Deborah Ebole had a series of misfortunes that saw her addicted to heroin, and deep in prostitution. She tells Fridah Mlemwa how she rehabilitated herself.
It has been close to two years since Deborah Ebole last used illicit drugs, a feat that she celebrates after spending over 10 years abusing drugs. The 37 year old’s addiction started as a way to cope with abandonment.
It all begun when her middle class parents separated. She found herself in the care of her paternal grandfather in Bunyore after both parents abandoned her to go rebuild their lives separately back in Nairobi. At 15, she became an orphan when her grandfather died and shortly after, both her parents.
“My grandfather really cried when he was passing away; he knew I will suffer,” recalls Deborah with tears in her eyes.
A family friend took her in and she went back to school. However, her dreams were cut short when she got pregnant.
In 2000, after quitting high school due to the pregnancy, she moved out of the friend’s house to fend for herself while an aunt took in her baby girl.
TURNED TO THE BABY'S FATHER
Once again left on her own, she turned to the baby’s father for support. He introduced her to prostitution to fend for the both of them and became abusive when she failed to make enough money. She resorted to fleeing to save herself. She stole Sh3,000 from a client and fled to Mombasa.
Deborah was fortunate to find an old friend to her mother at the coastal city who provided shelter for her. It was while living in the lady’s house that she found love, but it was a love that would lead her down a dark road of drug abuse.
The young man gave her cigarettes laced with heroin. After four days of use she got addicted.
He stop supplying her with the cigarettes and pushed her to get money for the drugs. “It is easier for women to make money than men, is what he told me and insisted I follow the other women to clubs,” she remembers. She ran away from him and started living in the streets and prostituting to fend for herself.
Shortly after, she was arrested and charged with possession of one satchet of heroin. It was then that she discovered that she was also pregnant with her second child, whom she gave birth to while serving her eight-month sentence.
“Prison is the best. Comparing the life of hustle and living in prison, prison is the best,” declares Deborah, adding, “when I left prison, I was looking healthy and beautiful, which attracted the baby’s daddy back to me.”
Her new found happiness was short lived since the man disappeared after getting her pregnant with another baby.
Abandoned again, struggling with her two infants and addicted to drug use, she sought help for her children.
“My kids were dirty. They cried all the time. Sometimes I genuinely asked people for money to buy food for the kids but I was an addict so I would end up using it on drugs.”
In 2003, she visited Haki Africa, a non-governmental organisation that helps drug addicts overcome the addiction. She begged them to help with her children.
After securing a letter from the NGO, she was able to get another one from the social services at the children’s department. The letters assisted her to get her two baby boys accepted at Tumaini Children’s Home in Mombasa.
Alone again, she delved further into drugs and a life of prostitution. “I never dreamt this will happen to me. I thought since I am intelligent I will end up being a doctor or a PhD holder because of the way I was bright in school.”
In 2016, she got gravely ill and was diagnosed with HIV. She sought help once more, and found it at Haki Africa again. She got access to free treatment with Methadone, a drug that is used to suppress drug addiction. “I am now weaning off methadone, because I have had successful rehabilitation without a relapse.”
After 13 years of drug abuse and one and a half years of leaving clean, Deborah hopes to rebuild herself even in the face of daily challenges. “People like us are never considered. People call you ‘that junkie over there’,” she says.
“Sometimes I had no food to eat, no fare to make it to the rehabilitation centre. But I would walk even if I had to” “
It was her determination to get through the stigmatisation and the other challenges that helped her recovery process.
The children’s home now allows her to visit her children since she started recovering from the addiction successfully. She hopes that soon, she will live with them and take care of them.
“I am now living a Godly life. I am a mentor. I go out to help rehabilitate drug addicts. I hope to save enough funds to start my own business so that I can sustain myself, and finally get my children back,” says Deborah, then adds, “I want to be there for my kids because my parents abandoned me when I was very young. I don’t like blaming my parents because they are gone, but sometimes in reality, I find a reason to blame them.”
Deborah believes no matter how far gone, any drug addict can be rehabilitated. She says, “Drug addiction is not something one does intentionally. It is a disease.
It takes over, it changes the reasoning capacity and the functioning of the body. Unless you use it, you might die from the withdrawal symptoms.
The urge is strong. With proper support and treatment, one can overcome it.”