Social counseling and reintegration
The heart of our program is our day-center “Casa Alba”. It is the place where something is happening at all times. Casa Alba works as a “contact point” where new comers and other people in recovery can find an AA meeting and safe place to meet their non-drinking friends. The people in this program face social problems which include the of lack of basic necessities such as housing and nutrition. At our day-program they receive help with personal hygiene, washing and drying their clothing, are given new clothing if needed, and at least one hot meal per day. Besides this, we offer social work services such as helping our clients get their personal ID papers, finding a job, referral for medical attention, or finding proper shelter.
Some of the stories of our patients in this program are quite dramatic. Many of them have lost everything, including hope and the feeling of human dignity. Part of our goal with these folks is to help them gain back the feeling that their story is not over, that life can be worth living, and that if they stop drinking their life can make sense and they will find a place in society.
The core of our addictions counseling program is at the St. Pantelimon Free Clinic. For the first time, this year we have included in our counseling group people with food addiction, and pornography/sexual addiction. Our clients in the group where better able to understand the common spiritual roots of addictions, no matter what the specific behaviors are (abuse of alcohol, drugs (legal or other wise), internet porn, ect.). Through our approach, we treat the whole disease, and not only the symptom. Forty-five people used our outpatient programs in 2011, and they all have stories of renewed lives and of finding hope for a better future.
Unfortunately, addiction is a chronic disease that cannot be cured, and only goes into “remission” if the person addicted is living a “life in recovery”. Three of our group members died last year as a result of active alcoholism. The youngest being 36 years, another was 42 years. They were too young to die from addiction. I continue my work in Romania because I believe that the Church can play an important role in helping the still suffering alcoholic.
Working with the medical community
The staff and administration of the long term care psychiatric hospital in Borsa have been very supportive of our work there over the past few years, and requested us to work with more patients. They have also assigned a full time staff member for us to train as an addictions counselor. As a result, we now have in this hospital a group of 20 patients with dual diagnosis. That is, they have both mental illness and addictions problems. This is a huge step forward, as previously these patients were pretty much written off as hopeless. We believe that much of their “mental illness” will be more manageable with addictions treatment along side their treatment for mental illness. What they want most is to reintegrate back into the society . For most of them this is a difficult dream to have come true due to the complex social and economic problems they encounter in society. This, and the stigma of having a psychiatric diagnosis makes life quite difficult for them.
Our program in the tuberculosis sanatorium in Savadisla continues as it has over the past several years. A peer counselor and volunteer priest meet with our recovery group in Savadisla 3 times a week. This has been a very successful program, and we have helped several patients to leave the hospital and live in society. We also have daily meetings with the patients at the psychiatric hospital in Clujwho are admitted there for detox. In this hospital we provide information on the disease of alcoholism and recovery opportunities at Casa Alba.