Felix Mbithi, 40, is a reformed alcoholic and the director of Teen Challenge Kenya, a faith-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Nakuru. He tells Maria Nene about his battle with alcohol addiction, how he was able to untangle himself from it and why helping others reform has given him hope
What makes a man or woman turn to alcohol and drugs instead of solving their issues?
The reasons people use drugs vary greatly for every individual. More often than not, most of them are trying to fix an issue within their life and they see drugs/alcohol as the solution. A young person may be trying to fit in with their peers and views using drugs or alcohol as a means of feeling part of the crowd. Others use drugs/alcohol to self-medicate or numb a certain pain.
What was the turning point of your alcohol addiction? What made you come out and describe yourself as an addict?
When I experimented, I never knew the course of my life would be completely altered. It started innocently and seemed harmless.
But gradually, it turned to be compulsive and interfered with my ability to resist the intense urge to take alcohol. I spiralled into addiction very fast. This affected my life in ways I never imagined. I lost my job and fundamental
This loss got me deep into alcohol abuse that threatened my life. I got into doing anything to fund my addiction. Eventually, I could do no more. I hit rock bottom. I didn’t realise I had a problem. I knew I wasn’t living right but I was OK with it.
Fortunately, my younger brother became concerned about how alcohol was taking a toll on me and chose to intervene. He happened to know an institution called Teen Challenge Kenya; a discipleship programme that helps people with life-controlling issues with a bias to drugs and alcohol.
It is here that I rediscovered myself. I had an encounter with God and my life took a turn. I came in creeping like a caterpillar and I underwent metamorphosis into a soaring butterfly. I am a product of God’s grace. I was rebranded and cleansed.
Was it difficult to overcome addiction?
It was not easy. It is usually said that transformation is a destination, meaning there is a journey to be taken. There are so many challenges I had to triumph over. But I was resilient enough to the
Describe the journey of self-discovery and getting over your alcoholism?
When I joined the programme, the need for me to change my life was ignited. This was the beginning of a long journey to recovery. It was intense. At times, I could feel vulnerable and I wanted to give up. But I took baby steps. I celebrated every partial victory. I took one step at a time. I got intimate with the word of God all the time. This was very transformational. I found my purpose. There was a paradigm shift in my life and this called for learning and unlearning. I had to embrace new values and establish new boundaries that would ensure I stayed in sobriety.
Did your family and friends believe you when you declared that you were getting help for your addiction?
I was too stuck in alcohol. No one imagined that seeking help or solitude would salvage me from the mess I had created, including myself. But my family was very supportive through the process. My friends were a bit sceptical. However, with time, everybody believed me as the process worked well. Right now, they all point out to me as a symbol to be emulated.
Have you ever had an episode of relapse or a time when you wanted to go back to being an addict? What prompted it?
I was well lubricated to slip through any traps. That has really been paramount in this walk. I am under safe wings.
How are you helping people with similar challenges overcome their addictions?
I help people to become mentally sound, emotionally balanced, socially adjusted, physically well and spiritually alive. We offer a chance to start over, become a new person, live a godly life, and find freedom through a restored purpose and eternal hope. This we do through classes, individual study, personal mentoring, work ethics training and involvement in a Christian community.
Tell us about running Teen Challenge Kenya?
This is an exciting experience. Seeing men transform from their former ways is so fulfilling. For me, it’s like giving back. It’s a transition from being a patient to a physician. Although it has its own challenges, the aftermath overrides them.
What would you tell a spouse, family member or a colleague living with an addict?
If you are a spouse, don’t give up on your partner. There is hope for every drug addict. Just walk with him, encourage him and find help for him. Addiction has a solution and should not be the reason for your separation. If a family member is in addiction, similarly, you should understand that they are in bondage and they need help. Support them with prayers, encouragement and, if the situation escalates, kindly find help for them in a good recovery programme.
Tell us about the prevention programme you are running in learning institutions...
We are doing a sensitisation programme in local schools within Nakuru County. We do outreaches with our students who share their own personal stories of how drugs wasted them. This has been positive and we are always on demand since the approach is effective therapy.
Are you single or married?
I’m blessed with a wife.
How does your wife perceive your job?
My family saw how I spiralled into addiction. I was unbearable during that season. No one could tolerate me. Even my wife sought refuge elsewhere to avoid frequent discomfort brought by my inability or unwillingness to change. So now that I am serving others, helping them to overcome addiction, I have received plenty of support from my family.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke