Therapy through friendship: “My name is Maxim and I used drugs. This is not shameful”

UNDP in Moldova
Dec 10, 2020 · 8 min read

“My name is Maxim; I am 26 years old and I am addicted to drugs. I admitted it a long time ago. It took a long time for me to become a junkie*. I started using drugs since I was 10, even if I have a good family, who loves me very much and supports me. They gave me a good education, but I chose the wrong path and a toxic environment.

As a result, due to my rebellious character, I ended up consuming all things forbidden. It was trendy to smoke, so I was smoking; when the others started drinking alcohol, I did the same. I was always the youngest in the group and I was following the example of the older guys.

The worst thing that happened was that I fell prey to drugs. I liked so much this state of euphoria, the freedom that drugs gave me. When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, I already had a list of drugs which I would consume during classes, in my free time and even when my parents were at home. They never understood that I was under the influence of drugs because I knew how to hide the effects.

I succeeded in doing so until 2016 when they found out. It was a shock to them. I had a girlfriend at that time, and she could see that I was having this problem, but she couldn’t do anything about it, and we broke up. My situation became worse after that. I tried to run away from myself, run away from the problem, but I couldn’t escape, and, in the end, I came here.”

Maxim is a resident of the therapeutic community “Inițiativa Pozitivă” (Positive Initiative) for over eight months, even if he thought that he will be here for just a little while.

“I thought that I will be able to overcome my addiction in three months. But it was too little time because during the first three months you are only getting initiated. During this period, a person starts changing his/her habits, behaviour, and finally refuse to go back to the old habit of using drugs.”

Maxim feels that he is not yet ready to leave the therapeutic community and return home.

“I managed to overcome my addiction, but I am not ready for the city yet. When I passed through the gates, I realized that I don’t know what to do.”

Since 2005, a village in Anenii Noi district hosts a therapeutic community, which now consists of 16 residents. The costs for rehabilitation are covered by the beneficiaries and, when necessary, by the development partners supporting the community.

“I love freedom very much; I was always independent. I was always cooking for myself, washing the clothes; I never needed friends or acquaintances. But here you have to live in a family, in a large group, and it was difficult for me to adapt.

I was trying to create my own corner, which doesn’t exist here. I would say that this is my space: please don’t cross this line and I will not cross yours. And this is wrong.

Maxim went through all the stages of adaptation, from refusal to acceptance:

“You must overcome yourself. If you start to understand that you cannot use drugs any longer and that you are not allowed to do that anymore, this stage is easier to pass. Now I understand that I shouldn’t smoke, drink, that I should be an example for the people that are just starting the rehabilitation programme; I should inspire and motivate them.

This is a complex issue. It took a while for me to accept what I am being told. When I started to trust the people and the specialists, I opened up to the psychologist, which was very difficult to do.

Step by step, I started to have friends, as weird as this may sound — to create friendships in rehab. I am so happy to know them. They also struggle with their own problems, each of them has a unique story.

“Going through a crisis is a common thing in every person’s life. If a person goes through certain problems, we try to listen to them and help them, to understand the issues of their internal or external crisis. If we are not able to help them with our own efforts, we involve different specialists: social assistants, legal counsellor, psychologist,” tells us Vladimir Dodon, the coordinator of the therapeutic community established in Anenii Noi district.

“Every day, there is new life at the Centre. Everything depends on your activity for the day — you can be on duty, or you can just relax, you can help someone; there is a set of activities we do every day.

We start by having breakfast, then meditating, which is very important. Each day we dedicate at least one hour to motivating each other, to advise new residents, to support them, to share something positive, to create a good mood — this is very important for rehabilitation.

Then we have therapy through manual labour, which was difficult for me: how can I, a manager, work in the yard or clean after the quails?!

And this is how I started doing what I didn’t like a while ago, which is anything related to animals, as I was a city boy. Before, I couldn’t stand animals, but here I started to enjoy the process of taking care of them. It is like a cure prescribed by the doctor.”

Recently, within the therapeutic community, a social business was launched thanks to the support offered by the European Union. Thus, besides the accommodation and catering services, activities in the tent and outdoors, there is also a mini-farm with quails and hens, a barn with cows and a sty with pigs.

There is also a space for storing fodder and packaging lines for milk and meat products and quail eggs.

“We have high-quality products only, we never purchased additives or flavour enhancers. Our quails are fed with organic corn and wheat. To have quality and tasty products, we follow a few daily rules. We clean the spaces a few times a day, all the rooms are cleaned. As absurd as it might sound, even the floors in the barn are washed. This stimulates and disciplines us,” says Maxim.

The pandemic increased the demand for the products, says Vladimir Dodon, the coordinator of the therapeutic community: “All our clients are our partners, friends and acquaintances, and we provide them with our products. We also do home deliveries. At the beginning of the pandemic, people stayed at home, they didn’t go out, they were self-isolating. And we would deliver the products following all the safety measures.”

After all the daily chores are done, we end the day with the “circle of sincerity” routine.

“A day has passed, and each person went through different positive and negative emotions, maybe there were some conflicts, and everyone tells how their day went; they would maybe thank or apologize to someone. This is the time for one to share feelings, good and bad, and together we analyze these. It is a very useful tool for understanding the turmoil a person is experiencing,” says Vladimir Dodon.

Now, eight months since the therapeutic community in Anenii Noi became his home, Maxim imagines a different future.

The mini-farm in Anenii Noi was established and is maintained thanks to the personal involvement of the “Inițiativa Pozitivă” team members, the support offered by generous people and former residents, as well as the support offered by the development partners like UNDP Moldova, DVV International Moldova, with the financial support of the Government of Germany, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe, GIZ Moldova.

NGO “Inițiativa Pozitivă” is one of the UNDP’s strategic partners in the process of advocating for the elimination of the legal barriers which limit the respect and protection of the rights of people living with HIV and tuberculosis and of the affected key populations (persons who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, prisoners).

UNDP Moldova advocates for ensuring a legal framework compliant with the human rights standards which promote equal access to prevention, treatment, care and support services for persons who use drugs.

Text: Laura Bohanțova, UNDP Moldova

Photo: Ion Buga

* This wording is not recommended by the UN; it represents an exact reproduction of Maxim’s storytelling.

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