Sasha’s entire childhood was blighted by alcoholism. When he was five his mother froze to death, too drunk to find her way back home. Shortly afterwards his father was sent to an asylum after stabbing someone in a drunken rage. When he left the orphanage where he grew up, Sasha became dependent on alcohol, which led him into a life of crime. He spent most of his late teens and 20s in prison.
“Realising that my life was turning out like my parents’ I lost all hope,” he recalls. “My body is full of the scars of numerous suicide attempts.”
Slowly blossomed in his heart
But then, in 1992, a fellow prisoner gave him a New Testament. It didn’t immediately change Sasha’s life but it planted a seed that slowly blossomed in his heart.
“The first time I read Scripture I felt disturbed,” he recalls. “I read the first six chapters of Matthew and then couldn’t sleep that night. The next day I returned it to my friend, saying, ‘This is a holy book and I’m a sinful man. I’m not allowed to touch it.’”
That first encounter with the Bible helped Sasha to get through some dark days ahead. While in solitary confinement he found himself praying words from the Lord’s Prayer, which he remembered reading. Later, he wrote to ask for his own copy of the New Testament through a program called, ‘The Gospel for every prisoner’. Although he wasn’t ready to commit himself to Christ he read his New Testament, particularly in times of trouble.
It took a dramatic situation and a lot of help from his Christian friends in prison for him to understand and accept God’s love for him. He was baptised, along with 18 other prisoners.
Free for the first time
“It was a great honour to die to my old life and rise to my new life of service to God,” he smiles. “While in prison I became free for the first time in my life.”
When he was released from prison, with the support of Revival Mission, a church-run organisation that helps addicts and alcoholics, Sasha started to share his story with other people. Today, he pastors a church and works with Revival Mission to help others whose lives have been destroyed by addiction. The mission uses Scriptures provided by the Bible Society of Belarus, which is committed to helping fight the scourge of drug and alcohol addiction.
“Unfortunately, the tragedy of Sasha’s childhood is not uncommon,” says Bible Society Executive Secretary Igor Mikhailov. “Alcoholism affects many families and the number of drug addicts here has increased sevenfold over the past 10 years, particularly among teenagers and young people. And intravenous drug use is closely linked to HIV – around 80% of injecting drug addicts are HIV-positive.
“More and more churches and other Christian organisations are getting involved in tackling this growing problem. We are supporting them by providing Scriptures, which are a key tool in helping people to break their addiction and discover a fresh purpose for their life.”
This Scripture-based approach, which is used by Christian-run drug rehabilitation centres and church-run programs in prisons, hospitals and other settings, is proving very effective.
70% success rate
“70% of our patients who complete the full cycle of rehabilitation stop taking drugs, have families and actively participate in church life,” says Averyanov, who leads a Christian rehabilitation centre in the Gomel region. “Having experienced the power of God’s Word in their lives, many of them share the Gospel with friends who are still drug users. Also, the patients’ relatives see the changes in their loved ones and want to find out about the Bible for themselves. Thanks to the Bible Society we are able to give them a copy.”
Another organisation, Mothers Against Drugs, told the Bible Society that the young people they speak to in schools about how to avoid addiction react very positively to the Bible.
“Almost all the young people we talk to in schools, colleges and universities have tried drugs,” notes Lidia Kotikova who heads Mothers Against Drugs in the town of Gorki. “We use drama and lectures to get them to think about addiction from a biblical perspective, and they find this very interesting. They tell us that they never had much guidance from their families. Many of them ask us for Bibles so that they can read it for themselves.”
Igor, who has led this Bible Society project for a number of years, says that he has been “personally amazed” to see the dedication of those ministering to addicts and their families, or teaching youth how to avoid addiction.
“Many of these men and women working in rehabilitation centres and other settings have burning hearts, having once passed through serious trials themselves,” he notes. “They are able to speak from their wealth of personal experience and help people to find the right path again and turn to God. This ministry is having a stunning effect, which I would not have believed if I was not witnessing it myself, over and over again.”
Read the testimonies below of a few of these former addicts who are now ministering to others.
The Bible Society supplies thousands of Scriptures to churches and organisations working to help people avoid and recover from alcohol abuse and drug addiction, but many more are needed. Please pray that it is able to provide Scriptures wherever they are needed.
“I spent 11 years addicted to alcohol and drugs. I had a daughter but I wasn’t involved in her upbringing. I was too busy destroying my life and going to jail. I realised that I was going to die if I didn’t do something, so I went to the Christian rehabilitation centre I’d heard about. There I experienced God and any doubts I’d had about coming off drugs evaporated. I went through the rehabilitation and also the program to help me reintegrate into normal life. I have my daughter back and I’m now helping alcoholics, drug addicts and their parents with mental and spiritual recovery.” – Mila*
“My parents were very caring but I started taking drugs because I wanted to be rebellious. My addiction nearly killed me several times and I only avoided prison through the intervention of Mothers Against Drugs, who got me sent to a Christian rehabilitation centre instead. It was only through God’s power that I was able to break free from my addiction. I now go to church and work with the rehabilitation centre, visiting schools to tell kids my story and help them avoid the mistakes I made.” – Alexy*
“I grew up seeing my mother and father constantly drunk. I had so much pain inside, which I dealt with by taking drugs in my teens. My mother became a Christian and invited me to church but I thought, ‘How can you find anything in religion? I’m fine. I can take care of myself.’ But then my mother died of cancer and I was diagnosed with a severe illness. I was told I’d be an invalid. I realised I was standing on a precipice. I went to the ‘Right to Life’ rehabilitation centre and God immediately started working in my heart, destroying strongholds that had held me captive for so long. In Jeremiah 33:3 God says, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you don’t know about.’ I see it in my life. I am now working in the rehabilitation centre and have been blessed with a wife. I can testify that ‘He who promised is faithful’ (Hebrews 10:23). – Pavel*
“I grew up seeing debauchery, discord and death, and I liked it. I was cynical and constantly in conflict with other people. But at the same time I felt a void in my life, and drugs filled it. Everywhere I went I had plenty of money, women and drugs. I could find drugs anywhere. Then one day I injured myself and my mother asked me to please go to a rehabilitation centre. I didn’t want to disappoint her so I went. There I learned about Jesus and realised that he was exactly what I’d been missing in my life. I understood that drug addiction was not my only sin. I repented and, with God’s help, I am trying to become a new man. If it wasn’t for learning about God in the rehabilitation centre, I would be dead.” – Vitaly*
Click here to read a blog about a visit to a rehabilitation centre.