Muscat: Yousef Al-Ghilani is a recovering drug addict who has spent 15 years of his life behind bars.
Two years ago, Ghilani walked out of an Omani prison after a nine-year sentence, broke his own personal cycle of abuse and now helps other addicts live a clean life in Oman.
He has never been happier.
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“The last time I was in prison, I was in for nine years. When I was released, everything was different. My friends and family had grown up, gotten married, had children and had a completely different life. I wasn’t comfortable being around them anymore,” Ghilani said.
“All in all, I can name thirty of my friends who have overdosed over the years.” Ghilani is speaking about people who have died.
Today, his life mission has taken a completely different turn, and for the better. He lives by the virtues of “acceptance, forgiveness and honesty”, values that he was unable to conceive in active addiction.
“I started the first Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Shinas. The Twelve Steps is part of our religion. It re-instills the values that we were raised with such as acceptance, forgiveness, repentance and honesty. I’m the only one that conducts big group therapies where people come in and discuss their problems and solutions. A recovering addict always has patience with an active addict,” Ghilani said.
Organising such groups is not an easy matter, nor is it always safe. According to Ghilani, the idea of addicts congregating triggers negative waves within society. Despite being outcast, Ghilani has found a safe place to help those in need. Today, he works as a counsellor at Al-Massarah Hospital in Al-Amerat with 14 other recovering addicts. He has taken the initiative to learn as much as he can, from attending workshops in Qatar and Egypt, to working with the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Oman.
“Whatever the client needs I can accommodate. If they need religious support for their recovery, I can provide that. Recovering addicts are the best at helping individuals in active addiction. We have more patience because we have been there,” he said.
Ghilani now has a social media campaign, Together We Can, which promotes healthy dialogue around addiction within the Arab community.
“We have made short videos on the life of an addict, and how everyone in his or her family is affected. Addiction doesn’t impact one person, but the whole society. The first short video is called Lost Control and the other, Story of an Orphan. We hope to spread our message of hope through these visual campaigns and save a life. We need to break the stigma, or else people will continue to die,” he added.
Ghilani's dream is to open a rehabilitation centre with enough beds to treat every individual in need of help. His phone is always on and receives calls from addicts and family members day and night. If you need help with addiction, or want to help, call Ghilani at 95710727.