When I used to drink, I found it funny how just a little beer in my tummy, especially if my tummy was initially empty (hungry I think, they call this frequent situation) suddenly made everything seem large in my head! I am generally comfortable being my own company in any social gathering. Just a little alcohol and I would become the most sociable (or talkative, you want to say, I know!) fellow in the place.

Very early on I quickly learnt that this “magnifying effect” alcohol had on me could be both good or bad, very bad sometimes, depending upon what the fumes of alcohol in my head were magnifying! For example, I am generally not a “people person”, especially to women, in any social setting, I am sorry.

Back then, give me one and a half bottles of good old mosi and boy, all my fear of rejection, embarrassment and inability to converse with the least sophisticated person vanish, just like that! Fortunately for me most women found me ugly, not funny and quite boring, so I am still alive, well, barely.

Unfortunately, sometimes what was magnified in me was my false awareness of my ability to defend myself, physically, before anyone, no matter how ignorant I was of their strength, skills at fighting or propensity for unleashing violence and love to assault others, in the individual standing in front of me. I would never start a fight. I hate violence. But I won’t give you the other chick, I swear! I just would not back off and let things be! To this day I carry scars on my body of several beatings endured largely at the hands of massively built (why must I tell you that in fact most were as thin and dead drunk as mosquitoes, eh?) strong men with tiny bird size brains who could not stand my fast tongue.

Once at least, when I was mobbed by about 5 men (you see, I cannot remember the actual number, I think this was magnified in my mind too – it could have been one person and the rest trying to stop him killing me!) I feigned death to stop the excellent pummelling I was served. The following day I would always ask myself: would I have been clobbered if I was sobber? Would I have de-escalated the tension if I was sobber? How long was I going to last before someone sent me to an early grave? I always understood that without alcohol, I would not easily offer myself for a beating, especially knowing full well the person in front of me looked that he had beaten Mike Tyson several times in unofficial fights!

So, there, you have the first thing we must do to free young Zambians from the tyranny of poverty and alcohol: from birth onwards, every child must progressively be taught about the dangers of alcohol and how alcohol and poverty are related! We must change the current false and quite frankly sick culture where drinking and abusing drugs is “cool” and fan!

Millions of young Zambians are unemployed and have no one to turn to for food, shelter, clothes and leisure. Alcohol is usually drank on empty stomachs. Those who have a job will usually sacrifice food for alcohol. Then things start being magnified nicely, fast!

The poverty is worsened by spending large sums of scarce money on alcohol rather than things which give life value and meaning. Alcohol addiction follows, borrowing is inevitable, and a young person fast slides into the life of an alcoholic. At this point, alcohol becomes a personal primary need. One then needs alcohol to barely float through life. All youthful hopes and dreams are fast abandoned. A once promising young person is reduced into a walking zombie.

The greatest and most dangerous form of poverty is ignorance about the full impact of our actions, especially about alcohol and all the drugs we load into our bodies. Being poor is not a sufficient and necessary excuse to abuse alcohol and drugs. Nor is being rich and bored good enough too.

One day, after observing myself and how alcohol was slowly messing me up, I saw the warning signs. I simply announced without any preparations, that I quit drinking alcohol, for good. This is more than15years ago. I never went for counselling. I never spoke to anybody for advice. I have never looked back. Did I substitute alcohol drinking with anything? I don’t think so. I soon simply rekindled my old love for books, knowledge, writing, music (not the chaotic organised noise that passes for music in taverns, bars and clubs!), art, science and mathematics, sport and of course physical exercise.

I did not even need Jesus to stop drinking – Christ was consulted in my decision to start drinking, or how I drank and what I did after drinking. I therefore did not become “born gain”! I simply returned to my original, simple, uncomplicated alcohol-free self.

Your faith, economic and or employment status, your age, sex, marital status, your upbringing, your family history, your faith are all important. It is also important that you are a Zambian, a country under the total dictatorship of poverty and alcohol. These things matter and have influence on your drinking and drug abuse.

Unfortunately, at the end of it all you are alive, and it is about your life. It is about you. You know what alcohol does to you. You do not like what you become when you drink alcohol. You know how you waste money on alcohol and drugs. You know the harm you cause to yourself and others when you drink and take drugs.

Alcohol and drug abuse must never defeat us. We have the power to change our lives. I have changed my life several times thus far. That is the most beautiful thing about being alive: I can change my life, or at least die trying.

We must encourage each other to avoid being trapped in alcohol and drug dependencies. We must form open positive community support groups against alcohol and drug abuse. Abusing alcohol and drugs must not be a “cool” thing! True fan is alcohol and drug free.

All schools must teach the dangers of alcohol and drugs and their abuse. Breweries and the entire alcohol value chain must be taxed heavily to pay for the damage they cause to individuals and communities and to fund anti-alcohol and anti-drug campaigns. Zambia cannot afford to lose the war against drugs, drug abuse and drug dealers.

Our communities have many good role models who do not drink alcohol and abuse drugs. These individuals must be supported and encouraged to be visible everywhere.
We must reject poverty, unemployment and inequalities as permanent features of our national life. Zambia is a rich country and does not deserve to be poor. We are poor, just like the way we abuse alcohol and drugs, because we collectively do nothing to end all this.

There are more things we can do to stop poverty and alcohol destroying our lives than the number of all the poor people tortured by alcohol and drug sin the whole world!

My thanks to all the comments and suggestions I received! Keep them coming!

(Send your comments to: kalindawalo@[email protected])