Charles El Kassis: Return to life from the underworld of drugs

Prestige issue 249, April 2014

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© Archives Charles el Kassis

Charles el Kassis surrounded by Nishan Der Haroutounian and Father Magdi Allaoui.

Engulfed for thirty- eight years, in the hell of drugs, he was a dead man. A death accompanied by violence, theft and all sorts of evil and degrading actions. Odious in the eyes of the world, adorable in his own eyes … Happy as a king, because everyone owed him allegiance and obedience, otherwise … But one day, wandering in this nowhere, he was attracted by a beam of light, he follows it, and ends up in good hands, the Association «Bonheur du ciel». For a year, he lived a real ordeal, suffered agony and cruel heartbreaks. Today, he celebrates his fourth year of freedom, thanks to the Christotherapy practiced by the association. Living witness of a life experience, Charles el Kassis, Dean of the addicts, decides at age 57, to speak. He aims to all young people who, at the age when he drowned, at their turn, they fall reckless and unconscious in the hell of drugs. In this exclusive testimony to Prestige, Charles el Kassis says …

Today you are four years old, date of your rebirth after 40 years of suffering. What do you feel? I feel a deep joy I’m a new man. But I would first like to offer my apologies to my wife, my family and all the people I have harmed. I express my regret for having offended them and ask them to forgive me. Sincerely. The damage I caused them was largely due to drug addiction. Since four years, I am a clean man, dedicated and devoted to a good cause. My life is now devoted to associations, testimonies … I’m a dad, father of all these young people who, I hope, will be aware and totally leave drugs. Today I am happy man, because I am a student at the faculty of theology at the Higher Institute of the Maronite Archbishop of Antelias . Through Christotherapyfollowed with the association «Bonheur du ciel», I am now a new man and a good father to my two children, Elie and Pascale .

Tell us about your childhood … I was born in a modest family in Beirut, Christian, united, believing and practicing with my two brothers. My father worked day and night to meet our needs. Although we lived in poverty, we were happy. During the feasts, my older brother wore the clothesgiven by a charitable soul, my other brother wore the former suit the elder had last year, and I wore the costume he gave me. Student of the Vincentian Fathers in Achrafieh , I was very brave. One day, I was transferred to Central College in Jounieh, as a boarder . The burden of my parents would be relieved. But in this passage from a simple environment to another ” velvety “, I realized how deep the divide was between this world and mine. The family of other students pampered and treated them differently than mine. During the week -end, while students were returning home in a nice private car, I was forced to wait with my father for common transportation. At nine years old, a feeling of revolt overwhelmed me to the point of strongly blame my parents. I started to work hard to succeed in school, and impose my own rules and my orders.

How did you get stuck in the world of drugs? My transfer to another school influenced me. The feeling of hatred and resentment towards my family was getting worse, I wanted to get away from them, refusing to live the misery. At boarding school, I had at least a bed to sleep, while at home, I had to content myself with a sofa. Pride, hatred, superiority complex, ego, engulfed simplicity, respect and kindness that I had. In 1975, it’ war. We were forced to take up residence at the shelter at the bottom of the building. This is where I met a lovely girl who ” drank hashish ” as accused by family and neighbors. I approached her, defying the instructions of my family. I was 18, she was 26. I was aggressive, she was attractive. And exciting. She offered me a world so different from mine. In her duplex, she handed me a cigarette of hashish and led me in a first sexual experience, and to inhale the smoke that emanated from her mouth. I smoked my first cigarette of hashish and had the experience of virile young man and drug addict despite himself. She abused my body and my manhood. Unconscious, she ended up deciding for me.

What were the reactions of those around you? The surrounding condemned her from the beginning, and therefore condemned me too, and my family. My father did not dare to intervene because her own father was the benefactor of the neighborhood, including my family. Rather than repent, I snapped my mother and got rebelled against my parents. To become independent. The next day I followed her to her 600m2 house in Sodeco, to dive into the world of drugs.

What is a junkie for you? This is a cunning individual, impostor, liar, thief, selfish, masochist, insensitive and unstable. An individual with several masks, using and abusing the weakness of others. Executioner and jailer, according to his mood. His ideas are black, and his eyes wander in search of gold, silver and all that gives him satisfaction. A spokesman of the devil.

What is the responsibility of parents? There is a lack of parental guidance. At the bottom of this being is a child or a sick. Ignorance of the parents strengthens Satan who will get into action I only implored God at the checkpoint of Dahr el Baydar, while waiting for the drugs delivery.

Have you sought advice from someone? The addict is an invested man. For nine years, it has invested me and worn me. I got what I wanted, willingly or unwillingly. Nothing stopped me. I did not think to marry her and asked council from nobody. My parents were sad but unable to help me. I was committing all prohibited acts, stealing my friends and even the church. I have committed adultery, becoming an alcoholic, thief, player… For a handful of white powder. At 36, my partner died of an overdose. And me, I doubled the dose. The circle of addicts grew, prompting me to cocaine, theft, and to impose the law of the jungle.

Have you tried to get a treatment? In 1984, while I was at the hospital because of injuries, I met Fadia, who would become my wife and the mother of my children. I was 27 years old. I had traveled to Paris for treatment, because I was nailed for three years in a wheelchair. Rather than heroin, I was administered medical heroin. Fadia was in love with me. She defied all taboos of her family and all the dangers of my life with her. We got married and we had a boy and a girl. Despite her particular attention towards me, and the appearance that she was a happy and fulfilled woman I left her with my children to take refuge in drugs. And yet, I got married with the intention not to succumb to temptation. I invested money in lucrative projects, but resources were evaporating in drugs. I hardly covered the needs of my children. They loved me, but it was Fadia who provided them with a decent life Stomach aches, diarrhea, watery eyes, sadness, depression, isolation … I had one thing in mind: how to have the funds to purchase drugs. All means were so good and legitimate. Fadia tried to help me, and as she was from a wealthy family I took advantage of her money. She suffered a lot. One day I hit her on the head, without pity or remorse. My brother took her to the hospital in front of the children and the neighbors. In 2007, we divorced.

Christotherapy saved you … What is impossible to man is possible with God. One day by chance, I was at the parents of Minister Ziad Baroud house. Ammou Salim and his wife Antoinette welcomed me and promised to help me by introducing me to father Magdi Allaoui,   the founder of the association Le Bonheur du Ciel . They even offered me money which I refused. It was a sign of God who has not abandoned me Father Allawi took me to the Bonheur du ciel, where my ordeal began. Symptoms of drug addiction returned stronger each day. For one week, I protected myself with twenty blankets. I felt cold, I was shivering and I even received extreme unction. At the association, I was asked to wait for the coming of the ” Moallem .” And one day, in church, in front of the Cross of Christ, they say to me: “This is the Moallem , talk to him as long as you want. For Free.” During three hours, I confessed everything and burst into tears. While opening the bible randomly, I came across the prodigy child. I was happy to finally meet the one who accepts me despite all my dirt, listening to me without complaint, or boredom, prescribing me an order: prayer. I felt that. I trusted him, confidences and I count on him today. He is close to us and accompanies us throughout our lives. The Christotherapy is the cure.

What did you gain from your experience at Le Bonheur du ciel? The association brought me back to life, thanks to the intervention of God in my heart. They handed me a treasure, a relic, the rosary, and made me love my neighbor, forgiveness, even to my enemies.

Do you think that you have a new mission?Certainly. That is to reach out to someone who needs help, to restore confidence in the one who lost it, draw a smile on his face and bring him closer to God. Go deep within myself and make an examination of conscience on a daily basis to not fall into error. The Fayez Mouawad Foundation supports also my cause, through an awareness campaign.

At Christmas, you, apparently received a gift … The greatest gift of my life, next to LeBonheurdu ciel, where I felt God’s intervention: the visit of my children: Elie, 26, and Pascale, 23, who are now very proud of my new life and have turned the page on the judgment of the society towards me. I was a dead man. Today, I am alive and happy. Interview by MIREILLE Bridi BOUABJIAN