Hard 12-Step Road For Zanzibar’s Heroin Addicts

Could a 12-step program, with its Christian roots, help addicts recover on a conservative Muslim island in the Indian Ocean?

zan1Suleiman Mauly was desperate to find out. He’d been using heroin in his native Zanzibar since age 17. The island nation is a key stop for heroin smuggled from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Europe. An estimated 7 percent of the 1 million inhabitants are heroin addicts.

Mauly had tried to get clean a couple of times. It didn’t work. Then he discovered a 12-step program in Mombasa, Kenya.

He not only stopped using drugs but also made amends to friends and family he’d harmed as an addict. “And before you make amends, you have to search yourself, your feelings of guilt and resentment,” says Mauly, now 34 and in recovery for eight years. “It’s a kind of Christian spiritual process.” Indeed, the 12-step program, founded in Akron, Ohio, some 80 years ago, relies on Christian concepts: confession, redemption, submission to a higher power.

“People have different experiences with the higher power,” he says. “Some of them say it’s Allah. Some of them, Jesus. For me, the power greater than myself was a program, a group and my family. And then later, I’ve started to understand how to rely on God.” He is largely responsible for introducing the program to his country.

But the program’s Christian connection turned out to be a sensitive topic in Zanzibar, where the mostly Muslim population has long had a frictional relationship with the mostly Christian mainland.

For example, one of the core principles of 12-step is submission to a higher power, often shorthanded as “HP.”

Abdulrahman Abdullah remembers the first time he told his mother about HP. “She said, ‘Come here, talk about Allah. Don’t give a [expletive] about your HP,’ you know?” He laughs now at the memory, but he says his mother still worries that 12-step will be a gateway to conversion to Christianity.

Many islanders have been won over by the program’s success. Six years after Mauly brought 12-step to Zanzibar, there are 11 recovery houses that have treated 3,000 addicts. He serves as head of Recovery Community Zanzibar, which is staffed by former addicts, and is also a community outreach officer with Tanzania Health Promotion Support.

But Zanzibar’s traditional values could bend only so far. Mauly says that while he successfully introduced the concept of 12-step for men, he’s been unable to get community support for a women’s program.

“Because they give up hope with women,” Mauly says. Women often turn to prostitution to support their drug habit. For traditional Muslims in Zanzibar, Mauly says, that is an act from which there can be no redemption.

Using funds he diverted from the men’s clinic, Mauly opened a recovery house for women last month. He says he’s not just trying to help women recover. He’s trying to change local culture and make Zanzibaris see that women too can find redemption.

“You never know,” he says with a smile, “when someone will be saved.”

NPR’s Frederica Boswell has reported on Mauly’s story since he set up his first sober house. On a visit in January, she photographed him, staff members at the rehab centers and some of the recovering addicts, with their permission.


February 2, 2015


One response to “Hard 12-Step Road For Zanzibar’s Heroin Addicts”

  1. Will F says:

    Great info, and my heart goes out to the many families that have been destroyed by the heroin epidemic which is engulfing the country, and the world. We need more programs like this, and sincere dedicated individuals who want to bring freedom from opiates to these people. With every generation comes advances in technology, and medicine. Knowledge is power, and for every disease known to man there lies an all natural cure awaiting to be discovered. The only problem the world has which despite finding these cures, still prevents them from being used the way God has intended, is the problem of GREED!

    The pharmaceutical giants pay millions for research and development in hopes of finding one of these all natural cures. Instead of bringing the find to the world and freeing millions of diseases, their next step is to attempt to synthesize the all natural discovery,which means to make a lab or scientist created version of the original find. This is necessary for them to be able to bring any drug to market by the FDA. The FDA has not and will not ever approve an all natural drug to be brought to the marketplace because they can not make money off of all natural products. They will never allow any cure to come to market because if they, say for instance, allowed a cure to cancer(baking soda) to come to market and it is all natural, costing around .88 cents per box, they will now have prevented all future drug companies who usually spend tens of millions of dollars on clinical trials with the FDA to get their drug approved by them, from applying with the FDA to bring their drugs for cancer to market. No company or it’s shareholders would allow a company to pay the FDA 40 million dollars for clinical trials to bring a drug to market to treat or even cure cancer when there is already a cheap cure on the market. The FDA knows that if they allow a cure through they are shooting themselves in the foot. No company which makes hundreds of millions per year on approving drugs would deliberately put a stop to that cash flow would they?

    Now that we have established the point that with time comes knowledge, and that knowledge gets suppressed in the name of profit, we can now get back to the point that needs to be made now. There has been a suppression of a discovery doctors made over 37 years ago which allowed them the ability to take opiate users off of opiates without experiencing opiate withdrawal, and without the need for addictive synthetic opioids like methadone or suboxone. This info could have changed the face of opiate addiction as we know it, but instead was swept under the rug so big pharma could go on to rake in millions off of synthetic opioids.

    To all of those in the mid east and around the globe who may be struggling with, or who may have a friend or a loved one struggling with opiate addiction, please get them this life changing information which has finally been leaked to the public, which allows anyone using opioids the ability to stop without experiencing opiate/opioid withdrawal symptoms, and without the need for addictive synthetic opioids. This is the information they worked so hard to keep out of our hands. If you want more info on this story, and what this information is, go now to http://NoMoreOpiateWithdrawal.tk

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