Drunkenness Became My Routine

By Gerrard Hakizimana

Growing up, I never thought I would put alcohol in my mouth. As a Christian boy, I believed that drinking was unholy in the eyes of the Lord. However, when I reached puberty things changed for me, and I started associating with people who had different values from mine. I did it because I felt lonely and wanted to be accepted by people I could call my group of friends. At first, they would mock me for not engaging in the same behaviors that they did. They gave me the nickname “Swazi,” meaning someone who cannot tolerate or use any kind of drug. Every time I approached them, they laughed so hard that I felt that I needed to change.

One evening when I was going home from church, I found my friends drinking with their girlfriends. Laughing, they invited me to join, knowing that I would not be able to drink. To prove them wrong in front of their girlfriends, I took a sip from one of the bottles that was on the table. The drink was so bitter that I wanted to spit it out, but I didn’t because that would have made me look like a coward. They started cheering me on and shouting that I had become a real man now. They pushed me to take another sip, and I did. They kept pressuring me, but I left because I didn’t want to end up getting drunk. When I got home, I cried and tried to vomit up the alcohol, but it was too late as it was already being absorbed into my bloodstream.

That night, I had a feeling I had never felt in my life. It felt so great that I wished I had more to drink. I felt very confident. My family asked me what I had taken because I was acting very strangely in their eyes. Little by little, in the days that followed, I started drinking more with my friends. I just wanted to have that feeling I felt the first time I drank, especially the confidence. When I was intoxicated, I felt I could get whatever I wanted. I started approaching girls that I would not approach when I was sober, and they were surprised because they knew me as a reserved person.

My family and friends from church started suspecting that I was drinking due to the way I was behaving. They had already warned me about my friends, but I never listened to them. After six months of drinking with my friends, my life changed completely. It became known that I was drinking as I would always go home drunk. It created family conflicts. Whenever I stepped inside the family compound drunk, my father would leave. I even stopped going to church in order to drink. I started depending on alcohol to function. Without it, life felt empty.

When I think back on that crazy time in my life, I now realize that there were many unusual things and moments that indicated that my life was falling apart. The nickname “Swazi,” for instance. My new friends teased me a lot and made me feel like I had to do things I didn’t want to. And my family noticed I was acting strangely on many separate occasions. I argued a lot, especially with my parents, and our relationship got worse. They could see that I was moving away from the values they taught me, and they were very disappointed.

Then something big happened. After drinking for six months, I felt really empty because of alcohol, and I realized I had to make an important decision. I could see that if I kept going the way I was, my life would get even worse. It was a tough moment for me, but I decided to fix my relationships, and I found my faith again. It wasn’t easy, and it took time, help from others, and self-reflection. But I chose to face my problems and make my future better. This story isn’t just about falling down but also about getting back up and becoming a better person. It shows that change is possible for anyone who wants it.

1 November, 2023