The late Whitney Houston’s marriage to Bobby Brown bears a stark resemblance to Jerusha Njeri’s marriage. In both cases, the couples met in 1989 and instead of building each other, the union did more harm than good. Although in Jerusha’s case mother and daughter are still alive, it is a painful coincidence that both women came out of the marriage wounded and immersed in alcohol. Jerusha has now turned a new leaf in her life and is trying to get her life back in order. She speaks to LILY RONOH.

In late 1989, a handsome young man entered into the salon where Jerusha worked as a hairdresser to borrow a comb. Jerusha had known him from when they were young but it was clear he didn’t remember her. After this first encounter, the young man made it his habit to always walk into the salon ostensibly to borrow a comb. It took sometime for Jerusha to know his real intentions.

“I remembered his name was Muhia. Out of reasons best known to him, he couldn’t tell me directly that he had fallen in love with me but instead sent an emissary. In turn, I reached out to a lady friend who knew him to seek her opinion. She gave me the green light and we started courting,” recalls Jerusha.

Muhia was at the time managing his mother’s transport business in Thika. The relationship blossomed and Jerusha gave birth to a baby girl in 1990. She was still staying with her mum and Muhia

would often drop by to play with the baby. Unfortunately, he was involved in an accident later that year and suffered severe injuries to his legs. Muhia relocated to Nakuru to stay with his mother while he recuperated and asked Jerusha to go with him.

Life was challenging with both of them out of work and with a baby to take care of. Muhia’s mother supported them financially until he was completely healed and able to return to his job in Thika. He left Jerusha and the baby behind without any plans of when he would come back for them.

“He seemed to have forgotten that he had left his family in Nakuru and would not call or even send us money. I decided to go back to my mum’s home instead of suffering in his mother’s home. I packed my bags and with my baby in tow, returned to Thika,” Jerusha recounts.

Jerusha tried to re-establish contact with Muhia but he lied to her that he was in Loitokitok. She soon found out from a local shoe shiner that he was actually in town. One day, she went looking for him and a confrontation ensued. Jerusha vowed to leave him but Muhia pleaded with her to stay. She agreed to continue with the relationship only on one condition – that Muhia found a place where they could live as a family. They moved in together and things seemed to be perfect… but only for a while.

“It wasn’t long before his true colours started showing. He would lie to me, was a drunkard and a philanderer,” says Jerusha.

                        Jerusha in her heydays                                                    Jerusha in rehab

Hurt and disillusioned, Jerusha started drinking to drown her sorrows. She would follow Muhia on his drinking sprees. Little did she know that she was embarking on a relationship with alcohol that would lead her to becoming an alcoholic. She would leave her daughter with a niece to join Muhia in the drinking dens where they would imbibe the whole night. On getting home in the wee hours of the morning, a fight would ensue and this became the cycle, repeated day in, day out.

The couple relocated to Juja after their landlady, who was having an affair with Muhia, threw them out, as she did not want Jerusha living in her property. Muhia and the lady continued with the affair and even rented a house together in Ngara.

He would shuttle between the two homes and this arrangement threw Jerusha into more desperation and the only way she

knew of dealing with her situation was through alcohol. She was now knee-deep into it and no amount of advice from her family was enough to either get her out of the doomed relationship with Muhia or alcoholism.

Looking for ways to make herself financially independent, Jerusha used some money she got from her “chama” to open a pub in Thika town.

“Happy Times was the name of my pub. The business picked up very fast and in no time was getting good money from it. My relationship with Muhia had deteriorated to the extent that he had left home and was now living permanently with his lover in Ngara,” she says, adding that being at the bar counter all day and all night translated to more drinking.

When Muhia learnt that Jerusha was running a pub, he became very angry and insisted she shuts it down as his condition of coming back to her, as he had parted ways with his lover. He suggested that Jerusha moves to Nakuru to take care of his properties. Thinking this was a great proposition, Jerusha sold the pub and relocated to Nakuru. Their daughter was now in boarding school so it was easier moving. It would appear this was Muhia’s ploy to get Jerusha out of his way, as he did not visit her for a whole year though he would send money for her upkeep.

Jerusha had quit drinking out of respect for Muhia’s mother whom she was living with but went back to the habit out of loneliness. “I was lonely and doing little in Nakuru. I made friends who became my drinking partners and before long, all the bars in town knew me by name,” says Jerusha who adds that she woke up one morning and wondered why she was wasting her life in Nakuru if Muhia was not part of it. She packed her bags and went back to live with her mother in Thika.

When Muhia got wind that she was in Thika, he went looking for her. Still none the wiser and finding an excuse in her daughter, she ran back into his open arms and they rented a house in Thika phase 13. She had hope, albeit very faint, that things would be different this time round. But that was just that – hope. Nothing had changed and as if on cue, their destructive lifestyle automatically picked up from where they had left it.

She recalls Muhia coming home so drunk one day and turning so violent

that she could not bear it any more. She and her daughter slept at a neighbour’s home that night and by morning, she had decided it was over. She sent her daughter to stay with a relative while she roomed with a friend. with whom she opened a food kiosk to cater for men working in the jua kali industry in Thika.

The bottle was still an important part of her life and all her waking hours were spent imbibing. She had graduated to a complete alcoholic and could not function without alcohol. Despite the hard life she had led, Jerusha was still a beauty to behold and men would line up to buy her alcohol.

“Alcohol had become indispensible in my life. I would wake up drinking and go to bed drinking. I was a mess. When Muhia learnt of my situation, he convinced me to go back to my mother. I did but couldn’t stay for long because I was always at loggerheads with her because of my drinking. Muhia was kind enough to rent for me a single-roomed house where I could live on my own,” Jerusha recalls the hard life she has been through.

Jerusha says that for four years beginning 2010, she lived in complete isolation and looking back wonders how she survived. “It’s by God’s grace that I am alive today,” she reckons. She was completely lost to the world. Muhia had remarried and thus kept minimal contact with her but faithfully paid her house rent and also took care of their daughter, now married with two kids.

Her turning point came in March this year when her daughter came looking for her and took her to Mathari Psychiatric Hospital to begin treatment for her addiction.

“I was admitted in the hospital and started on a detoxification programme to flush out alcohol in my system. I stayed with my daughter for two months after being discharged from hospital and I am currently living with a friend whom I also assist in her boutique,” says Jerusha. She is still on medication because she suffers from alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Jerusha acknowledges that she has lost a significant part of her life to alcohol but is cognisant that it is not yet too late to start over again. She is slowly picking up the pieces of her life and with the help of her daughter and friend, she is hopeful she will be back on her two feet and completely clean of alcohol.

lily@parents.co.ke

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Published in September 2015.