access them. My drinking went out of control to the extent that during examinations or lectures, I would excuse myself to go to the toilet where I would take a drink.
Somehow, I progressed in my academics. I was posted to Uganda Clays, Kajjansi for internship, where I excelled and was subsequently given a job which earned me a good salary and allowances. Due to my hard work and brilliance, I was even promoted and transferred to Eastern Uganda. The regular salary boosted my drinking to the point that I forgot about studies.
My new life was now about drinking and working. Being a junior officer, my seniors left more assignments for me, especially on night shifts. I would not mind because I was sure to have the good company of alcohol. But because of working under the influence of alcohol, I made many mistakes.
Loss of control
I would drink at all times and moments. Alcohol became part of my life. Because of my uncontrollable drinking, I received many warnings from my superiors and I made several promises to change. I also received about 18 warning letters from my boss before I got fired.
From the bottom of my heart, I desired to change. During outings, I promised myself and friends that I would take only one bottle to aid my sleep, but I would end up drinking till I became unconscious. As I increasingly lost the battle to control my drinking, I became resentful towards those who positively criticised me. I remained in company of fellow addicts, some of whom were addicted to sex.
Paying the price
Given my drinking sprees, accidents became common. Time and again, I found myself with injuries, many of them severe. One day, I got involved in a car accident with an HIV+ colleague of mine. Because there could have been a possibility of blood swapping, I was convinced that I had caught the deadly virus.
I joined him in his sex escapades (“After all, I was HIV+,” I said to myself). This put my life at social and health risk, especially associated with commercial sex. To run away from this reality, I had to drink more heavily. I could gulp one litre of waragi in five minutes, after which I blacked out.
Many times, I cried alone in the house and wished that the problem goes away, but in vain. I tried all sorts of medication and solicited for prayers, but I continuously relapsed into drinking.
Eventually I was dismissed from my job. I was given a decent retirement package, enough to help me acquire a small plot of land and build a three-roomed house in Kampala. This money was posted to my account, but I would withdraw it just for the purpose of drinking until it was finished.
Without work and yet with plenty of money to waste, I began a fiveday drinking spree. Incidentally, I never ate food during those sprees. Only God knows how I survived. In a very short time, my account ran dry without accomplishing any tangible project. What I remember is that I had about sh7.3m by February 2012, but by June, my account was empty.
Now without any money or meaningful employment, I had to find unscrupulous ways of quenching my thirst for alcohol. In the process, I lost trust from my relatives, became a threat at home, an unreliable person and a thief. Struggling but failing
After going through all the worst moments of life, I counted my losses. They were endless. I would try to stop drinking but only for a while.
Although I got fed up of alcohol, I failed to find ways of stopping. I cannot remember the number of nights I cried to God to take away the problem and yet resumed drinking the following day. My mother thought I was bewitched. She started looking for solutions from various people, including herbalists and pastors. None of them worked.
Journey to recovery
I was eventually hospitalised for 3 months. While in rehabilitation, I was taken through a detoxification process. Tests done on my liver revealed some damage. Luckily, my HIV status was negative. I received counselling and was also introduced to the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) fellowship.
I later on came to like the fellowship and also discovered that the group comprised so many people of different calibre who come together to share their experiences and support one another. They gave hope to people like me who initially thought we had lost it all. It is from here that I came to realise that I was not alone.
It is now about 540 days (December 12, 2013) since I last drank alcohol. I am sober and very happy. I know that the war is not yet won, but one day at a time. I continue to do the recovery programme, daily spiritual meditation, seeing my counsellor regularly and attending to positive recreational activities. My life is slowly being reconstructed and I am hopeful that the future is bright. I regained my job as an engineer with Uganda Clays Ltd.
I am also gradually regaining the trust of my relatives and attracting positions of responsibility in society. I am highly indebted to God for the gift of sobriety and the people through whom I achieved it, and those helping me to sustain it. As a way to give back, I try to reach out to other people in similar situations and this has helped me so much since I have to act exemplary.