I LOST my friends and almost lost my family because beer took over my life, says former alcoholic Robinson Lloyd.
Lloyd, 54 says when one recognises that they are caught up in addiction of any sort, they should seek help before it gets worse.
He says any person caught in an addiction should take courage and get treatment for their condition before it's too late.
"Look for help before it gets deeper. It may kill you," he warns.
Lloyd says a few years ago, he was arrested for an alleged murder committed while under the influence of alcohol.
"As far as I could remember, this night was the longest. I have never been subjected to captivity, and in such a place! Handcuffed to a pole! Here I was, lying on a cold cement veranda. The anaesthesia of alcohol I had taken the night before was going out, I tried to stretch from my sleeping position, but I could not. The tight cold silver handcuffs on my right hand limited my movements. In an instant, my mind was racing to and fro, trying to recollect the previous night's events and to find out the meaning of this cruel detention," he said.
He says he remembers entering a bar, walking straight to a counter, pulling up a stool, ordering a beer and was soon part of the noisy pub.
Lloyd says a gentleman walked in and sat on a stool near him and they soon engaged in a conversation.
"My memory disappeared for a short time as a sharp pain pricked on my ribs. I touched it trying to feel if there was a fracture. I couldn't find one. The sharp pain melted. Then I continued to struggle to remember anything further, patches of the story were dropping by... how possible! Why couldn't I remember something tangible quickly? This metal around my wrist was becoming tighter, dawn was approaching. The people passing by the road a few meters away were all looking at me curiously. How I wished I could go out of that pole quickly. I ignored the passers-by as my memory clicked back," he says.
"There was a fight. I was fighting with someone? I struggled to remember more; oh I remember viciously stepping on someone's face with my new pointed shoe. The hard sole on the back of my shoe landing with force, I was throwing people around, the one on the ground was not moving, and I was being overpowered. I somehow managed to run away into the nearby bush. Then it was quiet, no music, no noise. I don't know how long I was in the bush."
He says he remembered limping as he realised that his shoe had lost a sole and he walked back to the bar.
"That's when everything went wrong; they waited until I walked into the bar before someone shouted in a loud voice, "Mulwani! mwansa kabinga, naipaya umuntu. Abwela, mwikateni! (a killer, a devil has killed someone. A killer has come back, arrest him). The mistake I made was clear and I quickly managed to go through the door, running for my life," he says.
But he says his bid for freedom was shortlived as someone tripped him a few metres from the entrance.
He says he fought to escape but was overpowered and severely beaten by the people around him.
"I remembered now, fully awake, hearing a woman's voice screaming. Mwaipaya umuntu, nimwishiba! (You have killed him, you have killed him! I know all of you!). That had been my saviour that night. The beating suddenly subsided and everything was calm. I was saved by that woman. Again my memory lapsed; I couldn't remember how I got handcuffed to the pole. I was now awake but too tired to stand, I slid down to sit and waited, I couldn't do anything. My mind was racing but there was no solution for now. I had to wait for someone to tell me the meaning of what had happened," he says.
He says a guard told him that he had been involved in a fight and fought a lot of people after he had killed someone.
Lloyd says the guard told him that he was waiting for the police to pick him.
"The police?" I answered. "Can't you let me free, yourself?"I pleaded in panic.
" I was now in a hurry to know the whole truth as quickly as I could, I couldn't wait.
"The lady you killed?" "Which lady? How?" I asked aloud.
"You can't remember the fight last night?" the old guard asked.
"I faintly remembered about the fight with a man and not a woman! Oh the one I stamped on the face with the sharp sole of my new shoe? I couldn't remember clearly. I did not know. Was it a woman?"
He says his sister Christine went to the scene just as the police removed the cuffs from the pole.
The police then handcuffed him again and asked him to start walking towards an open blue police Land Rover.
He says tears rolled down his cheeks when he looked at his sister.
He says he was the hope of the family and there he was now, beaten and disgraced because of alcohol.
"She was actually sorry for me and she looked it. I fortunately was put in a clean lone cell, a very cold cement floor and a small window only for a little light to pass through high above the with heavy iron bars securing it. This was the first time in my life in police custody. Did I murder someone or I don't know what? I was left alone for almost the whole day. I dosed off sometimes as I fell in a delirium during the day. I was very tired mentally, and in great body pain. I felt hungry, but I didn't want to see anybody now. I had no guts to face the truth. I was wondering whether I was ready to face the charge or not. I needed time to think," he says.
He says his sister brought him some food and water and from that day, none of his relatives visited.
"The lady you assaulted is still in a coma!" an officer announced. "Pray hard my friend that she does not die, because if she does you won't stand a chance," he said.
To me that was the first good news of the day. 'Lord, will you please forgive me?' I prayed silently. That day and that week I cried to God, for the first time I felt very close to God," he says.
Lloyd says while in the cell, he promised God that he would never touch beer again, asking Him to save him from his predicament.
"Every day that week I knelt before God and prayed. I kept on asking for mercy. At one point I requested Him to tell me what He wanted me to do. At least I had someone to talk to. Outside my sister and her husband struggled to sign me out on police bond, "he says.
"Suppose the person who is in coma died, we will be answerable," the police asked me.
He says he was told to stay inside with almost no visitors at all.
"The investigations were going on. It felt bad. I only looked forward to the visit by my sister and her husband. I was waiting to get the latest news from the outside. On the fourth day, I received some good news, my victim was out of coma but she was still in a critical condition," he says.
He says he requested that the victim's family go and see him so that they could settle the matter out of court but they refused.
Lloyd says the family later accepted and they settled it out of court and he paid the family K100 then (in the 1980s).
He says the situation had been rough and he left for Lusaka.
Lloyd says after a week he was completely healed.
"I was surprised by my lack of resolution; I found myself in a pub, drinking only a month after that ordeal, after all the prayers! I felt like a hypocrite deep down. I knew I was doing something wrong and very unprincipled, but that's how it was. I did not know that I was already crossing the thin line to addiction. I drunk with my friends, I did not frequent bars. However, I wondered why the thoughts about drinking kept on lingering in my mind most of the time," he says.
He says whenever he was drinking, he kept thinking that he was in control of himself, but he was wrong.
Lloyd says when he was sober, he dreaded the day he took his first beer and always found himself vowing never to drink again.
"In three months I was drinking more than my friends. I occasionally took some beers in the plastic bag for the next morning. In all this, I never knew I was on the quick road to destruction. I got married to Katai two years after and by then I had become a regular drinker. We had good times together and enjoyed ourselves. We were young, we played basketball. She followed to watch me play football. We had a child, then two and were raising a family, "he says.
He says after six years with Zesco, he lost his job and to survive and keep his family, he started his own small manufacturing workshop at home.
He says he got his skills from the transformer workshop where I worked.
"I was one of the first technicians to locally manufacture welding machines and battery chargers. Money was not a problem. People flocked in our flat to buy them. Imported machines were very expensive then. Having had an easy source of raw materials from my former working place, the business was good and money was in my pocket," he says.
He says his drinking habits grew stronger and soon he needed beer on all occasions.
"Since I had a strict partner concerning finances (my wife), I started lying to her whenever I got paid. For instance, I would withdraw money from our account and put it in my secret account or leave the money at the bar with the barman. This was to facilitate my constant flow of booze," he says.
He says the electrical works grew but so did his dependence on alcohol.
Lloyd drank and did not care how he spent his money.
He says there was no meaningful savings or investments and deep down his heart he longed for the day he would make a positive decision to change.
"Although I worked hard and late, it was not possible for me to do so whilst drunk. My work started to suffer. My customers started getting disappointed. One with an appointment to find a machine ready on a particular day would find me in bed totally drunk and incapable of work. I started missing my targets and the outcome was evident. I lost most of my clients. Beer took control; I needed beer more than anything in my life. It took more than 90 per cent of my thoughts; how I would acquire the next drink, where will I drink it and with who," he says.
He says he stopped thinking about his family.
"I feared venturing into such meaningful thoughts and vaguely decided I will look into it later. And later became later and it became never. Procrastination had crept into me. I usually woke up very early in the morning trembling and hungry, lacking normal sleep and feeling miserable. I could not put anything like food into my mouth. I was feeling bad; I needed a beer or hard drink to calm me down. I needed a drink to settle my stomach. I needed a drink desperately to think straight. I lost weight," he says.
Lloyd said beer took control of his life and he lost friends.
"I would not be telling the truth if I don't mention that I started losing friends. As I lost the ability to buy for them, they had no use for me. I tell you it hurts and pains emotionally if the people you thought were your friends start avoiding you. I got into a pub one morning and went straight to a table of guys I had been with the previous night. One of them said openly "if you can't buy a round here then you won't fit". I looked around to see if this was an individual opinion. Another guy picked his pack, stood and walked to the other empty chair by the other table. Within minutes I was alone. Hurt and pained by rejection, I felt sick! Luckily I had some money in my pocket and so I sat down and bought myself a drink," he says.
He says the message had sunk into him that he was not wanted and that the group had sidelined him and were no longer his friends.
Lloyd says he gathered courage and joined another group of "less educated" friends. He changed his club to "Ama tunnel" where he could be accepted with whatever amount.
"I slid downwards quickly, and started to drink with the very low in society, guys that sold cigarettes, cannabis, gamblers, and thieves, mention them. I became an outcast to my society. To be in these groups, I told lies, complicated stories or stories from the books that I had read like those of James Hadley Chase. The guys, liking theft plans, listened with interest and bought more cheap beer and more drugs. This was my lowest period in life. I started taking cannabis and other drugs. Although I was always welcome home, I started avoiding home. I would leave very early and come back totally drunk. (Kachaso - cannabis - tobacco) and no one would wish to be near me. I picked quarrels very easily; I was unfit for normal society. I was now totally hooked like fish," he says.
He says he started stealing from his wife's handbag, lied to get money, and even faked illness to get what he wanted.
Lloyd says in light of his lifestyle, his wife took their three children with her and went away into hiding.
He says in desperation, he looked for his family but to no avail and they did not come for a long time.
"It was very hard but somehow the truth dawned on me and I started taking psychiatric tablets to cool me. After three months she appeared and I sobered a little. Our struggle continued. My life went on. On and off the bottle, I was in denial. I was refusing to get help. My foolish mind continued to think I could liberate myself," he says.
He says many people approached him when he was sober to try to talk him about his drinking and how he could stop, but he was defensive and sometimes he assured them that it was a passing phase and that things were going to normalise in a short time. But that time never came.
"I secretly didn't want anyone who openly confronted me and told me that I had drinking problems. Deep down in my heart, I knew that all these people were right, but I didn't know how I lost all the strength to resist alcohol when I saw it. There were many suggested treatments that I heard about but for once I could not go so low and drink the pig's milk. Could I go so low? God forbid. I asked God every day, I talked to Him even as I walked! I wanted Him to remove my problem," he says.
"(God) had changed many situations which had seemed impossible. I read the Bible and other intellectual books. Yes I knew He could change me, I wanted to change now. But I was losing hope as the situation continued to deteriorate."
He says he gave his life to God one day with only a small agenda for Him, to remove his predicament of alcohol but what he did not know was that God works in His own ways and cannot be coaxed into doing something.
Lloyd says several church leaders laid their hands on him but he says he was so rotten inside that nothing happened.
"My heart was not ready. I attended the crusade of Benny Hinn at Mushili grounds one day, my mission was clear. I was now looking anywhere to find freedom. I vividly remember that at one time during the session, he waved a sweeping hand to the crowd, and people were falling just like grass swerved when wind blew. Everyone around me, all the place, fell from that power. Sadly I remained standing as if nothing happened. It was not my miracle day. That weekend my mind decided to think that I was not chosen. However, I pressed on going to church and to Christian gatherings when I had an opportunity," he says.
He says God came through for him when he was at his lowest. He applied for a job and was employed at Zambia National Building Society as an electrician and struggled to keep his job because he continued drinking heavily.
Lloyd says he bought a house while working at ZNBS, but describes his time at the institution as nothing but a fight for survival and his addiction continued.
He says he struggled to stay sober and to keep his job.
He sought advice and saw a psychiatrist who after a long interview with him, found that Lloyd had no problem when sober but that the problem was somewhere in his mind and nobody knew it.
"Some people said I had a weak will but knowing myself, I had exerted all my will. This issue of alcoholism and drugs had overpowered me. My immediate supervisor tried to help me but it was all in vain, until one day God answered the prayers of these men and women of God. My brother in-law who had gone to Saint Joseph Seminary in South Africa to study priesthood visited our home. We talked a lot on different issues concerning the people and development in South Africa. I was impressed with his knowledge on issues; he spoke about Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and other leaders. He spoke as if he knew these people in person. I had never been to South Africa by that time," he says.
He says when the priest visited in the evening, Lloyd struggled to go out for a drink and stayed home because he did not want to paint a bad picture to the priest.
"In a casual way, the priest asked me if I would be willing to go and visit a rehabilitation centre. 'It's a very nice place,' he said. 'Many people who have problems with alcohol and drugs are helped there.' He spoke at length on rehabilitation, painting a picture and an understanding that he could walk out if he did not like the place or the programme.
"I agreed to this proposal as a way of cutting the discussion short. Believe me, I was always uncomfortable discussing my addiction issues with anyone. I didn't want to believe that alcohol/drugs had beaten me," he says.
Lloyd went to TALBOT house in South Africa for rehabilitation for three months.
He says he found a group of twelve clients at the centre, nine men and three women, all drug addicts and alcoholics.
He says the three months were an eye-opener to him.
"God saved me from the pit of hell, the pit of addiction. I was lucky I cried for help on time and a hand of help was stretched. If you have a problem or an addiction be it alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, seek help while it may be found, "he says.
Lloyd says apart from alcohol, the other highly addictive agents are sex and pornography.
He says such agents should be avoided as much as possible and many teachers are needed in this area.
He says pornography is highly addictive and can only be compared to crack cocaine, which is said to be highly addictive even if tried once.
"Be careful in the way you give expensive electronic gadgets to your children and youths. They can download and access all the dirty information being circulated through the digital gadgets era, "he warns.
Lloyd says he is lucky that he was freed from alcohol addiction and he is enjoying his freedom.
He says freedom is the chance to teach others, those who do not know about it, and those that need help. It is a chance to share your new freedom with others. Do not let them die like a man who refused to cry for help.