January 29, 2024, marked a pivotal moment in the life of Samuel Oola, a day that would alter the trajectory of his existence forever. It was on this day that he stood tall, a testament to resilience and determination, clutching his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from Makerere University. For Oola, this achievement was more than a mere academic milestone; it was a triumphant victory over the demons of addiction that had once threatened to derail his dreams.
“It was a humbling moment,” Oola, now 43, recounted to Daily Monitor. “I was thrilled because getting to that point has not been an easy walk.”
Oola’s battle with alcoholism had been an open secret during his time at university, with doubts cast by peers and faculty alike about his ability to complete his legal studies. Yet, as his name resonated through the crowd during the graduation ceremony, cheers erupted, and colleagues enveloped him in embraces of congratulations.
“Many people were surprised that I was graduating. Maybe they were looking at me like a walking miracle because some of my colleagues whom I used to drink with are now deceased because of addiction,” he reflected.
Former classmates expressed their astonishment at Oola’s feat, marveling at his perseverance and determination to succeed against all odds. His cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.4 stood as a testament to his academic prowess and unwavering commitment to his goals.
But Oola’s journey to graduation was fraught with obstacles, rooted in the depths of his struggle with addiction. His descent into alcoholism began in 2000, upon entering Makerere University. Pressured by the demands of his studies and subjected to bullying by peers, Oola sought solace in the numbing embrace of alcohol.
From casual consumption to unchecked binging, Oola’s addiction soon spiraled out of control, leading to academic setbacks and clashes with fellow students. Forced to abandon his studies in his second year, Oola’s family intervened, guiding him towards rehabilitation at the Serenity Rehabilitation Centre.
Following a three-month stint at the center, Oola embarked on a journey of self-discovery and renewal, exploring alternative avenues for personal and professional growth. It was during this period that he pursued a Bachelor of Development Studies, only to encounter skepticism and ridicule from those who doubted his resolve.
Undeterred by the naysayers, Oola resumed his legal studies in 2018, fortified by a newfound determination to overcome his demons and pursue his passion for justice. With each passing day, he distanced himself from the grip of addiction, channeling his energies towards academic excellence and personal growth.
“I last drank a bottle of alcohol in 2019,” he declared. “And I think putting a final stop to it propelled me to focus more on my studies until I finally completed my studies.”
As he reflects on his journey, Oola remains steadfast in his commitment to sobriety, resisting the allure of past vices and embracing the promise of a brighter future. With aspirations of practicing law and defending justice, he has embarked on a new chapter as a student at the Law Development Centre (LDC), balancing his studies with the responsibilities of fatherhood and entrepreneurship.
“To others battling addiction, Oola offers words of encouragement and hope, affirming that recovery is possible with the right support system and unwavering determination.
“If I can overcome alcohol addiction, you too can,” he asserts. “You need to accept the help given, associate with the right friends, and turn to God. If you suffer these problems, you too can overcome them.”
As Makerere University celebrated its 74th graduation ceremony from January 29 to February 2, Oola stood among the thousands of graduates, a symbol of resilience and triumph in the face of adversity. In a sea of academic achievements, his story serves as a reminder that with perseverance and courage, the human spirit can transcend even the darkest of shadows, illuminating a path towards a brighter tomorrow.