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I’m reformed, ex-alcoholic pleads for second chance at Medical School

By Allan Mungai | July 10th 2016
Michael Wanjohi, an alcoholic medical student who was kicked out University of Nairobi ,for being a addicted to alcohol,while on second year. [PHOTO;KIBATA KIHU/STANDARD]

Michael Wanjohi’s first encounter with alcohol was when he was a student at Nyeri High School. What began as youthful exploits slowly spiraled into a dangerous addiction that got out of control.

“It all started with the stubbornness that comes with being a teenager. Those random acts of rebellion saw us sneak out of school on weekends for a drink at the nearby Kamwenja shopping centre,” he recalls.

He was so immersed in the habit, at various stages of his high school life, he was suspended. But he completed his studies passing with flying colours, and secured a place at the University’s of Nairobi School of Medicine.

The former academic giant, who was once the pride of Nyeri when he emerged as one of the top students nationally in 2001 KCSE examinations, is slowly rebuilding his life after wasting his prime years in alcohol. He is now reformed, trying to piece up his life together.

During the interview with The Standard on Sunday, he recalls his wasted years at the university.

Being naturally gifted, Wanjohi (pictured) says he never had to put in extra hours like others.

“I never used to read like others, but when the exams came I was the top student. I started being arrogant.”

But the party was cut short.

“The university administration enforced a rule that no one would be allowed to sit the exam without having attended two thirds of the lectures,” he recalls.

The rule was meant to tame errant students and ensure everybody attends class. Because he could not tow the line, he had to repeat a year.

“Asking me to repeat a year was like telling me to quit college all together. I was depressed and I drunk even more. I tried to look for side jobs in vain,” he remembers with sadness. But lady luck smiled his way.

Thanks to intervention from Tetu Deputy County Commisioner Herman Shambi and Prof Karimi Maitai, a Pharmacy lecturer he was readmitted only to later be expelled when his drinking got out of hand. Again. After he was kicked out of college, the 32-year spent the better part of his life in and out of rehab.

“My first attempt at rehab was at a centre in Nyeri Referral Hospital. I spent a month at the psychiatric wing where doctors counseled a group of alcoholics and myself on how to overcome the addiction,” he says.

However, Wanjohi says this did not yield much because no sooner was he released than he slid back to alcoholism. Driven by concern and love, his parents booked him into another rehabilitation facility.

Naturally gifted

“For my second rehab, I was admitted to Serenity Springs Centre in Mweiga where I spent three months,” he says at his home in Nyeri.

He goes on amid poses as he reflects on what his life would have been: “A lot of people think that I like to drink. I don’t. I actually hate it. That time, I had lost control when it came to alcohol.”

Following the nationwide crackdown against illegal alcohol in July 2015, he and a group of other recovering alcoholics came together and established a support group. Wanjohi says his determination to come clean came when he realised how many of his friends had succumbed or were wallowing in poverty and misery.

He is now a changed man who spends his day counseling former alcoholics at the local health centre. Meanwhile, he is awaiting communication from the University of Nairobi’s Faculty of Medicine where he has applied for readmission. Even though time has flown and his peers are miles ahead, he has has faith, he too can make it, if given a second chance.

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