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read the full story
My name is Bramwell Joseph Oloo and I am the administrative secretary of Akili Bomba a community based mental health organization in Kibera. I was born, studied and grew up in Kibera. I come from a family of four. My family is Christian. I want to talk about my journey through alcoholism, drug use and depression.
I started using alcohol when I was in high school in Ruiru. I was introduced to alcohol by a friend of mine in boarding school. We would hop over the fence at night, go to town and sneak it back to the dormitories. We took alcohol for notoriety. As well, I drank alcohol following the example of my father who would come home drunk every night.
During my last year of high school, I got introduced to marijuana.
I regularly smoked marijuana and drank alcohol for a few years. It was only for fun and I was not addicted at that time. My addiction started after I lost a job. I was partying and this caused me to miss work and not complete job assignments. I was so depressed that I started to do more drugs and alcohol to cope. I was drinking and smoking everyday. Drugs and alcohol were easily accessible in the slums and I had friends who were supporting my habit. There are around 100 houses I know in the slums that produce illicit brew and I would go from house to house drinking. I started stealing money and valuable from my family to fuel my addiction.
During this time my self-esteem was at its lowest. I would start drinking in the morning all the way into the night. I would avoid going out in the street because I had developed social anxiety. I did not want people to see me drunk. I thought of myself as someone who would not amount to anything and not be able to contribute to my family or the community. My brother who was two years older than me, was in successful, studying in university and I was the black sheep of the family. I wondered where I had went wrong. These thoughts made me more depressed and cause me to do more drugs and alcohol.
I hit rock bottom when I got fired from a job with a Chinese firm for losing a laptop which had important company information. I also spent all my earnings from that job on alcohol. This was at the time when the COVID pandemic was starting in January 2020. I had to travel upcountry with my family to avoid the pandemic.
During my time upcountry, I started talking to my aunt who was a counsellor. She took me through counselling sessions at our home and fed me spiritual nourishment. This gave me a new perspective of myself, that I was a child of God, that I had the power to get out of my situation and that there were people to support. I learned that I was an open hearted person and that I had the potential to be whoever I wanted be. I had lost my self worth and I started to regain love for myself again.
In July 2020, I was baptised and accepted Jesus as my personal saviour. I now know that through Christ, I can do anything. My body is a temple of God, God is within me and there are no limits to what I can do.
A book that helped me in my recovery process was “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. From that book, I learned that God created us for His own purpose, not our own. We are vessels for His work. Working with Akili Bomba gives me purpose because I get to help people within the community who have gone through the same mental health issues and addictions as me. I am able to relate to their situation and with love, non-judgment and empathy to help them to get out of the situation they are in.
At Akili Bomba, we help individuals by bringing them to safe spaces, like group therapy, where they are able to talk about issues like mental health, family and relationship conflicts and money problems. We are able to direct them to hospitals, administrative offices and organizations where they are able to get help, like counselling, for free. We also work to raise awareness for mental health issues and decrease mental health stigma.
My hope for the future is to have youths in Kenya become empowered to reach their full potential. I have seen youths in Kibera slums waste their lives away due to drugs and alcohol, lack of unemployment and schooling. I believe that by empowering youth with education, work skills and mental health support, we can give them hope. I want to payback the kindness my aunt gave me by helping to change the lives of others. If I can change even one person, I will feel like I have done something great for the world.