ATFL Series: Voices of Healing – Oum El Nour

Monday, February 1, 2021
Jean AbiNader
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Providing therapeutic services and prevention for substance abuse

With many service organizations, there is a human backstory that provides the impetus for the group’s mission. The marginalized populations of addiction, mental health, and the terminally ill were among those already suffering before the triple disasters of the economy, pandemic, and the Beirut blast. ATFL would like to introduce you to one of the pioneers in Lebanon dealing with drug addiction.

Oum El Nour was created in 1989 from the will to win a friend back from drugs. Its mission aims to gradually decrease the addiction rates in Lebanon and increase awareness of the various factors leading to such. Substance abuse has become an extensive problem in Lebanon, with destructive causes and consequences for individuals, families, and society, especially in the rough times.

Oum El Nour continues today with the belief that saving one person from addiction can also mean saving a child, a parent, a sibling, a colleague, a fellow citizen…In other terms, saving one of us.

From its origins, Oum El Nour has grown into a home for those who need sheltering, fostering, and understanding. A place away from noise, pressure, and judgment. A place to recover, look back and learn, and to reconnect with oneself before reconnecting to others.

Since 1989, Oum el Nour has accompanied nearly 9,200 young men and women to sobriety and reintegration and spread awareness to nearly 2,000 young men and women. The residential treatment program offered at the Rehabilitation Centers is based on the Therapeutic Community approach (TCs). This means it has a recovery orientation focusing on the whole person and overall lifestyle changes, not simply abstinence from drug use. Recovery is seen as a gradual, ongoing process of cognitive change through clinical interventions, and it is expected that it will take time for program participants to advance through the stages of treatment, setting personal objectives along the way.

There are four steps in its process: Reception – diagnosing the root problem and providing advice and support as well as the treatment regime; then In-patient Rehabilitation centered around the total abstinence from drugs and alcohol for 15 months to provide structure and discipline with a focus on sharing day-to-day life to improve interaction, communication, emotional control, and self-improvement. Once the in-patient sequence is completed successfully, they move to Follow-up where individuals are encouraged to partake actively and independently in their community to facilitate social integration, with added support to prevent relapse and increase autonomy. Those who demonstrate their ability to manage their daily lives may then move on to Out-patient Rehabilitation – an opportunity to lead an independent drug free life through individual therapy sessions as well as support groups.

In terms of prevention therapies, Oum el Nour focuses on empowering individuals with knowledge and skills in order to help them to make healthy choices in life without resorting to drugs. It uses a whole-of-society approach including children, parents, teachers, professionals, and communities.

As one resident wrote, “When you are going through recovery in Oum el Nour, you are taught that the first and most important thing is yourself. Everything you do, every step you take, every task you complete, has to revolve around you and your recovery, and this is very important. However, after 15 months at the in-patient center and two years in follow up, of working through your recovery, you come to the realization that the whole process is bigger than you are. You will come to help others, you will build and educate a family, you will love your job, your family, your spouse; you may even be the next biggest entrepreneur. Believe me when I tell you, at first I was not that inspired, but everything happens for a reason and the path that I took towards sobriety paid off, big time. I always work to never GIVE UP!”

Oum el Nour Lebanon has three sister organizations: Oum el Nour in Paris, France, and Oum el Nour in Monrovia, Liberia, and Drug Free Lebanon, a US based 501(c)(3) organization that participates in awareness-raising, fundraising, and scientific collaboration activities.

Services are free of charge, relying on donations to cover the fees of the services. As they say, “Each one of us can make a difference. Together we can make change.”

To learn more or make a donation, please visit www.oumelnour.org

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.