6525Re: [orthodox-synod] A Monk Treats Addicts With a Dose of God
- Oct 1, 2002Thank you, for posting such good examples of those who are struggling for the faith in Russia. It is good to see that some are willing to point out the good things happening in Russia and not just the shortcomings.
I would also like to bring to your attention the life of a priest in Russia. This priest was an example of an Orthodox Missionary. With his own hands he built several chapels and churches in the Altai mountains and helped to found a monastery. My college Orthodox Studies classmates and I had the oppurtunity to meet him and his pious family in 1997. If I remember correctly he was a driver in the Ukriane and was drawn to the priesthood. He was ordained and served several years in the Altai region. His family lived in a rustic log shack, kept farm animals and raised thier own food. Something from right out of an 1800's travel log. Beside thier shack was a small log church which was graced with icons saved from the Bolsheviks. The bells where old tire rims and the candles where made on site. We had to walk several miles to get to his farmstead and were greeted with pickled mushrooms, pickled green beans and heavy rye bread with honey, which was collected by the family. Father Alexander blessed us all with Holy Water for our journey and served a Molebin on our behalf. Father was overjoyed with the Russian Youth Committee books and calendars that we brought for them. Exspecially the writtings of Met. Phillaret. As we traveled in the region around Barniul we saw several of the chapels that he built with his own hands. Churches and Chapels seemed to be going up everwhere. He was a great example to all of us who met him. A year or so later I recieved the sad news that Fr. Alexander had died from complications caused by a fall while contructioned a log chapel. My retired professor will be sending more information about Fr. Alexander, which I will pass on to all of you.
Please remember in your prayers the soul of the servant of God, Fr. Alexander. (A humble but zealous priest.... a priest under the MP)
Rdr. Tikhon (St. Panteleimon's, Minneapolis)
byakimov@... wrote:Published in the Moscow Times, September 27, 2002
A Monk Treats Addicts With a Dose of God
By Oksana Yablokova
Hieromonk Anatoly Berestov
MOSCOW, September 27, 2002 (MT) -- Anna Ivanova injected her first heroin
at the age of 18 at the urging of her boyfriend, a drug user of six years.
She spent every day of the next 18 months obsessing about finding her next
fix. She overdosed twice and received a suspended sentence for theft.
Then she met Anatoly Berestov, a doctor-turned-Russian Orthodox monk who
treats drug addicts with a heavy dose of religion. Her mother dragged her
to Berestov's St. John of Kronstadt rehabilitation center.
"I thought all that praying and the church was not for me," said Ivanova,
23, her long blond hair covered with a scarf according to Orthodox
tradition. "I thought it was something for grandmothers, not young people
But after six months of prayer, confession and other religious rituals,
Ivanova became one of the 3,000 young addicts whom the center has helped
rehabilitate since opening in 1998.
When Berestov threw open the doors of his center at the Orthodox church's
Krutitskoye Podvorye compound, he wasn't planning to help people like
Ivanova. Berestov, a neurologist who headed the pediatric neurology
department of the State Medical University, quit the post in 1996 for a
ministry reaching out to the young followers of totalitarian sects, which
were widespread in the 1990s.
He quickly learned that many sect members were addicts.
"We realized that many victims of sects -- especially those involved in
Satanic groups -- were suffering addictions to hallucinogens," Berestov
said in an interview.
He said addicts without ties to sects started flocking to the center as
word spread about the free treatment. The program is financed by private
donations and three Orthodox shops.
Berestov, other Orthodox clergymen and volunteers counsel 10 to 15 patients
every day. He said 82 percent of those treated are living drug-free two
years or more after completing therapy, a sharp contrast to cure rates of
25 percent to 30 percent at nonreligious rehabilitation centers.
"We believe that drug addiction is the result of a sinful lifestyle rather
than medical problems alone," he said, adding that some patients have
turned away from drugs after their first communion.
Being a doctor himself, Berestov firmly supports conventional drug therapy.
Patients admitted to the rehabilitation program must be drug-free for least
10 days after going through a medical treatment at a public clinic, which
he calls the first stage of treatment.
Immersing participants in religion is the core of the rehabilitation
program, isolating them from their familiar drug-filled lives, Berestov
To that end, Berestov sends some patients to work and pray in monasteries
in the Tula and Yaroslavl regions. Ivanova spent three months in a
Yaroslavl monastery at the start of her rehabilitation.
Others are sent to farms, where they plant crops, tend cattle and cook.
Those who wish to remain in Moscow spend their days helping out at the
While doctors implementing conventional drug therapy programs consider
addicts drug-free after a year, Berestov said he believes his patients are
drug-free after two years, "to be on the safe side."
Drug use has grown rapidly in recent years across the nation, and President
Vladimir Putin ordered the government this week to draw up anti-drug
measures. Putin also ordered the creation of a new drug enforcement agency
under the auspices of the Interior Ministry to coordinate the country's
He put the number of drug users at 3 million, although some experts say the
figure could be as high as 5 million.
Berestov, who has helped to set up similar Orthodox treatment centers in
several regions, said young people living in wealthier areas like Moscow
are more at risk. Those in poorer regions tend to turn to alcohol, which is
cheaper, he said.
The average age of Berestov's patients is 22, and the youngest are 17.
The center's goal is not only to help addicts kick the habit but to
introduce them to the Orthodox faith, Berestov said. Baptism is not
mandatory, but those who take the program usually do get baptized, he said.
Artyom Polgov, a 23-year-old who has been off drugs for 18 months, has no
regrets about his addiction, saying it was how he was led to God.
"Now every new day is like a miracle to me," he said, beaming.
He has finished his rehabilitation and works at the center as a driver.
Ivanova also chose to stay at the center, where she works as a secretary.
She said her experience and the road to recovery has set her apart from
many of her peers. "Former drug addicts look at the world differently," she
said. "They treasure all of the simple things around them."
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