Kenneth Kimathi believes he would be dead today were it not for a programme launched last year by the Kiambu Government to rehabilitate alcoholics.
Mr Kimathi, 34, who hails from Kahawa Wendani in Ruiru Constituency has been an alcoholic since 2012.
He told The Standard yesterday that he started drinking out of frustration after returning home from Afghanistan in 2012 and found the money he had been sending to a relative to build him a house had been misused.
Every month, Kimathi, who used to earn Sh100,000 while working as general labourer in a military barrack in Afghanistan, would send home Sh50,000 and save the rest.
So when he returned home to no house, he sunk into depression and turned to the bottle.
“I became a perennial drunkard. I was always in the club where I would drink to keep away the stress,” he said.
Kimathi soon depleted nearly Sh500,000 in savings and started stealing from his parents to sustain his drinking habit.
“Eventually my father kicked me out since I was always violent while drunk. They could no longer keep me in their home,” he said.
Kimathi said he struggled for nearly five years until he heard that the county government was rehabilitating alcohol and drug addicts last year.
He joined the programme which he credits for two things: helping him to quit drinking and enrolling for a catering course.
“With about Sh50,000 capital, I will be able to set up a bakery where I can bake cakes and bread,” said Kimathi, adding that he was also ready to settle down and start a family.
Kimathi’s journey of struggle and triumph was echoed by many of the 5,078 recovering addicts who graduated yesterday in a ceremony presided over by Governor Ferdinand Waititu.
The addicts were unanimous in their praise that the Kaa Sober programme had saved them from early graves.
“Were it not for the 'Kaa Sober' programme, I guess maybe I would be dead today. I used to drink all day, every day without eating. Doctors told me to stop drinking as it was endangering my life but I could not stop,” said 55-year-old Jane Nyambura.
Under the programme, which started in March last year, the 5,078 addicts were paid Sh400 every day for five days in a week. This cost the county government over Sh2 million daily.
The addicts, in turn, were given manual jobs like clearing bushes, trenches and drains, and collecting garbage in their respective villages.
During yesterday’s ceremony at Ndumberi Stadium, the participants were each given Sh20,000, which Mr Waititu said was meant to assist them start small businesses.
“They are now reformed people and ready to do various jobs. We decided not to buy them any equipment but instead give them money to start businesses of their choice” said Waititu, as he announced the end of the programme.
The governor said the county government was willing to pay for willing participants to acquire technical skills.
“The county government will foot the bills of all those who will be enrolled in various polytechnics to do courses of their choice. We want to ensure that all our recovering addicts are given something that will help them start their lives afresh.”
Waititu also said the country will next week launch the Jijenge Fund from which the recovering addicts and the youth can borrow money to start businesses.