Curing drug addiction: a spiritual approach
Late last year a religious order brother brought a former heroin addict to the Thomas More Centre to meet and speak to office staff about how her return to the Catholic Faith brought about a cure in her condition, when all else had failed. The following is her personal testimony, underlining her conviction that a religious dimension is a vital means for achieving a permanent cure for drug addiction.
I was 17-years-old when I first smoked heroin. The friend who introduced me to this died on Christmas Eve 1987 when he, and another nine people, accidentally shot up ajax.
It seemed so innocent to me at the time, many years before these things were to happen. It all seemed so friendly. I had never felt so good before - it was as if I didn't belong to this world any more, but had stepped into another. I felt so free, so alive, so in control, so happy and carefree, like a child again. I had met my partner for life, I thought. No-one or nothing would ever wrestle for my affection - for all my affection was lost in this.
My heart became detached from all human love; it was totally in love with heroin and how it treated me. It caressed my soul with gentle floods of warmth in an ecstatic union of love. I would run after it like honey, as one runs after the person one loves. It took all of my attention and I gave it the best years of my life.
In reality, my life was ruined as I became a relentless chaser of my own lost life. It had me completely in its fix by the age of 19 and then after that for another nine years. I felt as if I had lost my soul all of those years - as if I were dead. The only life I had in me was for that, and when I did not have that I had only deep, deep depression. A darkness would straightaway engulf me and leave me only what could alleviate my pain - heroin.
I entered rehabilitation centres so many times - even to Narcotics Anonymous. I went on a methodone program twice, but all was in vain. I began to see myself as a totally hopeless case. I would inject heroin twelve times a day from whatever time I awoke to about midnight every few hours. No-one's worries for me, no-one's good advice, no-one's sleepless nights could help or cure me.
In the end, God alone proved to be the instrument of my cure.
During the last four years of my use of heroin, I used to pray to God every time I injected myself. With tears in my eyes I would ask God to forgive me and not let me die - for I knew I had lost my free will.
God did answer my prayers. He came to me when I least expected it. He took me by the hand, showed me His heart and the love in it for me; He gave me another choice: life with Him; living by His commandments. And He showed He could deliver me before it was too late - for my fatal overdose was just around the corner. This, too He made clear to me.
I changed, not from any fear of over- dosing, but because I knew I was loved and saved already, even before I had taken the steps. I knew my Saviour had come to set me free and make me wholly belong to Him. I knew that there really was a power greater than all else and that I could become whole again.
Nothing was hard for me after that day. I prayed, I fasted, I confessed my sins, I went daily to church and was completely healed of all my heroin and methodone through prayers and novenas. I was made new again as if I had never ever been an addict. Only God could do that. Only God can make us whole again, just like the egg, the symbol of Easter wholeness - because Jesus suffered and set us free.
The egg is the symbol of my new life in God. My complete healing gives me hope for others. But they too must pray.
I know that the Church can help addicts, no matter how confused they may be. All things are possible through God.
I have in my heart a place for heroin addicts to come to complete restoration again. I know it can be done, for it is already happening in Europe.
A drug rehabilitation that really works will include a spiritual program, one that embraces all that the Church teaches. It will include forgetting about self and moving out to others, prayer, fasting, the sacraments and works of charity. Also essential, how to live a functional life again, learning all the basic elements, from cooking to visiting the elderly in nursing homes; from mending one's own socks to making beautiful things by hand and selling them; from learning to pray to growing vegetables.
Yes, it can be done; it must be done. And who will help put such a place together in each capital city and regional centre? Who will be the first to reach out?