- His journey of recovery is incomplete without the name Shiru. Coco attributes his tremendous success in the journey through recovery to his now ex-girlfriend Wanjiru Gatume.
- “She stood by me through it all. I wouldn’t have done it without her. I dated her for seven years, but we had to part ways. She still remains a good friend.”
- He has also rebuilt his relationships with his siblings who he didn’t see much of during the turbulent years of addiction.
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Today is like any other day for celebrated radio presenter Coco Sobo. He is headed to Mathare North Health Centre for his daily dose of methadone, a substitute drug for heroin and which reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the high associated with drug addiction.
"Oh, it tastes awful!" he says, the grimace on his face giving once an idea of just how bad it tastes.
This is a taste he will have to endure for two years.
Coco , born Dominico Kariuki Ngori in Lesotho, is 39. For 15 years, he has been on a recovery journey from drug addiction.
EXPERIMENTED WHEN HE WAS 14
"I first experimented with drugs when I was 14. There was this man around our school (in Kenya) that sold us ice cream. The ice cream was laced with the heroin but we didn't know. In retrospect, I remember being so irritable during the weekends which were withdrawal symptoms."
When he was young, his family moved a lot due to the nature of his parents’ work. Shortly after primary school here in Kenya, Coco's family then moved to South Africa. That is where his drug addiction plummeted and he hit rock bottom.
"When I tasted heroine again in South Africa when I was fifteen in 1996, I remembered that distinct taste from the ice-cream back in Kenya."
It got so bad that he started selling their household goods to feed his habit.
"I was a spoilt child and had everything at my disposal. During that time, I crashed a total of nine cars. They were completely written off," he says regretfully.
He then moved to college in Australia. Things didn't get any better. He would miss his classes for up to three weeks. Before his imminent expulsion, Coco quit college and went back home.
He came back into the country and became a raging drug addict to the point of blacking out on the streets. His parents were always there for him, taking him to different rehabs.
IN AND OUT OF REHABILITATION
He has been in and out of rehabilitation centers countless times. He also found himself in trouble with the law a number of times and spent nights in police cells.
“I was in and out of rehab more than 20 times both in South Africa and in Kenya. I remember my parents paying Sh500,000 at some point so I could go to a rehab in Kenya.”
He got so used to the rehabilitation centers that he would manipulate the doctors into giving him more medication just to get a sense of some high.
At one time, after ten years of drug addiction, the burly Coco weighed under 50 kgs. He is almost six feet tall.
"I was a junkie that had given up on life. I used to black out and sleep on the streets-and all this time, my family would take me back in and take care of me."
The self-proclaimed radio king is the second born in a family of four. He is the only boy, and for this reason, his parents doted on him.
"My mother is the reason I am where I am now, I love her so much. She once told me that no matter what I do with my life, I will always be her son. And that was so profound for me."
His parents, frustrated, cajoled him to go back to rehab after numerous unsuccessful stints by threatening to withdraw every form of financial support. He had never worked a day in his life.