Before falling from grace, Charles was on the fast track to being a young, successful corporate lawyer. After admission to the bar, his peers tarmacked day in day out to find a job. Charles, on the other hand, joined one of the leading firm’s litigation team. Never in a thousand years did he imagine that he’d be drowning under the influence.
Things got tough and Charles didn’t handle it well. He was involved in a financial fraud at work which earned him an indefinite suspension. At the same time, his longtime fiancé called off the engagement and relocated to South Africa. All he had left was his younger brother who was staying with him while studying at the university.
For several months, he became the breadwinner of the family as Charles wallowed in misery. He waited for a called back from his place of employment until eventually, he stormed into the offices and handed in his resignation letter. Of course, he put on a show first.
“I w…want… I want to see Gerald.” He stuttered reeking of last night’s choice of drink.
“Mr Gerald is in a meeting right now. Kindly wait.” The receptionist answered, visibly irritated by the loud man.
“I’m not waiting. D… Do you know who I am?” his voice became louder and harsher.
“No sir, but Mr Gerald will see you after his meeting.”
Without due regard, he forced his way into the door separating the reception and his former office. It was still empty but his belongings were neatly packed in boxes and stacked in a corner. The receptionist followed him closely trying to get him back on the other side to no avail.
“This used to be my office.” He said in a low tone as if reminding himself of the glory days.
The receptionist stood by the door quietly but all the commotion caught his former boss’ attention. He couldn’t believe who was standing in front of him. The man he once loved and respected now could barely look him in the eye.
His bloodshot eyes told a horror story that not even his pinstripe Armani suit could mitigate. Despite his sharp clothes, Charles looked burnt out. He slouched forward due to intoxication and his once articulate speech was now incoherent.
Still, his mentor and friend patiently interacted with him.
“Get him some water, Cindy.” He instructed the receptionist.
“I…I don’t want water.” Charles replied.
“You look like you’re under the influence, Charles.” He said. “We can’t talk if you’re in this state.”
“Are you looking for my replacement already?”
Gerald sat on the wooden office desk still riddled with files.
“We’ve been trying to reach you. According to the investigation report, you were directly involved in the fraud.”
“She wanted a diamond engagement ring, Gerald. I was wrong. Please.” He explained.
“I just can’t. You have to leave now. And please, sober up. You’re still a brilliant lawyer. I will write a good recommendation letter for you but you have to get sober first.”
Charles was now known as the neighbourhood drunk. He was always spotted staggering his way home in the middle of the day – sometimes alone, most times with a companion. He’d sobered up enough to open up his own practice and faithfully attend court dates on behalf of his clients. However, he was a highly functional alcoholic who could carry out daily tasks under the influence.
His house was practically empty. A lonely desk and chair met you as you entered the house. There was no place for guests to sit but he really never had sitting guests. In his bedroom, an undone bed stood distinctly in the middle surrounded by empty alcohol bottles, dirty clothes and tattered papers.
“You live like this!” Most of them would comment, astonished.
Even for their standards, this was a mess.
The situation escalated to the point that his brother opted to move to a cheap bedsitter to escape that environment. Charles no longer had someone to take care of him when he was under the influence. Every day he woke up was a miracle.
It took a near death experience for Charles to realize the dangers of being under the influence of alcohol. During one of his drunken escapades, a friend escorted him home put him to bed then left. For some reason, thugs mistook him for a rich man and raided his home that night only to find an empty house. Out of anger and frustration, they came down on Charles, beating him and leaving him for dead.
By sheer luck, his three-month rent arrears was due that day and the landlord sent two rent collectors to his house. They found a barely recognizable man lying in a pool of his own blood. Quickly, they rushed him to the ICU where he spent a week recovering from the brutality he’d endured.
He came out a winner after the ordeal. He knew that if he was not under the influence of alcohol he would have been able to fight off his attackers or at least, raised a distress call. From then, he vowed to change his lifestyle. He went for counselling and joined a support group for recovering addicts.
Charles used his platform to raise funds for alcohol rehabilitation. He also quit his job to become a motivational speaker and he goes to school talking to young people about life and substance abuse. Though his life has never been the same, he says he’s never been happier.
“My true calling is to inspire people through life experiences.” He said during a TV interview that featured in BBC Africa.
Though his journey was difficult and riddled with curveballs, Charles fought his way back on the right track. He now lives a happier, healthier life thanks to these hurdles and has overcome alcohol addiction. His message to everyone going through a similar situation is to never lose hope.
“Every morning I wake up, I’d thank The Lord for sparing my life that day.” He remarked.