Before dawn, Eric learnt – and subsequently posted on social media – that Joseph had died barely 12 hours after finding him.
“This is my blood brother: from the same mother and the same father,” Eric says in the video.
Indeed, the two bear an uncanny resemblance except for his brother’s darker shade. Eric’s brother, Joseph Onyango Omondi, was the eldest in their family. Eric has two other siblings – including his last born brother Fred who is also a comedian.
In the video posted on Eric’s Instagram account (with a following of 3.1 million) he expressed optimism that his brother would be well. It was, therefore, shocking to his followers when thereafter he posted a picture of Joseph, looking haggard, alongside the announcement that he had passed away.
The posts were almost self-deprecating. Eric explained to Hashtag in a phone interview: “I struggled with the thought of whether I should post or not. It was really difficult to make that decision. But when I did, it was because I needed those who follow me to understand the toll drugs have on human life.”
“If you are a young person and you follow this account…this is for you. If you are reading this and you are in high school or college and you have begun using drugs know that a time is coming when you won’t be able to sleep without having to take them,” Eric posted.
There is no doubt that the turn his brother’s life has taken is tragic. It is only when you listen to him that you begin to appreciate his pain.
“Is it possible that something else, maybe a condition, could have killed him and not exactly the drugs?” this writer asked him.
He chuckles. Muffled chuckles heavy with pain.
“Have you seen him?” he asks. “There is no doubt that the drugs killed him.”
Joseph, Eric says, began abusing drugs while in high school. He suspects that a female cousin introduced Joseph to drugs.
“We had a cousin who was dating a white man. She is the one who we knew was using drugs. When Joseph started hanging out with her she must have introduced him to the vice.”
As soon as the family discovered that Joseph was abusing and possibly selling drugs (mostly cocaine) they began offering help. Eric himself set up for him a clothes business in Kisumu. “I was hoping that he would keep himself busy with productive work and forget about drugs,” Eric recalls. It did not work.
Numerous times, Eric points out, Joseph was booked into rehab.
“He would come out clean and then, out of the blues, slip out of our sight and go missing,” he says. “We would only get calls from places as far as Mombasa: “Come pick your brother. He is in Mombasa. He is very high.”
Eric says that he has lost count of the number of times Joseph was in and out of rehab. Joseph would run away from home to avoid being forced back into rehab by family members.
Eric believes rehab did not work for Joseph because beyond rehabilitation expertise, an addict needs to have the will to drop drug abuse.
“If an addict is not mentally prepared to stop they will still relapse because drugs always have a certain appeal for addicts.”
Mark Mbiu, a recovering heroin addict, says that once one is addicted it is very difficult to halt the addiction.
“I have also been in and out of rehab. I am currently on methadone – a form of Medically Assisted Therapy for recovering addicts,” Mark says.
Now 37, Mark also began abusing drugs at the tender age of 14.
A survey conducted by the National Authority for Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada) titled Role of School Environment in Alcohol and Drug Abuse among students concludes that students at risk of drug abuse in secondary school had characteristics of being male and living with a grandparent – among other factors.
The report found that alcohol was the most commonly abused drug in schools (mentioned by 74.4 per cent of the students).
Miraa was mentioned by 62.9 per cent of the students; cigarettes (58.1 per cent), Bhang (50.3 per cent), Cocaine (6.9 per cent) and heroin (4.2 per cent).