For more than 40 years, George Nyamweya was a slave battling addiction to the drink and smoke.
It was at the tender age of 10 in 1975 that the former teacher took his first puff and sip that sent him into a downward spiral that cost him the most productive years of his life. Mr Nyamweya's habit also negatively affected his professional and private life.
His career as a teacher begun in 1997 with the Maendeleo ya Wanawake affiliated German International Organization, Vivid Communications.
There he was the only male teacher from Mosocho area in Kisii sensitizing women groups and the public about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in barazas, seminars and schools. The organization soon thereafter let him go as he was constantly away from his work station. He was lucky to get employment with other schools where his behaviour failed to impress. He taught at over ten schools, receiving a transfer as soon as principals and students got tired of his absenteeism and low unproductivity.
“I have taught in many secondary schools in this county among them Nyakoora, Itibo Girls, Daraja Mbili, Nyanchwa Boys, Nyamagwa Boys, Nyakoiba, Sugunana, and one private Mosocho Academy,” he said.
His absenteeism, he says, was mostly because he was nursing a hangover or was too weak from hunger as the drink had all his focus, totally consuming him so much that he forgot to eat. He too would often pretend to be unwell just to get time off to get booze.
“Sometimes I would fake illness when the principals were being too hard on me so that I could go drinking and smoking,” said the reformed teacher.
Sick of being enslaved by his addictions and after several months of being pestered by his family to seek help, George finally decided to try out rehabilitation to see if it would set him free.
“When my wife first suggested rehab I was very uncooperative and was sometimes rough towards her but when my children joined her, I finally begun considering it,” he told the Nation.
“I was tired of alcohol but did not know how to stop drinking and my family had begun to distance itself from me,” he weighed in.
Nyamweya says his addiction had immensely affected his family life and due to this his wife had run away several times.
“My family and especially my wife was very determined to help me and I thank her for not giving up on me and also for not leaving because I would not be sober as I am right now.”
The cycle of alcohol-induced hopelessness and despair persisted until March this year. An emotionally exhausted Mr Nyamweya finally gave in to his wife’s constant pleas and went to the county TSC offices to ask for medical leave to attend the rehab.
He said he was neither aware of the TSC’s rehabilitation program for drug addicted teachers nor about the Wellness Department that coordinates the program.
“At the time, I did not know that there was a program to rehabilitate teachers who are addict. I was actually afraid that they would fire me for admitting my problem,” he said.
The wellness department allows a teacher a three month leave to go for rehabilitation while earning a half of his salary.
Mr Nyamweya was taken to Mathare Rehabilitation Center in Nairobi where he would spend 90 days.
Due to his cooperation and the support and understanding of the rehab staff, George was elected after a month by his fellow recovering addicts to be their Chief Coordinator.
The move was very inspiring to him because no one before had ever considered him to be worth of any responsibility. He took it in stride.
“I promised myself that when I was released from the centre, I would encourage my friends, who are also addicts, to go for rehabilitation. I realized I was getting better, I decided that I would mentor all the people I knew with the same problem to go for treatment,” he said.
In his position as Chief Coordinator, Mr Nyamweya was in charge of several departments such as games, catering, cleanliness and connecting patients with their counsellors.
“I got to interact with many people battling different ailments in Mathare including the mentally challenged. My easy nature made it possible to make friends with most of them,” he said. His successful experience almost convinced him to extend his stay but his love for his family won the day and he left the centre for his home.
He decided to start a support group in Kisii for his colleagues who are stuck in the rut. The Teacher and Students Against Alcohol Abuse Support Group so far has two members since it was launched a month ago. he is optimistic that more people will come forward and begin their journey to wellness.
“So many others want me to help them end their addictions but they do not know how they can be cured,” said Mr Nyamweya. His support group will address all forms of addiction and drug abuse among teachers and students.