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With a Little Help from God Photo:snazz_de

By Valentin Vassilev

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he used to steal and was no stranger to sleeping on park benches. But she is also one of the few who have managed to escape the sticky quagmire of drug addiction. A story of desperation, determination and the hand of God. “Drug addiction is slavery, a serious disease,” Dea* says. Seeing her settled comfortably in a chair in her shiny office, it is not easy to reconcile her present image with her past life. She is depicting a girl who started taking heroin at 20 and who thought she’d had everything under control at the beginning. It was not until she lost her job a few months later that things turned ugly. Dea spent seven years of her life as a heavy drug addict. During that period, she often Addiction is slavery had no place to live. Most of the time she stayed with friends generous but I have never returned to drugs.” enough to accommodate her, but she The process of mending the occasionally had to settle for a bench fraught relationship with her relain the park. Having been renounced tives and winning back their trust by her parents, she plunged into an was slow. Her mother passed away a abject life of theft and drug abuse few years back, but Dea now enjoys that often saw her spend a night or an excellent relationship with her fatwo in a detention center. ther and her brother. She repeatedly tried to break her She currently works addiction, but all her efat a big law firm and has forts, including a retreat Dea spent seven been married for more to a rehabilitation center years of her life as a than seven years, having isolated from the hustle heavy drug addict met her husband in the and bustle of the big city, church. The smile never proved ineffective as she gets off her face, and she is espewould soon slip into bad ways again. cially radiant while singing in the About ten years ago, she asked choir at the beginning and the end of a friend to stay at his house for a the Sunday service. She oozes conwhile, unaware that her life is about fidence, but not of the kind associto change dramatically. The friend ated with haughtiness or conceit. It took her to Andrey, the minister of is the confidence of happiness, of the a Protestant church, who invited her relief of having stared into the abyss over to his home one night to have a before stepping back at the last posconversation with her. sible moment. She is comfortable in “I was redeemed and became a her skin and at peace with herself. Christian that same night. I accepted “She is never in a bad mood, and Jesus in my heart,” Dea says. is always optimistic,” Anna, a friend She started attending church of hers, says. “If I did not know her, service, quit heroin and has never reit would have never crossed my mind lapsed. that she’d been through such a night“There have been, of course, difmare.” ficult periods of internal struggle,

The “Victory” church in Sofia is one of the few Protestant churches in Bulgaria, a nation of nearly 7.5 million people, 80% of whom describe themselves as Eastern Orthodox Christians. But unlike the Orthodox churches across the country, this one is constantly expanding, drawing people like Dea willing to mend their ways and turn their back on a life of crime, alcoholism or depravity. Newcomers are often invited to the home of Andrey and his wife, who also works at the church. The visitors are initiated into the teachings in the Bible and usually leave the house more upbeat than when they arrived. “I would have written a book if I was good at writing,” Dea says, laughing, responding to a suggestion that her story would make for a good movie. God would undoubtedly feature prominently in her book. She is convinced that it was He who led her to the friend who took her to church. “God probably realized that this is His last chance to meet me.”

*Name has been changed.


It‘s a Vicious Circle

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he in i t i a l i m p r e s s i o n o f a w o r l d free o f p a i n a n d w o r r y c r e a t e d b y drugs soo n g i v e s w a y t o a n i g h t m a r e that is ve r y d i ff i c u l t t o e s c a p e . P s ychologists H r i s t i n a H r is t o v a a n d D a niela Stoy a n o v a e x p l a i n t h e c h a l l e n g e s of providi n g t h e r a p y t o a d d i c t s a n d t h e reasons fo r p e o p l e t o a b u s e d r u g s . It is not d i ff i c u l t t o i m a g i n e w h y p e ople who ha v e t a k e n d r u g s o n c e w a n t t o do it again , H r i s t o v a s a y s . H e r o i n , f o r example, h a s a c h e m i c a l s t r u c t u r e s imi lar to e n d o r p h i n s , f e e l - g o o d c h e m icals natur a l l y m a n u f a ctured in th e b r a i n w h e n It‘s a losing the body e x p e r i e n c e s pain or s t r e s s . T h e y act as the n a t u r a l o p i a t e s o f t h e b o d y. Th e effect o f h e r o i n , h o w e v e r, i s m u c h more inten s e t h a n e n d o rp h i n s . Th e first i n t r a v e n o u s i n j e c t i o n s o f heroin cau s e t h e u s e r t o e x p e r i e n c e a profound s e n s e o f s a t i s f a c t i o n . O n e immerses i n a w o r l d f r e e o f p a i n a n d fear. The e ff e c t i s o f t e n d e s c r i b e d a s a heighten e d s e x u a l o rg a s m . C o m m unication g e t s e a s i e r, p re s s u r e i s n o n existent. Soon, h o w e v e r, d e e p e n i n g a n g u i s h comes to t h e f o r e . T h e u s e r n o l o n g e r takes drug s t o d e r i v e p l e a s u r e , b u t t o

World Drug Report 2012

e s c a p e f r om the intensifying torment. I t ‘ s a l o s i ng struggle which causes the a d d i c t t o seek comfort and relief in her o i n m o r e and more often. This is a vic i o u s c i r c le difficult to break. A c c o r d ing to the psychologists, the a n g u i s h i s not linked with the unplea s a n t a b s t inence and withdrawal effects a s s o c i a t e d with drug-taking, but rather c o n s t i t u t e s an internal psychological p a i n , t h e c ause of which remains hidden f r o m t h e u ser. S t o y a n o v a maintains that addiction is usually precipitated by other psychological dis struggle orders, or more precisely, by the inability to overc o m e t h e m. H r i s t o v a and Stoyanova agree that d r u g a d d i cts make for challenging pat i e n t s b e c ause they have difficulty conv e y i n g i n formation and committing to t h e r a p y, r elationships or work. Contrar y t o p o p ular belief, users should not n e c e s s a r i l y change their environment i n o r d e r t o break the addiction, because w h e r e v e r they go, their thoughts and p r o b l e m s are following them. A single p s y c h o l o g ist cannot cope with a drug a d d i c t ; t h e treatment is usually assign e d t o a t eam of experts.

Upbringing and family play a vi tal role in a person‘s pr edisposition to slip into the pitfall of drug abuse. Children growing up with doting mo thers indulging their every whim are much more likely to become drug ad dicts than children who do not have all their wishes catered to. The father figure is also of central importance as drug addicts have usually grown up without a father in the family. The people who lose the battle with drugs are usually those who don‘t get support from their families or those whose friends are also addicted.

QUICK FACTS:

* Illegal drugs include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD and cannabis. * Alcohol and tobacco are considered recreational drugs. * About 230 million people around the world - 5% of the world’s adult population - took illicit drugs in 2010. * Problem drug users, mainly heroin and cocaine-dependent people number about 27 million. That‘s 1 in every 200 people. * Heroin, cocaine and other drugs kill around 200,000 people each year. * Men are more likely to take illegal drugs than women. * Illegal drugs contribute to the spread of HIV. * Addiction doesn’t stop at drugs and alcohol. People can become overly attached to gambling, sex, shopping, computer games - even using the internet. Sources: BBC, UN World Drugs report


With a Little Help from God