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The Other Shoe..

Updated: 3 days ago


I woke up with a startle. The day had long been swallowed by the night and I couldn't make out where I was. The front half of my car was immersed in a swamp and I was leaning forward on the steering wheel. I could make out the sound of voices outside and the glaring lights of a siren behind me. 'Am I drowning?' I panicked as I tried to unbuckle my belt. "How did I get here!" My mind felt unfamiliar; trying to play catch up with the rest of my body. The walls of my chest felt as if they were closing in on my lungs - I could barely breath. Suddenly I felt a jerking movement as a tow truck pulled the car out of the swamp. When the car was back on solid ground, I staggered out and took in several breaths of air. As my heart rate returned to baseline, a realisation hit me. I had no undergarments and my stockings were missing. I looked at my feet and I only had one shoe. I brought my palm to my mouth in terror as my thoughts veered off a cliff. 'Had I been raped?'

I grew up in a fairly stable home - as perceived by the outside world. Behind closed doors however, was a home riddled with instability and abuse. As a first born and only girl I was exposed to the discord that persisted between my folks. Dad was abusive. And the object of his abuse - my mom - withered under it for years until she became a shadow of herself. Yet when we left the house, we dressed our problems in nice clothes and piety. I learnt early how to live a double life and paint over my problems with smiles and a sharp mind. It's no wonder I ended up being socially awkward. In school I preferred the company of my books to that of other people and I had a chronic distrust of boys. I thought all men were like my father so I kept my distance. Thank God my relationship with academia paid off and paved a direct path for me to Medical School.

There, I continued to do my thing until I met a guy who broke the barrier of distrust I had built over the years. He introduced me to a new world of friends, road trips and alcohol. *Jay loved his drink and he spared no effort in trying to get me to join the bandwagon. For some reason it didn't do it for me then. I found it bitter and eventually broke up with him over it. I couldn't understand why alcohol got him so thrilled to the point of mania. No thanks. It was clear that in the weather of our relationship he was just a passing cloud. I glossed through the rest of med school uneventfully, graduated and was posted out of the city for my internship. With the new found freedom and financial muscle, I slowly opened the door of my life for people to come in. I had no sieve and unknowingly allowed in more than I could handle.

My relationship with alcohol had an insidious onset. It was a cancer that grew in me slowly. Though initially I couldn't stand it, I later acquired it's taste. What followed were a series of incidents - most which I cannot remember. The first was at a house party where I took my first swig of whisky - The Famous Grouse. It wasn't named famous for nothing. I took more than my brain could grasp and blacked out. I woke up the following morning to a nasty hangover and an awful stench. I had no idea how I had even gotten home. When I got up and looked around, my flat was littered all over with human faeces and somewhere at the back of my mind I had a vague recollection of doing this. 'What was in that drink?' I thought. But I didn't dwell and swiftly moved on.

By now I had come out of myself. Drinking and hanging out became my thing. I once drank throughout a whole weekend until I was sure I had alcohol poisoning. I wasn't able to keep anything down. Slowly the cancer grew. It wasn't enough to hang out with friends and colleagues over the weekend so I began to stock wine in my house to enjoy the odd glass every evening. Good enough, my life was a weighing scale. I learnt well how to balance my drinking on one side and my work on the other. None affected the other. After completing my internship, I moved to Sudan for work. The move was great for my career but bad for my drinking. I worked in a remote area where there was nothing else to do but drink. There, I challenged my liver. Anytime we were not working we were drinking and I became so accustomed to it I would be the last woman standing. But as long as my scale remained balanced, I was ok.

From Sudan I moved to South Asia for my Masters - where consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden for religious reasons but when you want something bad enough it finds you. I made some friends who worked for International Organisations and therefore had access to booze. They would invite me over for drinks and I would store up the alcohol in my gut until the next invite. On holiday's like New Years Eve I would be insatiable. I would drink my brain shut. And even if my body punished me the following day, I tagged it as one off events. 'Fun times!' I called them.

When I got back to Kenya and back home things had become topsy turvy. My dad, unable to keep up the facade any longer, had left us and started another family. You would think with his absence, things would get better but it left a gaping hole in my heart. One I filled with my drink. I became a sad, disgruntled human. The only stars that aligned in my life was my work. I landed a great job with an International Organisation where one of the perks included highly discounted drinks. It is at this time that the weighing scale began to slowly tip. I could no longer function without my drink so I started to drink a little in the morning to get through the day and with time I would carry some in my car and sip while in traffic. Eventually I took some to the office and would sip it from my coffee mug as I worked. My balance was so off but I had no insight. And because I was so good at my job, no one picked it up - until the day I nearly drowned!

On that day, I was at work, sad and unexcited as usual. A workmate of mine came up to me, "I have some Vodka. Want some?"

My eyes lit up. "Sure." And just like that I drank throughout the afternoon until about 6:30pm. When the alcohol was done, I got up to head home but instead found myself heading to a nearby club. That's the last thing I remember when I woke up in a swamp, my head feeling like a cinder block. The cops were so concerned about me after they got me out. Everything was wet. My clothes, the car seats, my laptop, my bag. And I was still drunk! They asked me if I needed to call anyone and instead I wanted them to shoot me. I could hear them talking about me but I let the conversation pass without landing. After a while they took me to get some food and when I seemed ok they left me at a nearby petrol station.

I sat alone in my car in deep despair not knowing what had happened to me. I felt isolated within myself trying to scroll through names of people I could call to come over but settled on none. I felt so alone. I sat up until morning and eventually mustered up enough courage to call my mum. I told her that I suspected I had been drugged in traffic while driving home the previous day. She in turn informed my dad who decided to engage security forces to find out who drugged his daughter! It was through this investigation that I - and everyone else - found out what really happened. From work, I had gone club hopping and was seen on various CCTV cameras moving from one joint to another completely inebriated in the company of strangers. But it still didn't explain how I ended up half naked in a swamp. The initial concern on my dad's face was turned into hardened shapes. He was livid!

"You mean you were out drinking and yet you are lying that you were drugged? How long have you been drinking?" My face was cast in hideous gloom. I had nothing to say.

I later went to hospital where they found no physical evidence of rape but put me on treatment nonetheless. At that point I swore off alcohol but unknown to me, the cancer was deeply embedded in my veins. During my brief hiatus, I was invited to give a mental health talk on depression at a certain corporation. As I spoke, I felt like I was describing myself. 'Could I be depressed and not know?' I thought and took a step to see a Psychiatrist. At the appointment, I was diagnosed with depression and alcohol abuse and the doctor prescribed antidepressants and psychotherapy - none of which I took seriously. I was to go for a return visit in two weeks. I never did. The weight of my issues was bearing down on me and there was only one thing I knew that could numb me.

So in less than two months I was reconciled to my drink. On a random work day I went and bought a bottle of Grants and downed it on an empty stomach. I started drinking at 2pm and by 4:30pm I was wasted. I left work to go home but it's as if my subconscious did not want to go there. Instead I turned on the main highway and drove for 130km in absolute delirium. I had no idea where I was going. It's like I had lost all sense of who I was and what I was doing. I cannot remember how fast I was going but it didn't matter because I was eventually stopped - by a head on collision with a 14 seater matatu. In no time, a crowd gathered around us. No one in the matatu was hurt but my car was a write off. I had a deep cut in my lip and my chest hurt like hell. When I attempted to get out of the car, the people in the crowd noticed I was drunk and wanted to lynch me. They took videos of me in my confused, drunken state as they shouted at me. The cops came in time and I asked them to shoot me once again.

Back at the cops station, I became hysterical. The booze was wearing off and with it, the numbness. I couldn't stand the shame and emotional pain and I started to cry. I narrated my life problems to all and sundry and told them about my dad and how he had left us. 

"Who can we call?" One of them asked me.

"My dad." The irony. So they called him and told him all that had happened. Being a man of influence, he secured my release but never came for me or spoke to me so I called my mum who showed up in a heartbeat. And not once did she chastise me.

After that incident, dad called a family meeting. "*Noni, you have become a drunk." He looked at me sternly. "You are embarrassing me and tainting my name. I hear you are telling people you are drinking because of me. Can you stop acting like a child. Yes! It's true I left and I am now happy where I am. You need to find your own happiness and stop blaming me." I had a visceral reaction from his words that scraped at me like the talons of an eagle. That was the summary of the meeting. A one minute paragraph. But he was right when he said I had to deal with my demons. I just didn't know how. After all, he had taught us to hide our problems behind closed doors.

I turned to google and discovered a 12 step programme for alcoholics near where I work. I went for the first meeting and was received so well. There were people from different backgrounds and they all looked so happy and full of life it was hard to imagine they were addicts. I sat through the meeting and at the end I was approached by a group of three ladies who welcomed me and kept telling me to, 'Keep coming back' and 'take it a day at a time.' Honestly it initially felt so rehearsed to me. Why were they so concerned? I was even aghast when one of them suggested I was supposed to attend meetings thrice a week. 'Don't these people work?' I thought. There was no way I was going to come sit in a circle, thrice a week to talk about my feelings; and anyway I didn't really have a problem. Just a few issues that needed sifting right?

With that attitude, it didn't take long. I relapsed. I was still refusing to feel and instead chose to numb myself. You see, sobriety forces you to feel and deal with issues. Without the alcohol, the reality of your issues hits you like an anvil on the head. You begin to get clarity and it forces you to face your demons. I wasn't ready for that and hence I relapsed. But after that I knew I couldn't go back to the 'swamp' of alcoholism I had driven into. Thank God for the programme and accountability. With the help of my sponsor I got back on the wagon, started my psychotherapy sessions and started taking my antidepressants seriously. I did a program called Mirror images where you go through your whole life in detail and it is through this I discovered I had suffered a lot of childhood trauma. I was able to identify patterns I had formed and needed to break. It has since been a process of forgiveness, acceptance and reconciliation. I have finally accepted that I can't change my folks. Just because their relationship failed doesn't mean I have to carry that burden for life. I am however grateful for my mum who stood by me and prayed for me throughout my battle with alcohol. And after seeing me on my journey she has also signed up for the same mirror images program to start on her own journey of healing.

I am now 8 months sober after two relapses. I have become self aware and know that alcohol and I are imiscible. I looked for death and escaped twice. I am here as a beacon of hope and to ask anyone going through life's troubles to seek help. It's ok not to be ok. As a reminder of where I have come from I have two mementos that I have with me in my car at all times. Amarula strands to remind me that I must never drink and drive and my shoe ( I never found the other one) to remind me to stay away from alcohol.

I no longer walk around with a mask to hide my problems; Each day I overcome is for me an invisible badge of courage.

Dedicated to anyone going through a dark place in their life. There is hope. 

Narrated to me by Dr *Noni - a friend and colleague who wishes to remain anonymous.


When is drinking a problem?

If alcohol is having a negative effect on your life, you are probably drinking too much. 

●Have you lost control of your drinking? E.G do you sometimes find that you drink more than you meant to?

●Do you need to drink larger and larger amounts to get the effect you want? Or do you get sick or feel physically uncomfortable if you cut down on your drinking?

●Have you lost your job, gotten in trouble with the law, or had problems with your friends or family because of alcohol?

If you said yes to any of these questions, or if you just think you have a problem, mention it to a healthcare worker. He or she can help you find out if you do have a drinking problem. Do not be embarrassed to talk with him or her about it. 

People who drink too much can get serious liver and heart disease, different types of cancer. And they can damage their brain. Plus, they are more likely to:

●Have car accidents

●Kill themselves


●Be seriously hurt

Alcohol use disorder is basically the medical term for alcoholism or alcohol addiction. People who have alcohol addiction have 2 or more of the following problems. 

●They end up drinking more alcohol than they planned to or for a longer time than they planned to.

●They wish they could cut down on alcohol, but they can't.

●They spend a lot of time trying to get alcohol, getting drunk, or recovering from being drunk.

●They crave or have a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol.

●Because of their alcohol use, they often don't do things that are expected of them, such as go to work or school, remember family events, and clean their home.

●They keep drinking even if it causes or worsens problems in their relationships or interactions with other people.

●They stop or cut back on important social, work, or fun activities they used to do.

●They keep drinking alcohol even in situations where it is dangerous to do so (such as while driving).

●They keep drinking alcohol even when they know they have a physical or mental problem that was probably caused or made worse by their drinking.

●They need to drink more and more to get the same effects they used to get with less. 

●They have "withdrawal symptoms" if they stop drinking alcohol after drinking for a long time. These are:

•Sweating or a racing heart

•Hand trembling

•not being able to sleep

•Nausea or vomiting


•Being restless



People who have problems with alcohol can:

●See a counselor (such as a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist)

●Take medicines

●Take part in a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous 

Can I stop drinking on my own? - Many people get over their drinking problem on their own. But people with who have been drinking several days a week for weeks in a row should not try to cut down without the help of a doctor or nurse. People who drink that much can die if they stop or cut down on drinking too quickly.

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Agnes Akinyi
Agnes Akinyi
Sep 13, 2020

What a beautiful ending ! We all need a support system to vent to so that we don’t find ourselves looking for other ways to numb pain/escape from reality.


Wambui Kyama
Wambui Kyama
Sep 09, 2020

My take home; “It’s ok not to be ok”and then to take a step further and get the help you need. There is no value in suffering to keep your pride. The biggest question is always, “do we really want to get well?”


Unknown member
Sep 08, 2020

It is indeed a destroyer


Sep 08, 2020

It is such a good ending. Alcohol is a destroyer. Moves in slowly and then takes over ones life.


risper oliech
risper oliech
Sep 08, 2020

It is true that you can only get help once you accept that there is a problem. Thank God for mothers

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