One of our regulars describes his experience of Havilah:
When I first went into Havilah I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t that I had a certain idea of what waited for me when I entered – it was more of the fact that I was a drug addict who until just before was shoplifting to feed my habit. Because I had stopped shoplifting all of my money was going on feeding my habit and I was not taking proper care of myself.
When I first went into Havilah I was unsure of how I would be received as I hadn’t been to a church for 16 years and really didn’t know what would be expected of me from the volunteers that ran the service. As it turned out I had nothing to worry about as the people that were there were really nice and caring (which was a pleasant change to what I was used to dealing with because the people that I had been hanging out with recently could not be fully trusted). There was no pressure on me and before long I had made a couple of new pals that I could speak to and not be judged.
I know from personal experience that going into a church for any reason is not the trendiest thing to be doing when there is so much other things to be doing with life. I have been going to Havilah for near 5 months now and a bit more settled in my life. In this time there has been other folk that have had heroin problems that have gone along and these folk had mentioned a desire to one day go to rehab and get on with life without drugs. Once their wishes were known they were given good advice and three of my friends are now getting the help that they wanted without all the palaver that is usually experienced with trying to get into rehab. It is a year long commitment and the letters that I have received have all been positive. I myself have been offered the chance to fill in an application form but I feel that I can beat my problems without going away but it is nice to know that the option is there if I change my mind.
To anyone thinking of changing direction with their life or just wanting something to do three times a week then they can always pop their heads into St Andrew’s Church, when it is open. They will always be welcomed with a cuppy and a warm smile.
This section by our Havliah leader, Jim McLeod, is based on conversations with one of the young men who have made Havilah their home. Give thanks as you read this that this particular young man (and there are others like him) is finding hope in life through the Havilah ministry…hope that had been entirely lost to him. He is currently free from drugs and is doing well. Of course, it is never easy and there is a long road ahead of him but he has made a start and for that we can rejoice.
Just when you think that life is going along just fine it has a nasty habit of throwing up complications and difficulties that at times you feel you just cannot cope with. That is when the door of temptation is opened and, just like Adam in the Garden of Eden, so called friends encourage and tempt you to do what you know is wrong.
There is just no way of getting away from the similarities of Adam’s experience with Eve and the serpent. The temptation continues with the dealer offering the drug free of charge because he is “concerned for your wellbeing”, until little by little your defences are broken down and you accept your first hit of heroin and start on the slippery slope of addiction.
Adam blamed Eve who in turn blamed the serpent. It is all too easy for us to join in with Adam and Eve in this blaming game, pointing our finger at people who are trapped in the despair of addiction and saying that they are the reason for much that is wrong with society today. If we step back and look at people through the eyes of Jesus, it is easy to see God’s beloved children who are all special to and loved by Him and, therefore, is it not essential for us who profess to be Christians to reach out a helping hand to enable God’s children to get back on their feet? Did the Lord Jesus not say that a doctor does not come to heal the healthy?
Once you are hooked you are pulled into a horrible world full of desperation and crime, and because of this and the stigma that the world has placed on heroin use, you lose all self-respect and dignity. This forms an ever decreasing circle which continually gets harder and harder to break free from. Heroin users are, on the whole, looked on as modern day lepers with people preferring to cross the street rather than walk past one. This then contributes to the feeling of self-loathing and worthlessness which helps to drive a deeper wedge between yourself, family and real friends which then impacts on the loneliness resulting in a deeper desperation which returns to the self-loathing again.
The cycle is not just on the relationship side – there is self-loathing because of the actions of the addict in their pursuit of the drug. The drug is all consuming and takes over all rational thoughts compelling the user to do whatever it takes to be able to buy a bag. This restarts the self-loathing process because once the user has had his hit his conscience kicks in again enabling the realisation of what he has done and who he has let down to secure the heroin. Heroin becomes more important than life itself which is the root of many overdoses because users are more worried about protecting their drugs than ensuring medical attention is called for in the case of an overdose. This is not because users do not care for others or that they do not want to help. It is because they are completely consumed with the need to protect their heroin because by this point heroin is life and nothing else matters.
All users will from time to time decide to try and stop their habit. This is without fail because they absolutely hate the way they are living, but heroin will not give up its grasp on the user without an epic fight. Initially there are the “rattles” i.e. the physical withdrawal which is extremely painful causing convulsions as the body begins to restart its digestive system, bowel movements and all the other natural movements of the body that have stopped due to the heroin. The pain of this is magnified by the fact that a heroin user’s natural pain killing system has been shut down because of the large amounts of opiates they have been taking. This is, however, the easy part of stopping heroin use – believe it or not. The physical pain, as excruciating as it is, is nothing compared to breaking the psychological addiction which is constantly and relentlessly urging the addict to have another hit.
If a user does secure a place on a drug rehabilitation programme there are pressures and pitfalls that go along with the programme. The user will normally be given a methadone prescription with regular checks to ensure they are not topping this up with any other drugs and, because of the fragility of the user’s mental health, this seems like too much pressure resulting in them coping with this in the only way they know how – another hit of heroin. This takes us back to the unthinkable cycle of self loathing.
At Havilah we display the love of the Lord, welcoming and treating all who come through the doors as humans and equals. Do not get me wrong – this does not mean that we will instantly trust that everyone will be entirely honest with us, but we will give them the benefit of the doubt and forgive any mistakes that may be made. Because of this, we can build trust, both our trust in the friends we make and in our new friends’ ability to know we will always treat them with respect and never judge them for who they are or were. This then allows the support of people with addiction who have told us “If it weren’t for Havilah I would still be using drugs.”
This shows that when we trust in the Lord and follow Jesus’ commandments to love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbour as you love yourself, anything is possible. Today, new friends who have been welcomed into our fellowship – tomorrow, world peace? Who knows how much we can achieve when we all play our part in this Christian life of ours, because it is not a life of stillness, it is a life in all its fullness.
This section is written by Karen Reaney, one of our Havilah volunteer team with a direct experience of what it’s like for the families of those caught in the spiral of addiction.
Every drug addict is someone’s son. Every drug addict has left a broken heart behind by breaking their own lives. Prisoner 94101 is known to many in the church. He hasn’t been seen around for over 3 years, but for two and a half years he was familiar to you and part of our church family.
He was also a big part of my family. He was one of my foster sons. He was well loved by us all, but he had an unfortunate family circle. Going back to that family circle, after care, led to drug addiction. Despite my spending two years trying to get through to him about all the risks of drugs, knowing what he was facing, he jumped in with both feet. He began injecting heroin.
If you read Jim’s account above, based on conversations with a drug addict, you will learn a part of what their life is like. The drug gets priority; it has to, because they are addicted. It is not a drug where you can get up in the morning and say “I’ll just stop this today”. It controls your life, not the other way round. Imagine your teenage son phoning from a bail hostel, totally hooked on drugs, wanting money for drugs. It is a Sunday afternoon. He is in the hostel for offences relating to drugs – mostly shoplifting.
You cannot give him money for drugs because that would be just wrong. You phone all the drug agency help-lines only to find that everything is shut over a weekend. There is nothing anyone can do for him. To be accepted on a programme there is at least a three months waiting list. The boy is left with three choices: try to suffer unbearable pain; go shoplifting; borrow money. What is the most likely option? Unfortunately it is theft that is left being the only way out he can see.
A mum still loves her son. A mum knows it is the drug that is the problem and not their child. Their child has disappeared in a haze of heroin. A mum would want you
to know that she loves her son. A mum would want you to love her son. When drugs get a grip on her child, a mum would want you to know that any effort at cutting down, getting on a programme is a cause for great celebration. The mum is proud that her son is trying. Small achievements probably cause more pride than anything they could have done at school. Seeing a child get clean, and it is only a small percentage, causes the best feeling for parents; better than any work they could ever do. A mum doesn’t want to see people shun their kids or cross the street to avoid them.
Prisoner 94101 is currently in Perth Prison awaiting sentence on several charges, mainly shoplifting. Most addicts will try every route possible before moving into the
criminal route. They are not criminals by nature. Sure you have to take precautions around them for the protection of yourself and your family, but you don’t have to make it obvious either. You just don’t leave temptation in his way. Don’t give him money, your money is buying drugs, do you want that. But hey, you help meet their needs. You can give toiletries etc, just don’t buy anything that is valuable and can be sold. They will be more devastated than you if they do it, but it’s hard to believe. Again it’s not their choice to do this, it is the drug that is in control.
Over time, I’ve got to know a lot more drug addicts in Havilah too. I’ve learned more and more not to put them in boxes. They are all people. Like 94101, they are someone’s son or daughter. They couldn’t feel worse about themselves as it is, without us judging them. Boost their morale by caring and you will go much further toward helping them help themselves than you ever could by judging them. Judge them and you confirm that they are right in how badly they see themselves. I could go on and on. I love my foster son still and would like to believe that all those that cared about him before still would too.