Rehabilitation is just one step toward a new life in what is often an unwelcoming society

Members of the Therapy Centers for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA) recently went before a parliamentary committee to tell of their families’ struggles and appealed to them to urge the government to support the communities’ work, a selfless effort by people who may no longer be struggling against their own or their children’s addictions, but continue to fight for the cause. They warned that over the past two years, private rehabilitation centers had begun to demand at least 2,000 euros a month for treatment. Many of the delegates were parents of drug abusers. «My daughter began taking drugs at 16, but I didn’t realize it until she was 19. Now she has recovered, but not before reaching rock bottom,» said one parent. «My son fell victim at the age of 13, when his father and I split up. If his teacher had not warned me, I would not have known. He had another setback when he felt that society did not accept him,» said another. Zacharias B., a seaman, found out after 30 years that there was a problem at home. «I was dumbfounded. One never expects something bad to happen in one’s own home. I went to the Paremvasi center and I must admit that the process was very painful, particularly for the parents. We got over it, we ‘graduated,’ but when it came to getting back into the world, the world wasn’t there. At the center, the kids learn to tell the truth. But if you use the term ‘former addict,’ the state sees you as a pariah. Acceptance is easier for someone from Afghanistan, which produces nearly the entire world’s supply of heroin, than for an addict. If the laws aren’t made stricter for dealers, there will never be any real progress. Why isn’t there a special judge for drug addicts, as there is for soccer hooligans?» Evterpi A. spoke of her 22-year-old daughter’s rehabilitation at the Plevsi center. «A lot of good work is done at the community centers. Parents learn to accept their own responsibilities. We are to blame as much as society. Perhaps if I had known earlier, I would have woken up sooner and not three years after she started using drugs.» Evterpi thinks that the new law preventing transfers of students from provincial universities and colleges to towns where rehabilitation programs are available is unfair, and appealed to the deputies to review it. It was her own 26-year-old daughter who sent Theodora M. to the Ithaki center. «It was a very difficult program; it was I who received more support. If it hadn’t been for the psychologists, I don’t know what I would have done. Today I am all right,» she said. Angeliki M. (who was separated from her husband) was tipped off by the teacher of her 13-year-old son after he began writing compositions about how much he missed his father. Angeliki had no idea until then. The boy eventually joined Ithaki and successfully completed the program, but when he got a job, he was forced to leave when it was discovered that he was a former addict. «He got hooked again because things weren’t as he expected,» said his mother. «We are looking for somewhere to go outside the 10 square meters of the community center,» said Serapheim K., from the Argo center. «We are training parents.» It is only the families that truly experience the problem. «You can’t imagine what goes on in the courts; there are judges who take bribes,» he charged. Vassiliki M., of the 18 Ano (Over 18) center wants more attention paid to conscripts. «My two sons are all right now. One has been clean for over seven years. It was a struggle, but it wasn’t wasted. More incentives have to be given for rehabilitation, because these kids don’t choose alternatives. They get out of the hell of drugs and the streets and suddenly find themselves without a job. Their dreams are dashed,» she said. «My son was a ‘high-class’ addict; he was never arrested and it was he himself who applied to Paremvasi,» said Marina H. «It all hangs on social rehabilitation. These kids are victims of their families and of the state and need support. Why should there be a quota for employing repatriated Greeks, for example, and not for ex-addicts. Even as road cleaners, but steady work.»