Patrick Paati narrates how he slid into alcoholism while in high school and his life quickly became a living hell, until he sought help
When I was very young, I had my sights set on being a lecturer. I loved school, and I enjoyed all of my classes.
Several of my teachers had a positive influence on my life while I was growing up, making it nearly impossible to choose a favourite. I was the kind of kid who enjoyed homework. All that continued until I reached high school.
Eleven years ago, when I was in Form 2, I stepped into the dreadful, bottomless pit of alcoholism.
I remember that day now as sharp as the edge of a knife because at that moment I thought I experienced ultimate bliss, not knowing that I just plunged into a long dark tunnel.
My parents passed away when I was in class six, but I was not old enough to comprehend that somebody can take a journey of no return.
It was at this time that I came face to face with reality. I learned the bitter fact and immediately, depression and anxiety became my best friends.
I got socially crippled. We were on holiday, and that is when I got my first real drink, at the age of 18 years old.
It was more than a sip. My friend handed me the drink, a whole bottle of Napoleon spirit. I remember lying down, got quite woozy, and later dashed into my grandmother’s house where I took some milk to settle my stomach.
I was amazed at how it made me feel, I didn’t care about the taste. It wasn’t long before I had a few more, and that is how it all started.
I found that alcohol helped me ease my depression and enabled me to become more acceptable among my friends.
In my case, alcohol took over my life quickly. After a few months, I started sneaking out of school once in a while, but the sneaking quickly became more frequent, every Friday. I soon acquired the moniker “DDO” (Daily Drunken Officer).
That was the name in our school, and I was that guy then. I would even bring alcohol to school and drink it in the bathroom during games time and other free times.
As you can imagine, I didn’t care much for school and before too long, my class performance dropped drastically.
I was lucky to have joined a big and good school, Olkejuado High school. At that time, it was one of the top schools in Kajiado County.
When I did my first exam in form one, I came position 7 out of 364. I thought that position was quite promising, but you can guess my class position once I started the habit. I stopped thinking about becoming a lecturer.
Despite my drinking and emotional instability, I managed to get average marks to take me to college.
Having completed high school, I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. I joined Moi University.
You can imagine all the freedom. By this time, in my world, drinking was as normal as ordering pizza.
When adults sipped tea with dinner at a restaurant, I was dumbfounded. How could someone over the legal drinking age not be drinking? I would occasionally ask.
I had no idea that most people were living a very different life from mine, a life in which alcohol did not have a daily, starring role.
Drinking, I thought, was as normal as having jobs, driving cars, and complaining about taxes — and part of being an adult.
In the first semester at Moi University, I was a bit focused and I was even made the class representative.
It didn’t last long. I stopped attending classes and devoted my whole life to serious drinking.
I don’t know to what I should always place the blame on, but everywhere I went, it wouldn’t take me more than a week to get friends with whom to share a drink.
That was the case at Moi. I would always get a call if I was not seen in the little, low-standard, noisy drinking dens.
After a year, I dropped out of school. I was ashamed. My guardians had always done whatever they could to have me in school.
I felt like killing myself whenever I thought about it, but it was even worse when almost everyone was posting photos of themselves wearing their graduation cap while standing strategically in the most picturesque places on their campuses. I felt not only inadequate but also useless.
The next few years, I did everything I could to blame my deep woundedness on something else other than a withering soul caused by abuse and negligence.
I developed a persistent belief that everyone was talking about me, plotting against me, or wishing me harm.
I switched girlfriends at close intervals and lost sense of almost all morals. Of course, an addicted person cannot fix another.
I tried turning to God, prayed, and tried to become a bit serious with church. I was confirmed a few months, and then dunked the next.
I prayed and yelled and pleaded with God to fix me or forgive me, or do anything that would make me a normal human being.
Luckily, I have never been the type that would sit down and cry when things unfolded unexpectedly. I have always believed that there is no absolute failure. I gathered my broken pieces, talked to the people close to me then, and joined Mt Kenya University (MKU). I enrolled into a new course, though I did not stop drinking.
After three years at MKU, I again went away from school for another two years and engaged in serious drinking. Everybody lost hope in me, including myself.
One day in our local home town club, we went doing what we loved doing. The horrible results of my reckless living caught up with me the same night.
After heavy drinking all night, something I cannot explain to date happened. I am not sure whether I picked a fight or fell down the stairs. I was too drunk to remember, but when I came back to my senses, I was soaked in blood and badly injured.
I cursed everything, including the womb that carried me. The irony is, grace also arrived that same moment when I was down to the ground and in total hopelessness.
Some people say that our lives change with time. It can take 10 years to fix a marriage or quit a job, but believe it or not, change can occur in a fraction of a second.
For me, it happened one morning as I was struggling to go through a few bible verses, which were in a certain Christian motivational novel.
The writer highlighted several instances where some heroes and heroines of the bible also had times of failure and suffering. I was hiding in my small room so that people who knew me do not see how I had suffered serious injuries due to careless drinking.
I said enough was enough. I was done, I thought. I was struck hard with the truth, so profound and so filled with grace that I couldn’t look away: And I knew I was worth living.
Unlike countless times before when I had gritted my teeth, determined to solve all of my problems myself, this time I asked for help.
In my most shameful moment, I asked, “Now what? Where do I go? What do I do? Tell me, and I will do it.” That first person I asked was God.
Your suffering is just a starting point. It’s up to you to move, to act, and to receive the grace that accompanies even the smallest effort. I know that if you don’t know you have a choice, then you don’t have one.
Today you have a choice. You can keep asking, “Why?” and allow your suffering to be the name tag on your life. Or you can start asking, “Now what?” and see what grace brings in.