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Ukraine: Advice for Friends and Families of Addicts

Ukrainian organizations working in the field of harm reduction often use their web resources to provide ongoing assistance to their clients and their families. The psychologists and social workers, who also are experts in the field of rehabilitation give useful tips to people living with drug addition on how to make the rehab process easier and advise the families on the correct steps to take to help their loved ones to overcome the addiction. The Rising Voices grantee Drop-In Center has continued providing an online newsletter called “Motilek” for its clients for additional support. They have embedded a copy of the newsletter on their project blog.

Title page of the 31st issue of 'Motilek' newsletter

The Director of the rehabilitation center, Iryna Romashkina, provides advice on what to do if a relative or loved one becomes a drug addict. She called the situation a “co-addiction” and urged the family member not to blame themselves. She wrote [ru]:

If you feel guilty on what has happened and you always ask yourself “What did I do wrong?” “Where were my mistakes?” you should know that even if you find a correct answer you would not help a drug addict or an alcoholic, but instead would end up harming yourself. The addict actually wants you to blame yourself constantly, so that they can easily manipulate you by saying “This is entirely your fault…”

According to Iryna, the biggest mistake the family member of a drug user can make is to start using drug as well. She noted (pdf format):

If you decide to go the same way and to try the drugs to make your situation easier or to better understand what a drug addict feels, you have to remember that this is a very dangerous trap. To get off drugs for both of you would be thousand times harder and, as our experience shows, it will be almost impossible.

Iryna speaks honestly about the issues and gives many other useful tips to relatives of drug users on how to behave to help their loved ones to overcome the abuse. She also emphasizes that alcoholism or drug addiction treatment is a life-long process. She wrote (pdf format) [ru]:

If you think that alcoholism or drug addiction is not curable, then you are not correct. It is possible to treat and to stop a chemical dependency, but yet one can not be cured totally. Those who went through treatment and returned to a normal lifestyle are called “recovering” not “recovered”. Recovering is a very long process requiring everyday commitment. Both alcoholics and drug addicts have to say ‘no’ for their entire lives.

In the recent post published on the blog of the Association of Substitution Treatment Advocates in Ukraine an activist from the Cherkassy Charitable Foundation ‘Inside,’ Oksana Likarkina advises how people living with drug addiction can find a new motivation which would help them to stop use the drugs. First of all Oksana analyzed the reasons why many people living with drug addiction did not try to change their lives for better. She wrote [ru]:

Может ли изменить свое отношение к жизни человек, который много лет проупотреблял наркотики? Мы встречаем работающих в организациях ребят-«выздоравливающих»наркоманов и социальных работников реабилитационных центров. И задаем себе вопрос: «Почему другие зависимые, уставшие от вечной погони за наркотиком, зачастую не делают серьезных попыток прекратить употребление?»

Итак, попытаемся разобраться почему же подобные «живые» примеры не вдохновляют многих потребителей наркотиков на реабилитацию или прекращение приема наркопрепаратов. Возможно вся проблема в неверии в свои силы или в нежелании что-либо менять? Вот какие причины зачастую называют потребители: «привык к такой жизни», «нет причин менять что-то», «жизнь почти закончена, у меня ВИЧ/СПИД», «жизнь плохая, работы нет, нет семьи», «пробовал, ничего не получилось», …, «нет денег на реабилитацию» и т.д. Психологи определяют это как защитные отговорки для себя и легко развенчивают причины: «попробуй другую жизнь, тебе же должно быть интересно пожить в трезвости», «многие только и начинают пересматривать свою жизнь после того как узнают о статусе»

Is it possible that people who have used drugs for many years to change their attitude to life? Working in an NGO and rehabilitation center we often meet ‘recovering’ drug addicts and ask ourselves why other drug addicts who are tired of the permanent search of drugs never make any steps to stop the drug abuse.

Let's try to find out why good examples of their counterparts do not encourage other drug users to go through a rehab to quit drugs. Maybe the issue is a lack of confidence and an absence of a desire to change anything? These are the most common reasons which drug users present: “we just get used to this lifestyle”, “I do not see any reasons for change”, “I am HIV positive and my life is almost over”, “my life is bad, I do not have a job or a family”, “I have tried but failed”… “I do not have money for rehab center”. Psychologists qualify this as just self excuses and easily debunk this reasons saying “try a new lifestyle, you might find a sober life interesting”, “many people reconsider their lives after they learn about their HIV positive status”….

Oksana noticed the sad fact that most of the drug users just do not believe that they could change their lives for the better, to reestablish relationships with the family members and to find a job. Many of them come to a decision to give up drugs after some shocking thing had happened in their lives such as a death of a fellow drug user, news about their positive HIV status, TB, or cancer. Some people living with drug addiction make a decision to quit drugs for the sake of a wife, children, mothers, but this could often lead to failures and frustrations as the enthusiasm to change yourself for the sake of somebody else often does not last long. But Oksana believes that for people living with a drug addiction it is still possible to change life for better. She wrote [ru]:

Стремление и желание жить иначе, занятие деятельностью, поддержка со стороны близких или знакомых, общение с Анонимными наркоманами или группой верующих, которые знают о проблемах с наркотиком, напротив дают хорошие результаты.

Самое главное – убрать ежедневную привычку искать наркотик и научиться занимать дни чем-то продуктивным,поверить в то,что сможешь жить без наркотика. Не стоит бояться срывов, поскольку вначале они есть почти у всех, главное – настроиться на успех и не бояться просить поддержку у кого-то из тех,кто раньше был потребителем или сможет помочь удержаться.

The aspiration and desire to have a different life, activities, support from relatives and friends, attendance of Drug Addicts Anonymous group or a Christian group where people are aware about drug addiction problems often brings good results.

The most important is to get rid of an everyday habit to search for drugs and to start doing something productive and start to believe that you can live without drugs. Do not be afraid of failures as at the beginning, almost everybody has them, but just be positive about success and do not hesitate to ask a support from those who used to be a drug user and could help to keep away you from drugs.

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