For the last 30 years, Dom za Ovisnike Zajednica Susret has been successfully rehabilitating men suffering from substance abuse and addictive behaviours. Surrounded by nothing but nature in Croatia’s Slavonia region, members of IWCZ visited the house that is home to 30 men at a time who have taken two years off from modern society as we know it to focus on themselves and enter the path of recovery from their addiction.
In Croatia, there are approximately 8,000 registered addicts annually but as we know from our own observations there are many more suffering silently, afraid of the stigma attached to seeking help. On the day, we met with Director, Suzana, along with staff members and patients at the centre who were open and honest about their journeys.
Following a presentation of how Dom za Ovisnike Zajednica Susret has achieved a 70% success rate, crash course in what addiction is and how it involves all of us and what the NGOs plans are for the future, we were invited to assimilate with patients and their carers over lunch. It was one of the most humbling experiences, one very close to home.
Addiction is not discriminative towards race, religion, wealth or poverty, it affects people from all walks of life. Having suffered from my own demons with addiction with my battle to alcoholism (I am now two and a half years sober), I understand first hand the importance of having a support network, every step of the way in recovery.
Dom za Ovisnike Zajednica Susret was not only the first of its kind in Croatia, but also in Southeast Europe and currently also operates a detox centre in Split. There is no rehabilitation facility for women in Croatia, a lack of funding being the main obstacle. Patients admitted to the program have access to accommodation and access to Psychologists, social and counselling work, psychological help and support for family members, work therapy and occupational activities, healthcare, development of creative abilities, development of social and life skills and how to build new ways of living with substance abuse and on the odd occasion, the organisation is able to provide vocational training. Every patient joins on their own accord and has the option to leave at any given time. The centre functions on a “brotherhood support network” where patients who have been there longer take newcomers under their wing and guide them through recovery like brothers.
This is a charity that is devoted to teaching those among us who are struggling how to live, sometimes for the first time in their lives. It encourages one to look for the answers within and ask the very important question that we should all ask ourselves when we’re hurting, “why?” From that why they’re then able to build a stronger foundation in life and break the path of self destruction for good. Programs like these are important because they contribute to building a better society, one that is self aware, more loving and less numbing. To break free from an addiction is almost a miracle.
These boys are miracles and instead of attaching their existence to a stigma, they should be praised for their survival and fight for a better life.