Lena's Story: Climbing Up From The Bottom

The Web newsletter “Motilek” recently published a letter from a reader that shares the story of a young woman who was released from a correctional facility a few months ago and her attempts to change her life. The name of the woman in the story is Lena, and the reason for her imprisonment was selling drugs.

“Motilek” is produced by members of the Ukrainian organization Drop-In Center. This Rising Voices grantee works with drug addicts and uses new media to share the stories of people living under difficult circumstances. Lena started writing for the newsletter while she was in prison, describing her life behind bars. Now she writes about how a person with a drug addiction adapts to life after serving a term in jail. Lena has already published a few stories, and in the future the Drop-In Center editors want to hire her as a permanent author for the new media projects that the organization administers.

Drop-In Center volunteers in Tallinn, Estonia

Drop-In Center volunteers in Tallinn, Estonia

After being released from prison Lena did not have a place to stay. The Drop-In Center Fund helped her get admitted to a shelter for homeless people,but she left soon after. Lena has used opiate drugs, so substitution therapy programs cannot be used to help treat her. But Drop-In Center counselors have tried to motivate her to quit the drugs and alcohol and to change her life. They have also encouraged her to continue with her creative writing. Currently Lena is staying in a HIV hospital in Kiev, Ukraine.

Lena shares her tale in the newsletter. It's a sincere story of a lonely woman who does not have a permanent home, is HIV positive, and lives with drug addictions. Here are the snippets from it:



Sometimes I do not understand why I am making the same mistakes time and again. Sometimes I feel I live my life like it is just a draft copy where I can make as many errors and put as many “plots” as I want. Nobody knows when I will start to write a “fair copy” of my life. Often, at the beginning of a new day I tell myself that I am starting my life from scratch, but for some reason later on I make “plots” and “blots” again. Why is it so? Is it because of my habits or am I just silly? The only thing I am afraid of is that I might live this way for the rest of my life …and will not have time to “write it fair.”

Here she reflects on how to be successful:

Perhaps to succeed in life you have to minimize your problems, but unfortunately I am not always good at doing this. To tell the truth, I am extremely bad at doing this. More often, I create the problems myself.

In her story she also reflects on her release from prison:

It might sound weird, but I should say that prison is not the worst place you can be. My release from prison has appeared to be much more painful for me. While in prison I had been dreaming about freedom, making cheerful plans…but the reality is very different. Apparently I have found myself surrounded by a lot of troubles, problems, and issues. As a result, despite the attempts of the Drop-In Center staff to help me, I have returned to the life I used to live before.

At the beginning I had a feeling that everything is “under control” and I was doing this just “to release the stress and tiredness.” Later on, as it usually happens, I let myself go: drugs of all kinds and colors, alcohol, random sex… I left a job before I really started it, I have not settled my issues with police supervision…For some reason I was ashamed to call Drop-In Center and to ask for help. Instead I have deceived myself by saying that nothing bad was happening to me…I was in an environment that I hated but knew very well. It is strange, but often people feel more comfortable in horrible but very familiar environments than in decent but totally unknown surroundings…

She also talks about what it's like to be on drugs:

When you are on drugs your brain stops working and you do not think about the consequences of what you do. At some point you start to become indifferent to whether you are in a prison or not and commit crimes easily.

So I have found myself down and out again. It was like a turn of demonic spiral. It seemed that I was doomed to be down. Doomed by whom? Doomed by myself!!! I did it myself! I transformed myself to be a slave to addiction, a terrible monster who lives without feelings and tears, with half-dead instincts and with a single desire to get a drug by any means.

I suddenly realized that I need to change something in myself. To be honest, not something but just everything. It is just not correct that while in prison you make glorious plans and feel full of energy to change your life, but when you are out of prison you start ruining your life again. I cannot really blame this on society or the economic crisis. I am responsible for this by myself.

After understanding this I had a strong desire to change myself and change the way I live. It is not my first attempt but I hope it is the last. I have just realized that I am wasting my life on something that is not worth it. I also realized that I do not have much time. Perhaps 9/10 of my life is already over but this last 1/10 of my life I can make different.

Once I read a book of a guy who is very much respected in my circle. I still remember one idea from his book. While sinking a person needs first to reach the bottom and then push off and swim up. Everybody has his own bottom. Lying down on the bed at a hospital very familiar to all HIV-positive people, I realized that I had reached my bottom and it is time to gather all my will and climb up if I do not want to become like some of my friends.

I understand that to climb up is much harder than to go down, but I have people around who support me and can help me if needed. My task though is to break the fatal circle.

If I have woken up today in a good shape, if I am able to walk, to see, to think it means I am lucky…I still have time to accomplish something and I believe that I can succeed if I rely on three main things on my way: to care about my health, interesting work, and the desire to not fall again.

1 comment

  • Lena it’s truly amazing to actually see someone like yourself over-come diversity, concur addiction and live to tell about it. What I’ve experienced in working with recovering addicts is that they can sometimes be under the impression that the story of their inner struggles with addiction can’t possibly inspire other people (that may be walking the same path as themselves) to want to change. However, it can for other addicts lay to rest any misconceptions about how easy it was for them to recover from such a life-treating illness, all the while being incarcerated. Revealing your soul on paper about day to day life issues can be a stressfull ordeal for any indiviual, let alone an issue that almost destroyed your very existence. I’m sure by physically finishing your book you subconsciously closed that chaper of your life, which not to many people rather less addicts can say. You are such a brave soul for not only bearing the insirmountible undertaking of facing your addiction but by sharing such a thought inspiring story. Now, it can finally be put it infront of the people who need it the most.

    – Mike Slinskey
    A New Day Rehab

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