“John(not his real name), come to consultation room number four,” I heard my voice echoing through the loud speaker. My favorite doctor in the hospital was on call. We had seen a couple of patients that day. Most came with head injuries from traffic accidents or injuries sustained from fights while some came intoxicated with alcohol.
Alcohol is a bad master. I don’t know whether it can be a good servant either. John had served it faithfully for the past thirty years. What did he get in return? A pathetic, sad, tragic and wretched life. At forty, he still lived with his mother. The only friends he knew were those he merried with at pubs and local dens. His wife had long left him because he could not part ways with his bottle. The wife tried the best she could but nothing was forthcoming. This was a species of man he had not seen before. Born and bred in the breweries, how could he deny his roots?
As he sat on the patient’s chair, I could not help but empathize with him. He was wasted in every sense. The cheek bones protruded desperately on his head. He had a few scars on the face, probably sustained from many injuries he got in the line of duty. Duty to alcohol. He was shaking massively and was anxious about everything. He had gone two days without his drink and he was paying heavily. A price of a choice made. I later learnt from the mother that John could sometimes stand in the middle of the road to pledge loyalty to alcohol. This was akin to the good old days when we pledged our loyalty to the president, ” I pledge my loyalty to the president and the nation of Kenya…” John was pledging it to alcohol.
John’s mother was composed as she talked to us about her son. Behind the composure, were tears that flowed inwards. She was bitter that her son was an embarrassment to her and to her village. His age mates had made huge strides in life while he was struggling to have more and more alcohol at his disposal. Food was not so important to him. He doesn’t remember the last time he did not sleep along the sewage lines. I was happy that he too had got the insight that he needed help as soon as possible. We were more than ready to give him a second chance at life.
“Oliver, we treat alcoholism with high dose diazepam. In that case, we will need to admit him and offer him preliminary treatment before he goes for rehabilitation, ” Dr Mutua was firm and clear. I nodded in agreement. Diazepam was meant to give the same effects as alcohol without the deleterious effect of alcohol. At the rehabilitation centers, they usually give another drug called disulfiram. Disulfiram gives an experience to behold. It makes someone hate alcohol for the rest of their lives. Find out what it does to the body when alcohol greets it in the stomach. Its like finding out that the guy who took away the girl you liked is being beaten somewhere and you join in the beating. we later sent the duo to go open a file to facilitate John’s admission.
John’s mother filled all the necessary documents and paid all the relevant hospital charges. When she finished, John was nowhere to be found. He had discharged himself. Alcohol demanded service. Had he not pledged loyalty? He had to keep his word. I was disappointed that he ran away when the healing process had just started. I hope one day he will give meaning to his life. i hope that he will discover that his purpose is not in the dens of hard drinks but in making the world a better place. He has chewed forty years so far, I hope he gets this message in time to tell a new story. time does not weight nonetheless. His story reminded me of my favorite author, Abraham Verghese, “We come unbidden into this life. You are lucky if you find a purpose beyond misery, starvation and early death.”