The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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After 35 years of drug addiction, Libyan national in Malta wants to ‘give back’ to society

Semira Abbas Shalan Sunday, 1 October 2023, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

In a deeply personal account of a life plagued by addiction and trauma, Khalid Mohammed Bara spoke to The Malta Independent on Sunday about his near 35-year journey of substance abuse, to the path of recovery and redemption, wanting to “give back” as much as he can to society.

Bara, now over 50 years old, is a Libyan national who has lived in Malta for over 30 years. He was raised in Libya with his mother and siblings, and his father had died when he was only a week old.


He also struggled with drug addiction for close to 35 years.

“That is not a day, but a long, human life,” Bara said.

He stopped attending school, and joined the army willingly. “Where people pay hundreds of thousands to avoid military service in Libya, I applied (to join),” Bara said, adding that it was to become stronger. At the army, he was sent in the front lines of war with Chad.

“This period in my life hardened me,” he said, explaining he had suffered from extensive injuries.

Bara said that his descent into addiction did not occur suddenly or without reason. It was rooted in a childhood trauma that haunted him throughout his life.

He said he turned to cannabis at an early age, with the majority of his addiction starting in his youth where he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. He had already been smoking cannabis before he came to Malta.

Bara’s addiction soon escalated, and “after a while, it didn't give me the feeling I wanted, it didn't make me numb from my emotions," he recalled. "From a young age, addiction took hold of me.”

From cannabis, he had gradually moved to pills and eventually heroin. Over the course of three decades, his life had become a relentless cycle of addiction, he explained.

He said that all he could think about was how he was going to get his hands on more drugs, and his life ended up depending on it. Gradually, he started losing family members, including his son.

“My life was a mess, in one sentence. The suffering which comes when you’re in an addiction is large,” Bara said, speaking in fluent Maltese. He said that he felt like he was not truly living, but only existing.

Bara also struggled with feelings of anger and would get aggressive, rude and ungrateful.

Bara said that stigma around drugs and people who use them made it even harder for him to integrate into society. “In our generation and culture, we always had a stigma around drugs, and it is not easy. You get blamed for everything and labelled a ‘junkie.’”

“This is what a junkie is, and that is what junkies do. That’s what they would say,” he continued. He also said that he himself did not believe in rehabilitation, thinking that the years had gone by him, and that it was now too late.

He said that he felt as if he was a chameleon, adapting himself to the moments and times. During the day, he would not think about what time he was going to try and find a job, as drugs were always the priority.

Bara said that he did not even know what time meant, as he did everything whenever he wanted.

He also felt heavily rejected from society, feeling as if nothing he did was appreciated.

“I first thought about seeking help after my mother died in 2016, and I still feel her void today,” Bara said, explaining that he then had inherited a share of her money along with other siblings.

In two years, he had wasted all of the money on drugs. “I did not buy a house, or save the money,” Bara said, regrettably.

He spoke fondly of his mother, whom he said had forgiven him before she eventually passed.

“She sent me a video, wishing me a good and happy life. This affected me a lot, and it was important to me,” Bara said.

He said that once, he saw her in his dreams, where she was shining brightly, and speaking to him, telling him to do better for himself.

“I always obey my mother,” Bara said, adding that he felt that this was a direct message for him.

Bara said that he then decided to seek help and started knocking on some doors. He had to first go to Mt Carmel Hospital for treatment.

At Mt Carmel, Bara entered into a deep depression, and avoided talking to anyone if he was not spoken to. Staff at Mt Carmel truly helped him in his journey, as Bara recalled one nurse who suggested that he should apply for a rehabilitation programme.

Bara applied for all programmes available, and was eventually taken to Caritas, as he underwent training courses anout discipline, punctuality, strict rules and cleanliness. Bara said that this became part of him, and he became a part of the system.

He described his journey at the programme, although initially turbulent, as a turning point in his life.

The daily group sessions, where he listened to the experiences of others struggling with their own demons, gave him a new perspective. “My problems are large,” he acknowledged, “but nothing compared to others.”

“I had never believed in the programme, and I always thought, what can they do for me?” he said. “I had no idea what the programme was in reality.”

In the first two weeks at the programme, Bara said that he “felt rejection from everywhere. From the floors, from the walls, the windows, the people. I also always had in mind that I would leave,” Bara said.

However, Bara stayed. “I stayed, I bit my tongue, and I controlled myself and my anger. I was suspended twice from the programme, and I always remained clean. I begged them to take me back, as I felt safe and secure there,” Bara said.

The first time he had smiled in a long time was while attending the programme, Bara said.

Bara said that he wanted to thank all the staff at Mt Carmel hospital as well as Caritas, who helped him reclaim his life through unwavering support, and always believing in him.

He wanted to shed light on the “disastrous” state the locality of Marsa finds itself in, plagued with many drug dealers, and addicts buying from them.

“Marsa has become a huge problem. It has become a drug haven,” Bara said.

Today, at over 50 years old and a year and nine months clean, Bara said that he wishes to give back to society. Bara cannot continue working due to his health conditions, and has now found temporary shelter through Caritas.

“I still have more to go, to be able to give my 100% back to society, but I want to make that step to give back, to be able to say that I left something positive behind,” Bara said.

During the rehabilitation programme, Bara found a new love for plants and trees, and now has the wish of planting 500 to 1,000 trees all around Malta. Bara also planted over 20 olive and pomegranate trees at the centres he resided at.

He also said that being one of the eldest in the programme, he wants to become a shoulder for others.

Nowadays, Bara has also gotten back in touch with family members, particularly his niece in Libya, who has studied and graduated as a psychiatrist.

“When she became a psychiatrist she started to understand the experiences drug-addicts go through, and we have a plan to open a rehabilitation centre in Libya,”

He continued that there are many who suffer mentally and emotionally due to the war in Libya, including those who have lost their limbs, suffered great injuries, or even lost loved ones.

The rehabilitation centre would be helpful for those who suffered from trauma, Bara said.

Bara also wanted to share a message of hope and understanding for those struggling with addiction: “What I want is a plea for all of society, to understand that drug addiction is like any other disease. It is a disease which can have a cure if you find the help you need,” he said.

He said that he found help at Caritas, and nowadays he considers them part of his family. The staff took care of him, gave him clothes, a place to sleep and eat. “If it wasn’t for them, today I would not be speaking to you, I would either be dead or in jail,” Bara said.

He said that he interests himself in courses, to learn how to understand himself, which is not easy, he said.

“A person with the past and the trauma I experienced, it is difficult, for you to truly know and love yourself, and start living,” Bara said.

“I hurt so many people, especially my son. I would like to apologise to them, tell them I am sorry. The word ‘sorry’ is often said, but I would like to say sorry from the bottom of my heart,” Bara said. He thanked all the people who helped him throughout his journey, including his psychiatrist.

“I made a lot of mistakes, and I truly and genuinely wish, for those who read my story to forgive me, and at least, wish me a better future. I believe I deserve another chance,” Bara said.

Bara, who is homeless, pleads with Maltese authorities and society to help him find a home he can call his own.


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