Alcohol and drug addiction is a huge problem in Ukraine. In the villages, approximately 70-80% of the men are alcoholics. Many are also opium users. Social agencies, government officials, and most churches readily acknowledge the problem, but are at a loss to know what to do.
As Samaritans we found ourselves in a similar situation until we were led to the Victory Church in Zhitomir which already had developed a successful recovery program. Soon a partnership was forged with the church using our facilities in Vigoda on the outskirts of Zhitomir.
In the six years that we have been in operation, over 100 men have successfully completed the six-month program. Some of the men who came to us were literally brought in on a stretcher. They were at the point of death. Families and friends had given up on them, but after a few weeks of loving care and spiritual nurture they slowly came to life and eventually recovered. Most have been in prison. Some were gangsters.
Approximately 70% of the men stay clean for two years after going through the program. After five years the success rate drops to about 35%. Nevertheless, the success rate far exceeds that of most recovery programs. Some of the graduates have become pastors. All have become contributing members of society.
When an addict is brought to the Center, the first thing we do is remove all the drugs and alcohol from their possession and put them in isolation. We use what is called the “cold turkey” approach. We don’t use any medicinal drugs, medical doctors or nurses. Instead a group of spiritual mentors engage in intense prayer and fasting around the clock until the addiction is broken.
Once the addiction is broken — the mentors who were once addicts themselves, but are now clean — take turns to lead the men in Bible study and prayer, make themselves available for spiritual counsel, and encourage the recovering addicts to tell their stories. The men soon realize that they are powerless to help themselves and turn their lives over to Christ, the Ultimate Higher Power.
Most of the men who come to us have few life skills. This means we need to teach them how to take care of their personal hygiene, wash their clothes, and clean their rooms. We also teach them how to cook, work in the vegetable garden, relate to others, and resolve their conflicts. Since the men are required to do this if they want to remain in the program, we have no need of cooks, cleaning ladies or gardeners as they do all these things.
After three months the men are given the opportunity to learn a trade. We have a welding shop on the premises which produces iron window bars, metal doors, and security fences. We also have a wood-working shop that makes furniture. Both are businesses, which not only teach the men how to work and run a business, but provide the necessary funds to help support the ministry.