Friday, December 21, 2007

At Hajj After Giving Up the Needle; Saudi Addicts Organize Group to Attend Hajj

From Arab News

At Hajj After Giving Up the Needle
Samir Al-Saadi, Arab News

Former addicts performing Haj under the National Anti-Drug Committee's rehabilitation program rest in their camp in Mina on Thursday.
(AN photo by Marwan Al-Juhani)

MINA, 21 December 2007 — Rehabilitation does not end by giving up the needle. The National Anti-Drug Committee's rehabilitation program, powered by the fifth pillar of Islam, took the extra mile to shed light into the futures of 200 people shattered by a dark past.

From 320 applicants, the committee accepted 200 former addicts and drug dealers to perform Haj this year. The program aims to support them in order to live normal lives without returning to their past addictions, said Abdelilah Al-Sharif, adviser to the committee and head of the Haj mission.

"What better means in opening a clean sheet than by performing Haj?" he said. "This is among a series of programs supervised by the committee to ensure achieving our set goal."

Since the beginning of the program eight years back, 1,250 former addicts have made use of the 12-step program. Of the 1,250 people who performed Haj, only 20 have returned to drugs, said Sharif.

"We have terms to accept applications: first they need to show that they have their mind set on leaving drugs for good, and, secondly, the applicant needs to integrate into the committee's programs."

Sami Al-Matrafi, a former drug addict who currently has devoted his life to helping other addicts in changing their lives, said that he had been an addict for 24 years of his life. "My past experience brings me close to the people on the program, as I have lived their experience," he said.

He described the first and last days of addiction as the hardest on him. "I lived a harsh experience; I feel that I am capable of making up for those years through my current work in helping other addicts," he said. "I have turned from a man with a bad reputation to a person that is currently respected by others."

The self-support program that is provided by the national committee for combating drugs comprises 12 steps with a time frame of between three months and two years depending on the case. The program is available through 13 of the committee's centers scattered across the Kingdom.

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