It was about 3am, I lay on my tarpaulin staring at the ceiling of the tent we had set up in a hurry the night before. It was raining heavily, trickles of rain drops fall into different buckets placed strategically lest the whole tent be flooded. I could hear all sorts of snores from exhausted men around me, some sounded likes whistles, some like cries or distant mumbles.
Just next to me was Chidi, we met on the screening ground in Owerri, we were both accepted to the Nigerian Army and headed to depot in Zaria, stayed at the same hostel throughout our six months training, both got posted to the Nigerian Army School of Infantry (NASI) in Jaji, and here we are again in enemy territory together in Argungu, Kebbi state battling the almighty Tanko clan that had terrorised the country for over two years. Seems fate had paired us together from the onset. He stretched now, raising his hand as if to cuddle me, I shoved his hand away, he made a snorting sound, and I could see spittle dripping from the corner of his mouth, I chuckled at the sight, wondering how he could sleep with so much ease. I stood up to pee, on getting outside the tent came the sound of an explosive going off just metres behind, the impact sent me to a tree just before me and I landed on my back.
I screamed at the top of my voice, “Chidi, Chidi” as another explosive went off, there is fire everywhere. I could hear the wails and screams of my comrade men. There is still no sign of Chidi. Our tent was burning as were others around. I couldn’t move .The thick smell of smoke filled my lungs stopping all form of normal breathing, everything went black.
I paused right there wheeling my chair backwards to join the group behind me .Mrs B said, “I’m sorry sir but you have to end with the caption.” Just then did I have the courage to say it out loud after over 30 years, “My name is Chukwuma MBA, and I am an alcoholic.”
The incident had left me crippled and at the mercy of my mother .At her demise I found solace in the bottle, it helped me sleep and keep the nightmares away and also family and friends. No job, no wife or children (I mean who wants a crippled man for a husband?). My youth was stolen by bitterness and anger. I built a strong wall around my emotions, letting no one in. But somehow I had fallen in love .Just when I thought the idea seemed almost impossible. My housekeeper, Mary had somehow gone past my defenses and made me feel like a man again, she preached the word of God to me, with that voice that takes me to the clouds each time I hear it, always talking about how drinking so much is a sin and God can heal my pains and restore me. I promised her to get better, to change so I can be the kind of man she would want to spend the rest of her life with . This group is a step to healing, to opening up about the hurts so the healing process can take place. There is really a lot to be grateful for.
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