Not many people would be courageous enough to freely talk about their tainted past, especially if this past has to do with alcoholism and sex addiction, taboo subjects in our society. And yet 32-year-old Titus Ndiritu has done exactly this.
His troubling past is recorded in his memoirs, What I Never Told You: Memoirs of a Recovering Addict, a book that is a must-read for parents who have to leave their children in the care of house helps while they are at work.
Ndiritu’s is a heart-wrenching account of a little boy who is introduced to sex at the tender age of seven, but is too ashamed and scared to tell his parents, both teachers, about the abuse.
It began in 1987 following the arrival of a new house help. She would make him fondle her inappropriately, as she did the same to him. And if, as happened during the first encounter, someone walked in on them, she would spank him to make it appear as if she was punishing him for some wrong-doing.
“She always abused me behind a mask of kindness, always encouraging me to touch her first, as if it were my idea. Though it was terrifying, it made me feel special…it made me feel pleasure,” Ndiritu writes in his book.
Ndiritu and his five siblings were usually left in the care of a house help, since his parents went to work.
“Maybe if we spent sufficient time with each other, they would have observed the change in me. If they had asked me, I would have told them,” he says.
What the househelp did to him —undressing him and fondling his genitals or having him look at her as she bathed or dressed — gradually hooked him to something he had no business experiencing at that age.
By the time she left 15 months later, the damage had been done. Ndiritu would re-enact what the househelp had taught him with the young neighbourhood girls. Somehow, his actions went unnoticed.
He had his first sexual experience at 15 years, while in form two, with a student he met during the schools drama festival. From then on, there was no stopping him.
“I developed an uncontrollable sexual urge. Anytime I saw an attractive girl, I wanted to have sex with her. If I couldn’t, I would masturbate,” he says.
By the time he completed secondary school, he had started to sleep with multiple partners, mostly girls at his school and those he went to church with.
But his sexual encounters always left him feeling ashamed, such that when a couple of his classmates introduced him to cigarettes, bhang and alcohol in form one; he gladly embraced the drugs, the alcohol especially, when he found out that it numbed his conscience.
“Although the drinking started in small doses, by the time he completed secondary school, Ndiritu had become a heavy drinker.
The first sign of trouble emerged in 2001, when he decided to drop out of college. He was studying accounts at the Kenya College of Accountancy, and had just two more sections to go to become a Certified Public Account.
“It wasn’t for lack of school fees, that much I can tell you,” he comments.
Soon afterwards, he got a job as a school bursar in 2003, only to be dismissed a year later due to heavy drinking. All the while, he’d have casual sex, sometimes unprotected, and then he’d drown the shame in alcohol. When he lost this job, he went into rehab, determined to cure his addiction to alcohol.
“I never thought, not once, that my preoccupation with sex was a disease,” he says.
After he got out of rehab, he got a teaching job at an accountancy college in Nanyuki. But he couldn’t keep away from the alcohol, and a year later, he lost his job. Desperate, he took the next one that came along - stock-taking in a bar. Predictably, his drinking got worse, and taking advantage of his vulnerability, the owner would pay him with “cheap spirits” instead of money.
“I sold everything I owned; I was kicked out of my rented house, and with nowhere to go, I begun to sleep in the streets,” he says, adding that he was no different from a street boy.
He would take any job that came his way, and whatever money he made, he sunk it all into alcohol.
“This was the worst period in my life,” says Ndiritu.
News of his desperate state reached his sister, a teacher, who alerted their father. The family speedily arranged for his second rehab. He was 25 years then. But even this did not work.
Upon discharge a few months later, Ndiritu got into a relationship with a woman, who, at 49, was old enough to be his mother.
He would go through two more rehab centres before he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Nairobi. But he relapsed into alcoholism…again. It was only after admission to another psychiatric hospital that the root of his alcoholism were traced to sex addiction, a discovery that turned out to be his saving grace.
He learnt that there was a pattern to his drinking, in that when he was sober, he sought sex, and as soon as he was done, he turned to alcohol to try and forget the shameful memories. The doctor who detected this pattern to his sex-alcohol addiction attributed his sex addiction to his childhood encounter with the househelp who abused him.
“When I was not drunk, I was always looking for women to have sex with. I did not bother with protection, and not even HIV scared me,” he says, and adds,
“Initially, I looked for 'nice girls' in church, but later, I turned to commercial sex workers.”
An active church member, a youth leader and a chief campaigner of True Love Waits, “I quickly learned a secret that many religious people keep to themselves; the holier you act, the more sex you get,” writes Ndiritu, who had sexual partners in all the surrounding churches.
To ensure that he had his way, he didn’t keep chairs in his room, to ensure that any girl who visited sat on his bed. He also kept a pail of water in the room into which he threatened to immerse the girl’s clothes if she declined his advances.
If the threats failed, he used force.
“In reality, that was rape—the kind of rape that goes unreported,” he admits.
At one point, Ndiritu would have three sex encounters in a day, or “eight-to-ten women in a week” on average. When it got to a point where he no longer derived satisfaction from physical sex, he went into exhibitionism, voyeurism, and grabbing women.
The only near-normal relationship he had resulted in the birth of a daughter. The mother was a fellow student at the Kenya College of Accountancy, but the relationship was brief because of his heavy drinking and wandering eye.
“I often wonder what my life would be like had the root cause of my alcohol addiction not been detected – I am very fortunate.”
Ndiritu had his last bottle of alcohol in 2008, just before his last rehabilitation in 2008. Since then, he says, he has never touched a drop of alcohol, and has learnt to control his once uncontrollable sexual urge.
However, he admits that he is not yet ready to give a “normal relationship” a chance.
“Because of where I am coming from, I know so much about sex, but little about intimacy. My greatest fear is that if today I’d get into a relationship, I would find myself walking out of it as soon as we got intimate.”
Ndiritu often gives talks to schools and churches on the twin addictions he knows intimately, and does not hesitate to use his experience.
Three years ago, he also reached out to his daughter, who is now 11 years old, and in class six.
“I am fortunate that I was able to form a relationship with her, and that her mother did not object to me reaching out – nothing gives me greater joy than being a father,” he says.
He is a parent in every sense – he pays her school fees and provides for all her other needs, material and emotional.
“She lives with me most of the time,” Ndiritu says. His daughter’s mother is married.
Ndiritu, who is a trainer at Support for Addiction Prevention and Treatment in Africa, SAPTA, is a final-year counselling psychology student at the Africa Nazarene University. His career choice, he says, was influenced by his experiences.
With the advantage of practical experience, he advises: “As parents, we should form a close relationship with our children, because this way, we’ll be able to tell if something is amiss, and our children will be confident enough to confide in us.
You can contact Titus on 0736 664 394/ 0717 607 383 or [email protected]