Be smart, don’t start – A story about Detroit Sober House

By Emilia Sten and Anna Kevin (Originally published on Oct 2, 2013)

Suleiman Mauly

Suleiman Mauly

Suleiman Mauly was a normal child, who liked playing football and was good in school. In school he felt bored and started to hang out with the “wrong” people and using drugs. After a while he became an addict. He says he ended up hurting himself and others more than he could ever imagine. Today he is clean and he is the founder of Detroit Sober House on Zanzibar, together with Fatma Juma.

They call it a recovery community and the idea of sober house is to change the addict’s environment and give them a drug free zone. When using drugs, your friends are often also users, so getting away from them and making new friends who are not drug users is essential for healing from the addiction. At the sober house they can find someone to talk to about their problems – people who have been through the same.

It is the addict’s own choice to join the sober house, but often they got help from their families to pay for the stay. The first months of the recovery the people are not allowed to go outside the sober house. In the beginning many of them are sick, as a side effect of getting clean from the drugs, and just need rest.

As the recoveries gets better they start taking part in the daily programme. The programme consists of yoga, meditation, self-support meetings etc. The recoveries can take part in different programmes, like arts and sports, depending on their own wishes. Many of the recoveries are artists and makes paintings and sculptures at the sober house. The 12th of November they will have a big exhibition of their arts. There they will also sell jewellery and clothes they have made themselves.

The sober house doesn’t employ anyone to do the daily duties, because the recoveries take care of making food and cleaning etc. But volunteers are very welcome since they need all the help they can get. Actually it was a volunteer from Art in Tanzania who introduced the yoga sessions to the sober house.

At moment Detroit Sober House have 30 recoveries who have suffered from addictions of heroin, marijuana and/or alcohol. The staff contains five persons. As the recoveries gets better they may become volunteers, meaning they are helping the staff with the arrangements of the house.

Even after six months or more, when they are totally clean from their addictions they still have contact with the people at the sober house, to avoid falling back in old habits. They are like a family, who are there for each other when help is needed.

The Detroit Sober House also drives a campaign, where they try to prevent children and youngsters from start using drugs. The campaign is called “Be smart, don’t start”. They are visiting schools where they hand out their own brochures and tell the young people their stories. Hopefully there will be less drug addicts on Zanzibar in the future.


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