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RELAPSED: Egyptian Docu-Photographer Captures Recovering Addicts at Rock Bottom

[EXCLUSIVE] Recovering addict and photographer Fares Zaitoon walks Moustafa Daly through the hell it is to relapse into drug addiction, and he has photos to prove it.

It's a story as old as time, yet it can't be foretold. No one thinks their joyful, cute babies might one day grow up to be actual drug addicts. It's something we watch on TV with as much intrigue as there is pity. Except that when the story is told, the theatrics usually end up hijacking the narrative; leaving us with either a happy ending that exemplifies our predisposed ideas on will-power, or a dark, disturbing one that serves as a cautionary tale. But as 27-year-old Fares Zaitoon found out over a painful decade of his life, the disease that is addiction is not that black and white.

At 14, Fares, like all hip and cool kids, puffed away at his first jay

"Allow me to start with the bottom-line; addiction is a disease. We need to treat it as such and understand the difference between recreational usage and addiction," says Fares, an up and coming docu-photographer and recovering addict. At 14, Fares, like all hip and cool kids, puffed away at his first jay, not knowing that he's one of the unfortunate some who are highly prone to addiction, and his subsequent fall was sharp and dramatic.

"I didn't have any prior warnings. Everyone around me was doing the same but they'd stay casual about it and their lives were moving forward. I, on the other hand, couldn't seem to keep my usage under control, and the intensity and quantity of the drugs I consume quickly escalated," he elaborates. "I moved on from hash to pills, stamps, crystals and powders very quickly; I just couldn't think about or do anything else."As with most addicts, Fares couldn't cover his traces well, and soon his family became well aware of how bad the situation is. They pushed for him to go to Rehab, to which he would agree just to appease them, only to then go back to voracious consumption once out. There was only one voice in Fares's malleable brain, and it was commanding him to keep shooting up.

"I was first forcefully admitted to a hospital at 18, when my family found a big quantity of drugs in my room. I stayed there for a month, and right afterwards, I attempted to become a casual user. But I didn't realize then that I was in over my head already."

 You literally become crazy when you relapse, because you could never have imagined you would fall again for the exact same thing

Fast forward four years, Fares hit rock bottom. His life, family, and everything he held dear was in free fall. Aged 22, he admitted himself to Rehab, determined to work his way towards a clean slate. 12 months is how long he stayed sober, and despite having fallen victim to his chronic disease again, he had finally had a taste of how life could be without drugs, and in came a second, albeit weaker, voice in his head reminding him of how good he had it when he was clean. 

"Recovering for the first time is something, but getting there after relapsing is a completely different story. You literally become crazy when you relapse, because you could never have imagined you would fall again for the exact same thing. You feel that you fought this battle already and paid the price. You keep on upping your dose so you could muffle the clashing voices in your head. I started getting panic attacks again, and I even lost trust in my rehabilitation program because... well, here I am shooting up again."

Grasping that addiction is, in most cases, a life-long, daily battle hadn't yet settled in well with Fares back then, but one acid trip gone terribly wrong sent him knocking on Rehab's doors again, feeling shameful, weak and defeated.

"After rehab - which was a much harder process the second time - I stuck with daily NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings for two years. By chance, I discovered my passion for photography one day while fooling around with a friend's camera," recounted Fares. "I got my own camera and started training myself and studying the art of photography, especially docu-photography."

Falling off track was by far the worst experience Fares has gone through in his decade of drug abuse, so he combined his own personal experience with his new found talent for visuals to capture the reality of relapsing into drug addiction. His raw project contains some shots of recovering addicts, reenacting their excruciating state when relapsed, and others of those who were in-fact going through a relapsing phase at the time of shooting. 

The photos are graphic and contain nudity. Viewer discretion advised.  

Project by Fares Zaitoon


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