Dubai – The challenge and experience of a lifetime

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Dubai – The challenge and experience of a lifetime

I had taken a well-earned vacation and was traveling back from Australia via Dubai. I have friends in Dubai and thought I would give them a call to let them know I was passing through to see if they wanted to meet up for a coffee on my stopover, find out what was happening in their lives and have a general catch up.

One of my friends, Ahmed, is a psychiatrist and when I called he said, “Chris you’re just the person I wanted to speak to, I have a proposition to put to you, are you in Spain at the moment?” I said I just happen to be in Dubai, and we arranged to meet up that evening.

I had previously worked alongside Ahmed, and a VIP client with specialist requirements, in 2013 and it had been a great success. Ahmed was now in charge of building the first rehabilitation centre in Dubai for the Government. He was currently the project manager and would become the CEO when it was up and running.

Ahmed asked me if I would come on board the team - as the centre’s senior addiction therapist - and be willing to set up a programme for the local population. I agreed and started working in Dubai one month later.

After a few months, the centre was ready to open, and clients moved in. On the first day I had 20 individuals to lecture to all of them, young men, had addiction problems and none of them spoke any English – luckily, I had been allocated two interpreters. So, where would I start?

Most of us understand that addiction has no boundaries it can affect anyone. It respects no religion and is not deterred by race, language, gender, or ethnicity.

At that moment I took a deep breath and asked my interpreters to repeat - as near as possible - what I was about to say. To which they both agreed.

I introduced myself, spoke about where I came from and what my qualifications were – and I pointed out that it may look like we were completely different. I was English and spoke English, everyone in the room was Emirati (from Dubai), and spoke solely Arabic. Then I said, let us look at everything we may have in common, all the men (including the interpreters) looked puzzled.

I said I had been in that place  - waking throughout the night, first at 2am then at 4am and so on, paralysed by fear, full of self-doubt, self-loathing, guilt, remorse and shame; and then finally rousing myself in the morning with an indescribable fear of what the day my bring; feeling irritable, restless and generally discontented with life - until I took that first drug; feeling it flow through my system and the ease and comfort that I knew would come from it.

After that the young men perked up and started to engage with the session, we went on to have a group discussion on feelings and looking at how powerless we were once we picked up the first drug and how and why it was we could not stop once we started. The lecture was a hit and by the end I related to everyone in the room. My time at the centre was off to a great start.

I worked at the rehab centre for three years, when I left the company there were approx. 20 patients that had two years continuous sobriety and a great number of patients with other varied lengths of sober time. Plus with the help of my colleagues and the pupils and patients I worked with, was able to develop a complete training program for them to use going forward; including 70 power point presentations all relating to addiction and specific to the local culture, all in Arabic.

The knowledge I obtained during my time at the treatment centre was invaluable; from the team of doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists you were all an instrumental part of my journey. Thank you to all my colleagues, patients, and the company for giving me the opportunity to work alongside you all, I was and continue to be hugely grateful.

Chris Spencer

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