Today is like any other day for celebrated radio presenter Coco Sobo. He is headed to Mathare North Health Centre for his daily dose of methadone, a substitute drug for heroin and which reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the high associated with drug addiction.
"Oh, it tastes awful!" he says, the grimace on his face giving once an idea of just how bad it tastes.
This is a taste he will have to endure for two years.
Coco , born Dominico Kariuki Ngori in Lesotho, is 39. For 15 years, he has been on a recovery journey from drug addiction.
EXPERIMENTED WHEN HE WAS 14
"I first experimented with drugs when I was 14. There was this man around our school (in Kenya) that sold us ice cream. The ice cream was laced with the heroin but we didn't know. In retrospect, I remember being so irritable during the weekends which were withdrawal symptoms."
When he was young, his family moved a lot due to the nature of his parents’ work. Shortly after primary school here in Kenya, Coco's family then moved to South Africa. That is where his drug addiction plummeted and he hit rock bottom.
"When I tasted heroine again in South Africa when I was fifteen in 1996, I remembered that distinct taste from the ice-cream back in Kenya."
It got so bad that he started selling their household goods to feed his habit.
"I was a spoilt child and had everything at my disposal. During that time, I crashed a total of nine cars. They were completely written off," he says regretfully.
He then moved to college in Australia. Things didn't get any better. He would miss his classes for up to three weeks. Before his imminent expulsion, Coco quit college and went back home.
He came back into the country and became a raging drug addict to the point of blacking out on the streets. His parents were always there for him, taking him to different rehabs.
IN AND OUT OF REHABILITATION
He has been in and out of rehabilitation centers countless times. He also found himself in trouble with the law a number of times and spent nights in police cells.
“I was in and out of rehab more than 20 times both in South Africa and in Kenya. I remember my parents paying Sh500,000 at some point so I could go to a rehab in Kenya.”
He got so used to the rehabilitation centers that he would manipulate the doctors into giving him more medication just to get a sense of some high.
At one time, after ten years of drug addiction, the burly Coco weighed under 50 kgs. He is almost six feet tall.
"I was a junkie that had given up on life. I used to black out and sleep on the streets-and all this time, my family would take me back in and take care of me."
The self-proclaimed radio king is the second born in a family of four. He is the only boy, and for this reason, his parents doted on him.
"My mother is the reason I am where I am now, I love her so much. She once told me that no matter what I do with my life, I will always be her son. And that was so profound for me."
His parents, frustrated, cajoled him to go back to rehab after numerous unsuccessful stints by threatening to withdraw every form of financial support. He had never worked a day in his life.
"They said they would withdraw everything. This scared me and I decided to give it another shot at rehab. At first, I just wanted to please my parents, but after a while, I also started to like the new me."
"Drug addiction robbed me of my early years and I now feel like I have to rush against time to catch up with my fellow peers in the industry."
"'I needed some tough love." He only got his identification card on turning 30. And started working at 32. His parents provided him with everything.
FEW RADIO JOBS
During his journey to recovery, he landed a few radio jobs at KBC'S Metro radio and One FM owing to his raspy voice.
He, however, wouldn't hold this for long as he would sometimes relapse.
"I remember quitting before I was fired because I knew I had messed up," he recollects with a hearty laugh.
He then landed a stint at Hot 96 and he knew he had to kick his habit completely.
His focus now is at being the best in what he does.
Most of his time now is spent in rehabilitation centers where he engages the youth on effects of drug abuse.
"I am alarmed at the number of young people that I meet on my missions. We really need to open up and talk to the young ones because the numbers are alarming."
"And it doesn't even matter the background. I have been invited to prominent peoples' homes, just to talk to their children who are currently going through what I went through.”
He is also currently working with the First Ladies' Pupils Rewards Scheme (PURES) which is a mentorship program aimed at motivating and instilling discipline in pupils.
With the help of methadone which he has been taking for the last one and a half years, the cravings have subsided.
"There are those days that I can smell the drugs either in my sweat or my imagination. Those are the hardest. But I have to soldier on, because I want to be best,” he says.
His journey of recovery is incomplete without the name Shiru. Coco attributes his tremendous success in the journey through recovery to his now ex-girlfriend Wanjiru Gatume.
“She stood by me through it all. I wouldn’t have done it without her. I dated her for seven years, but we had to part ways. She still remains a good friend.”
He has also rebuilt his relationships with his siblings who he didn’t see much of during the turbulent years of addiction.
Do you have feedback on this story? E-mail: [email protected]