Growing up as a young boy, my parents pampered me with love as I was not only their favourite, but also the youngest (at some point) child. They always wanted me to have the best and were not shy to show this,” Tonny Kibet starts off our interview.
Kibet says that his brother and sister, who were older than him, were taken to a school that was quite a distance from their home while he was enrolled in a school nearby.
For a period of more than 10 years, Kibet acted as the last born until 2004 when his parents bore another child. It’s at this point that Kibet’s parents started shifting their attention to the newborn.
“Often times parents give more attention to younger children at the expense of the older children, something that I came to experience after my younger sibling was born,” he avers.
Kibet was in class six then and although this didn’t affect his education, the changes were not lost on him. He joined an elite secondary school and all was fine until he joined form two.
“There is some pride that comes when form ones graduate to their second year and it wasn’t different with me. Perhaps to also get my parents’ attention that I had grown so accustomed to, I started absconding or sneaking from school,”
Misconduct and Peer Pressure
His misconduct saw him expelled from the institution and his parents enrolled him in another school in South B. Kibet says that students in his new institution smoked bhang with abandon while others would skip school to go partake illicit brews, which were flowing freely in the neighbouring slums.
He succumbed to peer pressure and although he did it only once in his entire secondary school life, he had his first taste of bhang. Kibet describes his first experience as scary as he had not seen let alone sniffed bhang before. “Somehow, bhang would be availed at the school during break time,” he reveals.
Kibet sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2009 and as expected, his results were nothing to write home about. “My mum was
the first to comment on my grades and she said on my face ‘you have failed’,” Kibet says, revealing that he had scored a ‘C’ plain.
Kibet admits that he also knew that was not his best grade but his parent’ reaction made him feel like a failure. “I was ready to repeat form four but all the institutions we approached advised me to go back to form three. Both my parents and I were not for the idea,” he says.
He points out that his older siblings had made it to university and this made the situation worse as there was pressure to follow in their footsteps. Luckily, Utalii College had an intake and for the first time their cut point had dropped from B minus to C plain. According to his dad, this was a sign that God wanted his son to join the institution. After all, he and his wife are alumni of the institution.
Kibet successfully applied for a course in hotel management. “I knew I would be admitted as mum used to work there and even more importantly, I had qualified,” he offers.
Alcoholism in campus
Having visited his siblings in campus and witnessing the freedom they enjoyed, Kibet looked forward to joining college with that freedom mentality. His excitement, however, didn’t last long as Utalii College was a bit strict. He became disillusioned. His only solace was that the institution allowed alcohol consumption. He reveals that during school events, students could access alcohol at a cheaper price hence drinking more.
Initially, he was able to manage his drinking but the brown bottle proved too sweet for his restraint. “I joined the wrong company and instead of paying attention to our education, we started concentrating on the sideshows,” he says.
His theatrics made him popular in school and almost everyone knew him. “I was a cool dude and the students kind of liked me,” he says, adding fellow students had nicknamed him Mchanga (young one).
His love for the bottle intensified when he broke up with his girlfriend and this marked the beginning of a long, winding road in the abyss of alcoholism. “After joining college, I fell in love with a certain girl. We started courting but while in second year, the relationship failed. This took a toll on me as fellow students knew about the relationship and the break up was discussed at length,” he says.
To hide his shame, he indulged in alcohol and bhang, which grossly affected his studies. His drinking became a point of concern to some of his classmates who beseeched him to control it.
“I would become rowdy after drinking. There was this time I got so drunk and started stoning cars on my way back to school after a drinking escapade,” he says.
He calls to mind how he was thoroughly beaten by a mob only to be rescued by a traffic policeman. By this time, his parents, who were privy to his drinking problems, were worried sick and thus looked for people to talk to him.
“I was looking for something to help me boost my self-esteem and alcohol and drugs seemed to work. It made me feel high both literally and figuratively,” he says.
Funding his habbits
When he did not have money to buy drinks, he would sneak home and steal his parents’ electronics, which he would then sell at a throwaway price. He would use the money to buy himself drinks and bhang. In retrospect, Kibet regrets that most parents are not open to discuss issues of relationships or other challenges considered taboo in the African set up with their children.
“It’s hard to find African parents openly speaking about sex, defilement, and drug abuse with their children,” he ponders, implying that had he found someone to talk to, he wouldn’t have sought solace in alcohol and drugs.
Kibet remarks that his unbecoming habit was too much hence affecting his performance and relationship with other people. He at one time became suicidal. He was suspended from school for a year to give him time to put his life in order.
Once at home, his parents decided to take him to a rehabilitation centre. “Before going for rehab, I went for detoxification to flush out the drugs and alcohol in my system but it didn’t help much. The only other option was rehabilitation,” he says.
Life in rehab
Like many alcoholics and drug abusers, Kibet found the idea of a rehab unappealing and was very bitter about it. Looking back, he is grateful that his parents never gave up on him. “I went for rehab for three months and that short period changed my life for the better. It’s while in rehab that I realised I have a talent in music,” he says.
Today, Kibet runs his own organisation – Triumph Ministry – whose aim is to walk with those recovering from drug addiction. “Apart from music, we run a campaign dubbed ‘Drug si Swagg’ aimed at cautioning people from engaging in drug abuse,” he says.
Although he had a chance to go back to Utalii College, he declined the offer and instead joined Daystar University where he is pursuing a course in Communications.
“My sobriety has paved way for me to be able to have and sustain a meaningful relationship, unlike the old me who used to throw tantrums and drink away after every argument. I am blessed with a lady who is my support system in my recovery, and who corrects me when I’m wrong and devotedly supports my campaign,” he says.
It’s now six years since Kibet stopped drinking and he believes that God will help him support other people willing to ditch the habit.
“After rehab, it’s important for one to look for a goal to pursue as it’s easy to relapse,” he says.
Having experienced firsthand the effects of drugs, Kibet dreams of a world free from drug abuse.