My name is Giggs, a 39 year old recovering drug user and self employed barber. I started using drugs when I was 19 years old back then in 1998, because of friends and peer pressure. As a young person, I only used to smoke cigarette and marijuana, I had no interests with heroin. My friends had an all pass access to my place simply because I was living alone, they used to influence to try heroine and their motive triumphed.
I started using heroin and by 1999, I became an addict who could do anything a junkie would do just to satisfy my thirst for drugs.
Back then, I used to work as a driver. I lost my casual job because of my addiction and I was mentally drained. It was very hard to process such news in my head but I knew I had to cope up with the situation. Living in a city where finding a job is a job as well, I ended up selling all my belongings and ended up in the street in a time when my family would not want to hear anything about me as I used to steal from them as well.
I joined several criminal gangs because I could no longer be trusted for employment as I was criminalized because of my behavior. We would steal day and night but all we got we used it for drugs. I have had several incidents (more than ten times) where I have been lynched by the public after our deals turned sour. It’s only by God’s grace that I am narrating this to you. Not less than ten members of our gang were torched to death by angry members of the public. I have been in and out prison seven times, but all this time it didn’t click to me that I needed to change even after coming out of prison clean.
By 2013, I was fed up with the kind of life I was living, a life with no purpose and no future plans. I had lost track of my life and would let drugs take control. I felt so counterproductive, hopeless, and worthless and my life had no meaning. It’s then that I met a friend who told me about Reachout and the work they do in supporting people with drugs addiction to overcome their drug dependence. He took me to their DIC and I met a lot of my peers which really motivated me that I was not alone in this. I went through several counseling sessions by senior counselor Alfred Karisa as I was going through a lot of Trauma by then. I got the support I’d been longing for; mentally, spiritually, emotionally and above all I was shown love and affection.
I wanted to change my life but I had no one to sponsor me for drug dependency treatment. I was informed about methadone which was set to be implemented in Mombasa and I willingly agreed to it. I kept in touch with my counselors and almost one and half year later around 2015 the program started; I was among the chosen few.
During my first month at the methadone program, my life positively changed a lot from my physical appearance to experience emotion growth and how I even interacted with people. As much as I still experienced stigma, I tried not to create self stigma. It was during this moment when I was still trying to find a Job when one of my childhood friends who was keenly following on my progress asked me to start a barber shop. It had never rang in my head that I was skilled barber since my childhood; he even offered to assist me to open one.
So I started my small barber shop and every day after taking methadone I would come at my shop. My community did not fully accept me as others used to think that I’ve not fully reformed, while I had those who supported me in my recovery. Two years down the line, even those who didn’t believe in me come for my service and it is really humbling. I even have plans to expand my business, mentor and employ more youths if all goes well.
I’m more grateful for my family for accepting me in my recovery. I now have a family and I’m taking good care of them. It’s just my wish that the community will support people with substance abuse because the stigma causes more harm than good.