Why there is no end in sight on drug abuse among celebs
Last week, a video of film and screenwriter Charles Matathia aka Potash, the brains behind the 2012 multiple award-winning Kenyan film Nairobi Half Life, went viral.
In the video, Potash (who now resides around Kiambu’s Wangige market) eloquently narrates in neat English about his scriptwriting prowess. However, the talented 40-year-old is a feeble shadow of his former self.
For many people who knew him eight years ago, it is now hard for them to believe that he was once a star, penning words for films, skits and even magazines, having fallen from grace to grass.
Besides the highly acclaimed Nairobi Half Life, other pieces of art such as the semi-anime short film Upgradation are some of the works Potash has under his belt. However, this is not the first time he has hit the headlines. In 2018, the scriptwriter was in the news after sinking into the depths of drug and substance abuse.
Potash, who in the video is seen carrying a dirty gunny bag synonymous with street urchins, now roams the Wangige market and surrounding areas and lives hand to mouth.
He has been to a rehab before, but it seems as if he has since relapsed. A planned interview between the Spice and the scriptwriter was called off at the eleventh hour, with a family representative saying the family wanted to handle the matter first before talking to the media.
Tales of desperation
The screenwriter is just one of the many Kenyan creatives who have been down this road. When rapper Kiboma Chipuba aka Ten Ballz first came to Nairobi in 2015, he was looking for a quality studio to record his music.
Little did he know that his life was going to take a turn for the worse. While he shopped for a studio, he thought it would also be a good time to network and get to know the industry players; after all, Nairobi was the capital city of East African showbiz.
“I had rented a BnB in uptown Nairobi and I used to hang out with the so-called ‘cool kids’ of Nairobi. It started as fun; a single puff of weed (marijuana), a shot of liquor and before I knew it, I was smoking a cocktail of of weed, tobacco and cocaine. Within a few months I had become an addict,” he told Spice, adding that he would be admitted to rehab, but he would end up relapsing.
Rapper and former radio presenter Harrison Munio aka Bamzigi has also been a victim of drug abuse. “I started abusing drugs at 15 years of age in high school.
So, I cannot say it’s the kind of lifestyle the industry exposed me to that drove me into the habit, but it indeed, opened me up to some harder stuff,” he says.
Bamzigi notes that during his high school days, marijuana did not take a toll on him. He says: “When we were enjoying the fruits of music, I found myself using hard core drugs and that’s when I knew the habit had taken the better of me.”
He had a syndrome called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that drove him to take drugs.
“I had to come clean to my family when I noticed I couldn’t get a normal morning or just the simple tasks we take for granted without using the drugs,” he said.
At the time, he was working as a presenter for a local radio station and that’s when he told his boss he was struggling. “She (the boss) was very considerate and gave me some time off and I got checked into rehab. To be honest, if I did not have family to support me, I’d not be around,” he said.
Rehabilitation needed him to get three months in, but he relapsed and ended up doing almost 18 months.
The way out
Ten Ballz says the best thing a recovering addict needs is a proper support structure. “Even if you have the will to be clean and the company you keep does not work in unison towards helping you, then chances are high for you to relapse,” he said.
He adds: “Creatives are in danger of losing a lot of content because we know many industry players who are affected and when they do not get the right working environment that ensures their projects continue even when they are in rehab, almost everything shuts down on them.”
Bamzigi, who has since recovered and closed that dark chapter of his life, adds: “It is a sad scenario that we don’t know that addiction is a condition. We lack awareness and education about drug and substance abuse.
“The biggest setback for recovering addicts is the fact that those around them are not always aware and are not equipped to handle the condition.
“The government has provided infrastructure, but those recovering need moral support.”
Rappers Jimwat, Johnny Vigeti, Sokoro, DNA and the late Kantai are some of other Kenyan music celebrities who have had tales to tell as far as drug and subastance abuse is concerned.