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Journalist Oliver Mathenge opens up about alcoholism, suicidal thoughts

Radio Africa group digital editor Oliver Mathenge has opened up on his long battle with alcoholism that saw him twice attempt suicide.

In a lengthy post on Facebook titled Once upon a bottle, he narrates his journey of becoming a reformed alcoholic after years of living by the bottle.

“For two years, I struggled with the urge to be high and since I do not do any drugs, alcohol was a quick solution. I had given up on life in a manner that pushed me to escape reality and seek to avoid everyday challenges,” recounts Oliver.

“I could not survive a day without alcohol unless I was too hangovered to get out of bed. In between the day in the office, I would go out to have a few shots of whatever drink I thought my system needed. Some Fridays, drinking would start as early as midday and would sometime go on until Sunday (Yes, I would spend two days in bars like that’s all about life). I was a slave,” he adds.

The liking for alcohol develop into a routine. He would leave the office in the middle of the day in search of a bar for a number of beers and sometimes a bottle of whisky.


“I was breaking down. I messed up family and social relationships. I was messing up my job (until God decided I needed greater responsibilities to keep me in check). I suffered uncountable meltdowns. I sunk into debt (deep – as in deep to hundreds of thousands) as I sought to finance a champagne life on beer money,”

Oliver revealed how he contemplated taking his life twice, but it was only “the hand of God that has kept him from going ahead to take his life”.


“I tried to take my life twice (again, God had to show me there was still a lot to do on this earth. I lost friends because I could not be there for them unless there was alcohol involved. I also had friends who were cheering me on as I wasted my life, which was seemingly coming to a halt.”

The troubles of alcohol addiction steered him to make a decision to turn around his life.

He says quitting drinking led him to lose a lot of friends who were only there for him when there was alcohol involved.


“Sometime in mid-2017, I took the first step. I sought help not to deal with the alcohol dependency but to deal with a lot of anger, disappointment and resentment that I was harbouring towards life. It took a while to open up about what I saw was an “unfair” life. At the beginning of November, I was ready to make adjustments but it was the Drinksembar period, as we love calling it.”

“I told myself that if I would go out on December 30th and 31st and not take alcohol, then I should not worry about starting the year sober. And it happened that I woke up on January 1 without having taken alcohol for two days and decided to challenge myself to another 98. And here we are. 100 days without alcohol,”

He concludes by saying…..

“Well, I am still recovering. I am still fixing my family and social relationships (and breaking those that are negatively affecting my life). I am still working to ensure I don’t fail in my job. I am still recovering from debt. But I am doing more gigs than I did in the previous two years. I am pushing milestones at work. I am earning my respect back. I am handling my responsibilities better. In the last three months, I have done much more than I did in two years. I am at a better place with more clarity. I am not yet there but I am sure that I will completely recover from my alcohol addiction and depression. I will be a better man. For now, cheers to not being a slave. And in all.”