Saturday, September 24, 2016

“As the standard of living roared in those years in Kenya, alcoholism soared,” Dr Moyo, the Eliminate National Drinking (END) campaigner, continued. “Alcohol-related deaths statistics shattered families like broken promises. Each digit was a person, a family affected, a tragedy…”

There was a gasp in the audience and he paused to let what he had said sink in.

“Politicians are wired to make good decisions about tragedies when faced with mathematics reducing their voter base. They did not need to engage with people on a human scale, make eye contact, touch, hug, and empathize. They sequestered themselves in high-end hotels and made laws that banned drinking at certain hours; banned bootleggers and chang’aa, booze affordable by the common mwananchi; and established agencies and police units to combat the drinking problem in the country, but speakeasies and bootleggers who used the lethal embalming fluid used in mortuaries in producing illicit brews were everywhere. Few people followed the law.

“Despite legislative attempts to curb drinking, Kenya still faced its greatest threat from alcohol abuse. Calamities associated with excessive intoxication—dementia, seizures, liver disease, infertility, blindness and deaths occasioned by illicit brews—did nothing to deter users. School-going children joined the party. So, the government started enforcing it differently—poisoning the alcohol used in breweries using highly concentrated methyl alcohol, kerosene, gasoline, and chloroform.

“The country was a picture of alcoholism. Families shattered: husbands and wives relocated to drinking dens, children went home to no food and went to school with empty stomachs, and adults were either listless or violent.

“Everything decayed: the housing, the streets, the minds. It was a cycle of pain, each generation damaging the next and all for poisons their bodies craved…”
“Doc,” a voice interjected. “Weren’t the addicts treated?”

“Of course they were,” the doctor said. “But the alcohol treatment was a joke. It was all about the drinking and nothing for problem that drove the people to drink in the first place. When the soul is arid and weary, when darkness comes and you have nowhere to go, alcohol is tough to resist. It made the treatment as effective as telling a hungry person not to eat...

“Another question, doctor,” a girl in the front row said. “How did it end then? Today there are no cases of alcohol and drug abuse, rehab centres are schools, like ours.”

“People saw where they were going wrong. Teen alcohol and drug abuse was how our society was being knocked down. Who can think of global issues when their child has been stolen from them? The war on drugs had been false for so long, the laws against them were a smokescreen for protecting the drug lords. Those who sold alcohol to school children were not prosecuted. Addicts were treated as criminals not as victims. The government imposed taxes on the drinks instead funding the worst in society. Anyone who wanted to expose the drug lords were killed. It worked every time until people learnt that thinking differently is good, that problems are only solved by new approaches, that keeping doing the same things over and over is a form of societal neurosis, change was just a dream.

“Everyone realized that in this world there are many sensitive souls that need help to thrive. We need to see them as fellows of our kind, ones with gifts from the divine as much as ourselves. When it is most challenging to give love we should be taking that as a signal to give more. Wounds are healed by love, compassion and caring, genuine support. Do that and your addict will find it easier to cast away the drugs…”


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