My Story: From A Drug Addict To A Counselling Psychologist And Addiction Professional

June 12, 2023

Martin Mawira shared his struggles with drug addiction with Silas Nyamweya for The Nairobian:

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Martin Mawira, a recovering addict, a certified counselling psychologist who is passionate about those still struggling with addiction. I am now in my fourth year of uninterrupted recovery journey. I had 15 years of addiction.

What do you think led you into substance abuse and eventually addiction?

I am the firstborn in a family of three. I was brought up by authoritarian parents who expected me to be the most disciplined child. As a result, I rebelled. Peer pressure after initiation and the availability of miraa also contributed.

You were a Sunday School leader who eventually fell into drug addiction, how did this happen?

I was doing so well until after my initiation. After Standard Eight pressure after doing “manly things” was too much. I started by using miraa, Chavis and tamboo. My body tolerance developed and now I couldn’t do without substances.

How did this affect your schooling and life in general?

My performance in school declined and I started to have issues with teachers, it triggered several transfers but that didn’t stop my usage. Actually, it increased because every environment introduced better brands of drugs. Finishing high school was a struggle but I eventually did.

My life stagnated. My sleep and feeding patterns were altered. My hygiene was poor as showering was news. I was an embarrassment and a source of pain to my family.

My parents still tried to give me life and took me to college. However, this provided good moments for me to consume drugs with no monitoring. I used to steal other students’ phones and blankets to finance my addiction and got expelled after being caught.

I used to clean wines and spirits pubs and clubs to get a kanusu ya kutoa lock then I would go to clean vehicles at a carwash. Lunch was soup, mutura and a boiled egg. This was not every day. I became dirty, emaciated and no one wanted to associate with me.

Where did you get the motivation to seek help?

When my parents came looking for me at the carwash where I used to work on December 24, 2018. They did not find me as I had blacked out in a banana plantation. When I returned in the evening my friends informed me that my parents had been looking for me. They wanted to send me to Nairobi to work at my sister’s shop. We set the travel date for January 5, 2019. That’s how I found myself at Dove Mental Health Hospital.

How was the experience at the mental health hospital?

The first month was a nightmare. Withdrawal symptoms took a toll on me. However, in the second month after psychotherapy sessions, I slowly started seeing the need to change. Following several family therapy sessions, my people gave me the benefit of the doubt.

What is your advice to drug addicts out there?

First is accepting that you need help. One major hindrance to recovery is living in denial. After acceptance visit a rehab.

You are now involved in helping other drug addicts recover, please tell us your experience…

The only way I could do this was through studying counselling. I was motivated by my therapists who were doing so well and are in recovery.

I have been raising awareness through my Facebook page and YouTube channel (redeemed from flames of addiction) and through Twitter. I also give talks in learning institutions and churches.

Your parting shot?

People need to understand that addiction is a disease and so instead of abandoning and judging addicts help them find professional help.

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