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Meet Roger Abaa Atambire, a former alcoholic fireman who now runs a rehab centre in Sumbrungu

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“I started experimenting with alcohol and finally graduated to cigarettes and marijuana. I did marijuana on the day that we wanted to honour Bob Marley. On 11th May, we used it as an excuse to create a platform for us to experiment with marijuana. I did that while I was in Navrongo Secondary School many years ago.”

On 6th March 1993, Roger Abaa Atambire’s long and arduous journey with alcohol and drugs began. “I remember that day clearly,” Mr. Atambire said, recounting his story to A1 Radio’s Mark Smith. 

Mr. Atambire’s initial dance with alcohol wasn’t a pretty sight. He recalls fainting after his second calabash of whatever alcoholic substance was at his disposal. After receiving medical care, he remembers going back to have a second brush with alcohol at a Tongo festival. 

“Friends were able to convince me to take a second one,” he said. 

According to Mr. Atambire, all drug addicts or abusers of substances start with experimentation, then there is that slippery slope towards daily dependence and then finally, the compulsion to consume the said substance. 

Often, this experimentation starts because of peer pressure. “You want to be accepted by them. Automatically, you would want to do what they do. Sometimes, you want to even impress them by doing more than they do and that is how I started in 1993. I attended Bolgatanga Secondary School from 1989 to 1994. We were the last batch of the O-level system. I was lucky to do my sixth form programme at Navrongo School.” 

“Anytime you meet new friends, you want to prove to them that you were part of the gangsters. You were part of the hardcore group. That led us to graduate to the hard substances and the mixtures that we used,” he said. 

Despite the growing compulsion to alcohol, Mr. Atambire was able to hide the new phenomenon from his family. But for his alcohol addiction, Mr. Atambire’s dream of playing soccer at the professional level would have materialised. 

For many addicts, according to Mr. Atambire, everyone else is to blame but themselves for their addiction. 

“You tend to blame others for the addiction; stepmothers, witches, spiritualism, and whatnot. We don’t want to accept responsibility for it. There are times when you think that there is a day when a miracle will happen, and then you will just stop drinking or smoking. Your family members also tend to blame others, not wanting to accept that you actually went into drinking or smoking.”

In 2000, Mr. Atambire was enrolled in the Ghana National Fire Service’s Training School in James Town, Accra. At the institute, while he was made the leader of the cadets, he scaled walls to feed his addiction to alcohol. A few days to his graduation from the school, he was caught scaling the wall on his way to drink. 

But for his apprehension, Mr. Atampire believed that he would have swept most of the awards up for grabs because of his true skill and genius in managing fires and foot drills. 

Even after beginning work, and eventually getting married, Mr. Atambire couldn’t help but kowtow to the desires of his addiction. 

“The addiction became out of control. Family members eventually thought it was spiritual, so we visited a lot of places in Burkina Faso and Nigeria, prayer camps here and there until I was taken to the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital.”

In 2011, the rehabilitation of Mr. Atambire began. After his full rehabilitation, LOAD Ghana was born. 

Life Out of Alcohol and Drugs (LOAD) Ghana was born to help others, like Roger Atambire, beat their addictions. 

“Majority of us went into it out of ignorance, and so we needed education. People were not even aware that addiction is treatable. Majority of people still don’t believe that addiction is treatable. We tend not to look for solutions and blame everybody and attach everything to spirituality. It was like a contract with God. I said, Lord, if you let me get out of here, I would let the world know the truth about alcohol and drugs.”

Because of Mr. Atambire’s commitment to LOAD Ghana, he was eventually relieved of his duties as a fire officer, but that decision strengthened his resolve to press on. 

The care of addicts, Mr. Atambire said, has not been easy. He explained that the fee charged at his facility at Sumbrungu is nowhere near what is needed. As such, it would take the intervention of benevolent organisations and individuals to provide support. 

Source: A1radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Ghana

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