Speak Out with Caroline…Unscripted

The journey of life is one that fails the comprehension of many. I always believed that life is one straight journey – that is when I was a child. As I continued to grow, I realized that this journey is full of curveballs – some beyond understanding.

Had someone mentioned to me close to 20 years ago that I would become not only an alcoholic, but that I would struggle with various kinds of addictions, I would have probably have laughed it off. I would probably also have rebuked that someone, telling them to return to Hades where he/she rightly belongs! Unfortunately, however, this turned out to be true. You see, what started out as ‘fun times’ almost ended up killing me. What began as ‘one drink’ turned out to be drinks on an insanely outrageous level.

This is the story of my journey into, my struggle with and deliverance from not only alcoholism but other addictions as well that entangled me along the way. This is the story of a girl, a church girl who messed up with the ‘things of this world.’

I grew up in a middle-income family with both my parents. Being the firstborn with four siblings in stride, I knew from a young age that a few responsibilities had already been laid for me.

My relationship with my dad was fantastic and continues to be to this day. My mother and I, though, were not ‘bosom buddies.’

For years on end, I always felt that she was too harsh, too critical of me. I feel she rejected me. My self-esteem was at an all-time low in my childhood. This followed me into the crucial teen years. The fact that I could not get any positive vibes or compliments from her only worsened my mental state as a child.

Unknowingly, I sought friendship in her friends, my aunts and even in house helps that she would hire. She couldn’t understand why I couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to her about anything. I couldn’t understand it either. I vividly remember how different house helps would talk ill of her in my presence and I would gladly join in their conversations. Subconsciously, I hated my mother. I did for years.

Friendships are crucial in the wholesome development of every child. I was no exception. At the age of 10, I had a best friend. Sleepovers were common at either their home or ours, for our parents were good friends. At the age of 10, my best friend introduced me to ‘playing with myself.’ I didn’t know that that is what it was at the time. All I knew is that it was something that had to be done privately. I was to struggle with masturbation for about 25 years.

With low self-esteem, rejection issues and now my struggle with masturbation from a young age, I became a rather quiet person. My keenness for forming friendships was wanting because I wasn’t good at keeping them. Now, when I look back, I realize that even the friendships I formed over the years were with people struggling with similar issues. The proverbial saying ‘birds of a feather flock together’ has played out pretty well in my life.

Fast-track into my late teens. I was privileged to pursue my A-level education under the British system of education locally after completing my O-levels.

Enter culture shock. At this school was my first interaction with people from different nationalities. It was my first time to be in close proximity with kids who smoked openly – both cigarettes and something else that looked like cigarettes but didn’t smell like them. What a shock it was for me to see girls smoke during class breaks! That indeed was new to me.

Not long after joining this particular school, I was befriended by a rather popular girl in my class. She was everything I thought I wasn’t. She was beautiful; I thought I wasn’t. She was popular; I knew I wasn’t. She smoked cigarettes; I didn’t. My new friend’s carefree lifestyle and my desire to be part of that were the onset of my road into alcohol and nicotine addiction.

On one particular day, during our smoke breaks, my friend casually brought up the topic of sex and virginity. She went on to mention how she ‘broke’ hers at the age of 15. I was shocked beyond words. Age 15? What was I doing at that age? I was in my first year of high school at a national school. A quiet girl with not much else going on in my life. A virgin. I intended to be one right until my wedding night.

My friend, on the other hand, was quite the ‘wild card.’ Her lifestyle and popularity constantly intrigued me. You can therefore imagine the visible look of disbelief on her face when she learnt that I was pure. Her expression seemed to say, ‘Are you for real? What are you waiting for?’

As we continued with our conversation, I mentioned to her about a guy I liked in a certain school. We had ‘dated’ for a year or so, but no sexual intimacy had occurred. This piece of information caught her attention, and she casually mentioned that if I had sex with my boyfriend, she would bring me a bottle of wine to celebrate! Wine? I thought. Oh wow! This also was new! I was so excited about this particular dare that I agreed to it without giving it a second thought.

How quickly we sometimes forget the promises or vows we make to God. From a young age, I had vowed to remain sexually pure and to steer clear of any mind-altering substances. Now here I was. At the age of 19, I was addicted to cigarettes and masturbation. Any spare moment I had to myself, I would engage in either of these vices. Here I was now, on the brink of consciously losing my virginity to someone other than my future husband. Here I was also, on the brink of commencing my long journey into alcoholism. With my eyes wide open, I jumped right in!

That weekend, my boyfriend and I got to have sex. To my disappointment, it wasn’t the romantic, fairy tale written in many of the novels I heartily read in high school. The feelings in me afterwards were of loss and sadness. Somehow, I felt ashamed. Whether we like to admit or not, there are always those unexplainable, mixed-up feelings inside of each one of us when we know we have done wrong – more so if one has a Christian background. The fact now was that I was no longer a virgin. At least I was going to get my alcohol though! That was something to look forward to…or was it?

My excitement of getting to school on Monday was at an all-time high. During the morning classes, I kept smiling smugly at my best friend in a manner likely to suggest that there was some piece of news to be shared. I couldn’t wait for break time! The ‘good news’ I shared during the break was enough to make my best friend turn red with glee. One would have thought that she was the one who had ‘done the deed!’ Tuesday would be the day to receive my gift. I couldn’t wait!

As promised, my bottle of wine arrived the following day: 12% red wine, beautifully packaged. My wine also came with specific instructions from the one who brought it. “Carol, since you have not touched booze before, drink it while seated so that you don’t fall. Also, make sure that you open your bedroom window because booze has a smell and you don’t want to get busted,” she said.

I was ecstatic, nervous and scared all at the same time! Where in my schoolbag would I hide my bottle? What if someone, read my mother, found it? What if I was busted drinking it? What if I got drunk and couldn’t get up to go to school the next day? So many ifs were racing through my mind. Still, I was determined to discover what it felt like to get high.

Tuesday night must have been the longest night of my life! I had arrived home earlier, done my school assignments, had my supper and was ready for bed. Sleep, however, was the last thing on my mind. My wine needed to be imbibed! I was vibrating on the inside; the adrenaline rush within me was becoming difficult to contain. The time for my parents to go to bed was not approaching fast enough! 10 p.m…10:30 p.m…my dad had gone to bed. 11 p.m…11:15 p.m…my mum is still up! Why? I questioned silently. Tick! Tock! Midnight! She went to sleep. Finally. Now let my adventure begin!

My pulse was racing as I imagined everything that could possibly go wrong on this particular night. Thankfully, I have been blessed with a very sharp sense of hearing and therefore I was leaving nothing to chance. Diligently following the instructions that I had been given, I set myself ready to enjoy my drink. Slowly but surely, I opened up the wine bottle and took my first sip. The taste was unpleasant to say the least. ‘Oh well,’ I thought. ‘Maybe the second will be better.’ Still no difference.

The sips turned into gulps. No physical effect whatsoever. At some point, I stood up to check if I was OK, meaning tipsy. Still no effect! My drinking pace intensified until the content therein was finished. To my uttermost disappointment, I was as sober as a judge! Could this wine have been flat or expired? Why didn’t I feel anything? Had it been mixed with water? So many questions but no answers.

My sleep that night was disturbed. I couldn’t believe that I had consumed 12% alcohol with no effect to my person whatsoever. Little did I know that my journey into and my struggle with alcoholism had just begun.

I am alive today, whole and healthy, by the mercies of God. The next 19 years of my life after my first interaction with alcohol and cigarettes were full of all sorts of upheavals. I have been to hell and back. Not once, not twice. I never thought I could sink so low into addiction to the point of being admitted into a treatment facility. In the process of alcoholism, I have lost two pregnancies, something that I will live with for the rest of my life – a painful reminder that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix.

It is possible to be delivered from any sort of addiction, not necessarily through rehabilitation. God has done it for me because I allowed Him to do so, in whatever way He chose to. I have had to allow Him to heal all the wounds and hurts I have harboured since childhood. I have had to release the anger, bitterness and resentment in order to heal. It has been a painful process. With every step, however, I have seen the faithfulness of God in my life.

He is a God of second, third, fourth chances. He will never give up on you. Don’t you dare give up on yourself.

Caroline Kagia is a certified addictions professional, inspirational speaker and wellness Coach. She is the founder of Caroline Kagia Wellness Initiative, an initiative whose aim is to help those struggling with both chemical and process addictions.

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