Bishop Methodius of Kamensk and Alapayevsk: At Least Half of Our Patients Reach Stable Remission

Bishop Methodius of Kamensk-Uralsky and Alapayevsk, who is in charge of the Coordination Center for Prevention of Drug Addiction of the Synodal Charity and Social Ministry Department, gave an interview to Russia Today News Agency.

- Your Grace, I heard that those priests who deal with drug addicts even once have to keep helping them throughout their lives. Is it true? Why did you start to help this social group?

- Not all the priests who encountered people suffering from issues related to substance abuse have devoted their entire lives to helping the addicts.

In my case, it was simple. I was a priest in a remote rural parish. Several new parishioners who were involved in helping drug addicts asked me how to help the drug addicts according to the Church tradition. I had to research this topic in order to be able to respond to their question. Finally, they arranged a meeting with three drug addicts for me so that I could get to know them. It was in 1990-1991.

We got to know each other but we actually began working with drug addicts only after the 1998 crisis. Our parish was remote, and people had to travel long distances to attend the services but then transportation collapsed and their travels were no longer feasible. We were merely hoping to remain priests and not to turn into stokers, night guards, and yardsmen. We recalled that we had met drug addicts, and we invited them to help us. They were helping us in the parish, and we started helping them to overcome their dependency. That was how it began.

- You have been helping drug addicts for many years. Who do you remember most vividly?

- Working with drug addicts is fun, you won't get bored. There are many talented and creative people among them. Sometimes, of course, we face difficult situations, too.

The first story was the easiest to remember. I remember the first drug addict whom they brought to us. We provided accommodation for him in a separate house. He worked with us, confessed, and led a sober life. My fear of drug addicts disappeared after I got to know him. He turned out to be a nice guy and was eager to play with children. However, his confession was frightening to hear. The things that he confessed to doing were really serious. It looked as if there were two drastically different personalities inside him - that was how he changed under the influence of drugs.

Now he's already dead because he couldn't stop drinking. Unfortunately, he couldn't move past it. It was not rehabilitation per se - it was just our first experience. He died like a Christian: he repented in hospital, asked everyone to forgive him, confessed, and then died. It was a Christian death. We pray for him and hope that he gets saved.

- Ninety-five percent of requests for help are said to be initiated by drug addicts' relatives. What about the addicts themselves? Do you have to force them into treatment?

- I can't say that drug addicts don't turn for help. You just have to reach out to them properly. Although there are not as many church-run rehabilitation centers as we need, we are capable of hosting many people. When drug addicts' parents come, we work with them, too. Substance abuse is not exclusively limited to dysfunctional families. However, the entire family starts to suffer from a spiritual illness when there is a drug addict in it. As a rule, if there is a drug addict in a family, people are afraid to talk about it or ask for help because they fear that they will lose their social status.

Our society is characterized by an extremely negative attitude towards drug addicts. Many people believe that they deserve to be isolated, suffer restricted access to basic human rights, instead of rehabilitation. Our society is more inclined towards building a system of punishment, instead of a system of assistance. If we start looking at drug addicts as people in trouble, rather than criminals, attitudes will change, and new laws will appear.

Drug addicts don't cry out for help because they expect to face huge repercussions instead of help. As a result, we often encounter drug addicts at a final stage of their dependency, when they have nothing to lose: neither health nor a family nor friends. It's as if cancer patients went to hospital only at the fourth stage. Even though it happens all the time, we often manage to cure such patients.

- Are there incurable drug addicts?

- When someone dies because of her addiction, we can say that she was hopeless but as long as she is alive, we can hope that she'll get well.

- Drug addicts who come to church-run rehabilitation centers often complain that secular rehabilitation centers don't help, while asking for too much money. Are church-run rehabilitation centers really so much better than secular ones?

- There are good and bad secular rehabilitation centers. There are bad church-run centers, which are not equipped with the necessary skills yet, and there are good ones. Of course, we can't say that all our church-run centers are good, while the secular centers are bad.

What church-run centers definitely don't do is exploitation. We do not get rich at the expense of drug addicts. Their relatives are often ready to sell or give away everything in order to pay for treatment. We do not indulge ourselves in it. We help selflessly. However, there are many centers which profit from treating the addicts. There are few successful secular non-profit centers out there. More often than not, they request either more or less adequate fees, or exorbitant ones.

Not all our centers are absolutely free: some centers require their residents to pay for accommodation and meals. Due to the fact that the Church is always ready to help those who stumble, if a person slips back into his dependence, we are ready to take him back. No fewer than half of our patients eventually enter stable remission.

- What makes church-run rehabilitation so effective? Why are many people who went through treatment in your centers reluctant to go home and try to live close to the place where they received help?

- Our centers are not isolated, they are not separated from the society. We do not force people to stay there - they are rehabilitated on the voluntary basis. When they live in a church atmosphere, people often start to go to church. Nonetheless, there is no coercion here - it occurs voluntarily and naturally.

There are four or five types of rehabilitation methods. Although we use best global practices, we prioritize rehabilitation in a church community over all other methods.

Certain church regulations, such as fasting, can be useful when working with drug addicts, too. Obviously, an individual who is capable of abstaining from certain kinds of foods can better oppose the yearning to get high and he is more likely to throw the drugs out of his life forever.

That's a fact that many people do not want to return to their native cities and towns after treatment. It is like in monasticism: as a rule, people become monks far from the places where they were born and grew up. It is much more difficult to start a new life in a familiar environment. Drug addicts also find it easier to move to a different location after rehabilitation. Even if they return home, they will need to find new friends, new jobs, and new hobbies.

- Some representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church suggest that the government should delegate some of its social functions to the Church. In fact, the Church manages to organize assistance to the needy better sometimes. What do you think about this idea?

- We live in a secular country, still. If the government makes this decision, it will face resistance of many organizations and individuals. We need to be able to justify the priority given to the Russian Orthodox Church over other organizations.

Of course, we hope that the government will support our efforts aimed at the rehabilitation of drug addicts. However, we should protect our smaller centers against being closed under the pretext that they do not meet official standards. Our rural rehabilitation centers might not meet the standards concerning living conditions. Officials sometimes criticize them for having pit latrines instead of flush toilets. In my opinion, pit latrines are better than death on the street.

We consider renewed interaction of the Synodal Charity Department with the State Anti-Drug Committee to be our top priority. Unfortunately, the interaction with the government at such a high level has been interrupted recently.

- What issues do church-run centers face most often?

- Our rehabilitation is free. That is why we have to subsist on little money, although we need to pay the staff well. We have no right to pay skilled professionals too little money: however, we have no money for that.

There is one more issue: we don't know how to advertise our services, how to show off. Our society tends to think that all expensive things are good, and that all cheap or free goods or services are worthless. That is why many successful church-run centers, which are almost or totally free, remain unoccupied: people simply lack information about us.

Beside that, our society has another problem. I recall traveling to an old lady by car in Soviet times. I stopped to buy a melon for her. The man selling melons gave us a melon for free because, he said, he could not accept payment from a clergyman. People in his native village deemed it inappropriate for a priest to live in poverty.

For instance, priests in our diocese live in austerity, especially given that they have big families: three children on average, and there are priests who have 10 or 11 kids. Their income, however, is meager.

Mass media almost never write about the good things but they contain plenty of information about some priests driving posh cars. On the other hand, surveys have demonstrated that people in our country trust the Church as a social institution to a great extent. Unfortunately, our mass media have become habituated to writing about failures, so when you read or watch the news, you come across too much negative information.

There is no shortage of cases of unworthy behavior but why publicize them? In my opinion, everything isn't as bad as it seems. When you get your information from the media and then go out and look at the world with your own eyes, things are different, praise God.

Source: http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4941536.html