A story of recovery: United by common pain and common joy


Mother of God the Inexhaustible Chalice

Thursday is a special day for the members of the Road to Christ support group for those whose relatives suffer from various addictions (alcohol, drug, or video game). They push aside all their daily routines and come to St.Elisabeth Convent from various neighbourhoods of Minsk. On entering, someone greets the group as though they are her friends and relatives, united by common pain and common joy, however strange this may sound. Someone else has come here only recently and feels uneasy and uncomfortable, not quite sure why she, not her ill relative, has to attend that group.
I came to a meeting dedicated to the first birthday of the Road to Christ group. That meeting was a special one. It was important for the participants to be able to speak honestly and openly about the results of the first year of the group's existence. They recalled some memorable moments, shared their impressions, summed up the results, planned for the future, wept and laughed together.

"…I Thought She Wouldn't Pull Through…"

Irina was the first to start. She has attended the Road to Christ group since the early days of its existence. She had known Tatiana Makarova, the group's facilitator (they had previously attended another support group together). When Tatiana told her that a new group was soon to open in St.Elisabeth Convent, she was very excited and did not doubt, even for a single moment, that she needed to go there. By that time, she had learned the hard way that such support groups are a must. Each person chooses a group that suits her best.
Irina recollects, "My daughter is addicted to drugs. My doctor advised me to go to one such group during a difficult period in my life. He told me that I would certainly feel better; the only thing I needed was courage. I felt so very depressed at that time! It seemed to me that I would never be happy again. We went to a meeting of that group together: my husband, my son, and I. I was shocked since the very first moments: many people turned out to have difficult situations like mine. I saw several addicts, and some recovering addicts who managed to change their lives. No doubt, such groups are necessary for people to realize that they are not the only ones who are in such a trouble. One needs these groups, these attentive, concerned and experienced people, their help, advice and friendly hugs in order to be able to help herself and her dependent relatives.

When I learned that my daughter was into drugs, I grappled with that painful discovery for two months, I could not help crying all the time. My daughter felt relieved because she no longer had to conceal anything. Terrible and unthinkable things were going on in our life! Our daughter and her husband who was an addict, too, were no longer shy of anything. I keep asking myself whether they were human at that time, whether they were worthy of that name at all. They tried to seek medical assistance several times but they either did not come to the hospital at all, or did not finish the treatment.
My daughter quit a well-paid job; her husband was jailed for robbery. I recall one of my acquaintances say very important but literally painful words to me, "It would be mean if you don't use strict measures towards your daughter." I could not get it for a long time: how can I, a mother, do harm or even be mean to my child?
I am grateful to our Road to Christ group. It has taught me a lot. They explain how we should behave with our dependent relatives: for instance, how to coexist with a drug addict, how to help them fight their illness, how not to enable their drug use. I have changed — and my entire family has changed a lot, too. I have learned to live with God in my heart, to enjoy life; I have learned to build better relationships with my relatives. Most importantly, my daughter is recovering! She has gone a year without using drugs, and she helps other addicts to overcome this deadly passion, too. I am so proud of her! Every day without drugs is a huge victory for her. She has gone through so much! Our recovering children are so robust, so beautiful, so attentive! They hurry to help as soon as they learn that someone is in need. My daughter visits her husband in jail. They struggle against this dreadful vice together.
I want to improve and become a better person. This is why I attend this group — my other family — every Thursday. This is why I learn to accept my weakness and trust God, hoping for his mercy."

Focus on Yourself

Ekaterina began by sharing her impressions of a training session held in the group by psychologists. Thanks to this session, she managed to see many things differently.
"My week has been remarkable!" she says. "I came to realize that we often don't think of what others want or need; we do not ask them about it, thinking that we know better."
Disaster hit her trouble-free and well-established life like a thunderbolt. One day she learned that her son took drugs. It was a painful and shameful finding. She did not know where to run with her despair, how to deal with it, how to live with a drug addict.
Ekaterina went to one such support group three years ago. She had thought that no one else in the world had faced the same horror. She did not understand why she needed to go there at all: it wasn’t her but her son who had the problems. She just wanted to sit in the corner and listen to other participants. The meeting, however, did not go as she planned. Each participant honestly and sincerely shared their very personal experiences, their grief and pain. She also opened up her soul, burst into tears and felt relieved. The members of the group hugged her and said comforting words. These people who had similar experiences could understand everything at a glance. They shared their own methods of getting rid of co-dependency. She was happy to talk with some mothers whose children had managed to overcome their drug dependency. At last, she felt there was a hope that everything would be fine in the end.
"When the relatives of an addict hear that they also need to improve, to change their own attitudes, most find it hard to accept," Ekaterina says. "I know that from my personal experience. However, it is essential to be able to cope with the nightmare of living with a drug addict. We got a lot of things wrong in our life even before my son started taking drugs but I did not notice that: on the contrary, I thought everything was fine.
Church in Honor of the

Mother of God the Inexhaustible Chalice

I have attended the Road to Christ group for a year already. I had attended the akathist to the Inexhaustible Chalice icon of the Mother of God in St Elisabeth Convent every Thursday, so by the time I learned that an Orthodox rehabilitation group for the codependent was to be opened in the Convent, I had already been aware that neither we, nor our children could do anything without God. I saw how it all began — it seemed so difficult to get the group going… With God's help, a year has passed since that time. I have learned many important things here. Most importantly, my son is recovering. We all are happy that our children gradually break free from their pernicious dependencies and that we manage to pull through these hardships together. Being at peace with oneself is both simple and difficult. The Road to Christ group has become a part of my life. I want to recover and grow together with everyone else in this group."
Honestly and Wholeheartedly
"Our suffering is an encounter with God," Anna believes. "God sends us trials to make us rethink our lives, become closer to God and our neighbours, our families, and understand ourselves."
Anna's home was also affected by this disaster: her son started drinking heavily. The strong and resolute woman soon learned that it was impossible to struggle with her son’s alcohol dependency on her own, however hard she tried. She would feel only unbearable strain, fatigue, constant anxiety and fear.
Anna recalls, "My son would drink for several days. After a short break, he would go on a binge again. I went to a twelve-step group first, and then to the group in St Elisabeth Convent. My soul was relieved and revitalised when I met and talked with other people like me. I felt that I was not alone. The very fact that you can tell someone what you think and feel without being afraid that they would get you wrong and reply that you are to blame for all that, is crucial. We did not raise our children to be alcoholics or drug addicts! We did not teach them to drink alcohol or take drugs.
After a meeting, I always feel better, happier, and hopeful. We pray together, learn to improve, to love and to help our special ones in a meaningful way. It is tough sometimes. When someone tells her story and what is going on in her life, you cannot help taking her pain and suffering to heart. Psychologists advise us on the ways to build our relationships with our dependent relatives and to avoid codependency. First of all, you should heal yourself. For instance, you should quit trying to change others. Recently, my son has gone through a course of treatment. I thank God that he is alive and that he is on the road to recovery!"
Anna did not have an opportunity to attend the group meetings in the last two months. She had this long break for the first time. It made her understand just how much the group meant for her and how she missed it. Here are her sisters, the people who understand her well. It must be noted that the group does not follow a rigid program: it follows the flow of the soul and the heart…

Everyone who came to the meeting on that Thursday had the chance to speak. Their stories resembled confessions. Each of the stories was imbued with so much sincerity and emotion that it was absolutely impossible to remain unmoved listening to these mature people willing to change their lives, to grow and become better and holier. Nowadays, they are always busy on Thursdays. It is on this day of the week that they make their next, albeit small, steps on the road leading up to God.

Moleben w/Akathist to the Mother of God the Inexhaustible Chalice

By: Tatiana Shimko