How Alcoholism Tore Apart a Family

Alex* comes from a family of three siblings. Alex has two sisters, who are twins, and he is the eldest child. His father, mother and siblings all loved each other and lived a happy life. His father had a good job and his mother was a homemaker. The children were going to school and their father was able to pay rent and meet all the other needs of the household. However, things soon changed for the worse after their father lost his job. Life now became hard for their family, as Alex’s mother wasn’t earning any money either.

Life getting harder

Due to his frustration, his father started drinking alcohol frequently. This negatively affected his dad’s life as he developed mental health problems. He would wander about town while drunk, eventually getting lost and one night he never came home.

The children stopped attending school and walked the streets with their mother, who was looking for food to eat. Their landlord was demanding a lot of money, and they earned too little to pay for rent. It was only just enough to feed them.

Life became so hard that Alex decided to seek help from the local leaders. Their village chairman promised to help, but Alex received no help from him. He was worried about his father’s disappearance and kept looking to the community leaders for help. He was so depressed that he couldn’t do anything. However, his mother was very supportive. She counselled Alex that their dad would come back home soon.

A bleak time

One morning their aunt came to visit and they were very happy to see her. She wanted to take Alex’s twin sisters to Jinja, where she knew an organisation which could help take care of them and even send them to school. It was a relief that at least the girls could look forward to a bright future. Unfortunately, the organisation was only taking care of girls, and Alex was left with his mother. He carried on working in order to earn some money to pay for food and rent. He would fetch water, clean, dig, and even help raise cows. This was a lot of work for a child, but he didn’t give up. He felt he had an obligation to take care of his family. At this point, his mother also started drinking. She was drinking so much that it started to worry Alex, bringing back the memory of how he lost his dad. He tried to advise his mother to stop drinking but she wouldn’t listen. To make things worse, the landlord evicted them since they were not paying enough rent.

A new home

They met a Good Samaritan who provided them with a house to stay in. They were happy to have a roof over their heads, but the house was leaky – when it rained, they had to stand in one corner until it stopped raining. His mother had also refused to stop drinking. One day, she went to her usual spot to drink, where she was poisoned and became very sick. She was taken to a local healer, who gave her some herbs to remove the poison. Instead, it worsened the situation, and eventually she died, leaving Alex an orphan. Two of his parents had left him due to alcohol, and he became very depressed. Eventually his aunt came and took him to Jinja, where he began living with her and her children. Life was not good at all. There was no school, no food, no parents, and he didn’t even know where his twin sisters were.

Tempted by street life

One morning, he asked his aunt if he could visit town. He promised her he’d be safe and come home early, and he went walking towards Jinja city. On the way, he saw a boy around his age, carrying a big bag full of plastics. This boy told him about picking plastics on the streets, and how life could be better if you did this kind of work. They walked together into town, and he was shown where to sell and collect plastics. While on the street, a S.A.L.V.E. International staff member approached them and invited them to the Drop in Centre. Alex enjoyed the centre, and thought he saw something good in this.

When he went home, he did not tell his aunt about the Drop in Centre. Instead, he told her that he found a job and that he had to go every day. He started going to the centre daily while collecting the plastics. His aunt also began drinking alcohol, and he was now trying to provide food for their home. One day, he came home and found that all their property was outside. He was told that the landlord was evicting them from the house because of unpaid rent. Indeed, his aunt was not working and spent her days drinking. He pleaded with the landlord to let them stay, and he gave him the little money he had left. He was disturbed, frustrated and he didn’t know how to go forward.

One day, while he was working, his aunt died of alcohol poisoning. Alex immediately ran to the staff at the S.A.L.V.E. Drop in Centre for help. We helped with his aunt’s burial, and brought him to our residential site for rehabilitation and counselling. He started to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and S.A.L.V.E. helped him to find another relative. We found his maternal uncle, who was willing to help and take him back to school. While staying with S.A.L.V.E, he learned the skill of making briquettes  (compressed blocks of material that can be used as fuel). He was enrolled in school and he now looks forward to a better future. He also managed to find his sisters and he now visits them every school holiday.

Since his uncle has many children, he cannot provide for all of Alex’s needs. Sometimes Alex makes briquettes and earns some money to buy things that he needs for school. He makes savings because he has a bigger dream of someday reuniting fully with his siblings so that they can be together as a family. He has also vowed to never touch alcohol, since it robbed him of so many people.

*names are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy

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