Andrei Ștefan

From unbearable addiction to complete restoration

My name is Ștefan Andrei, I come from a Christian-Orthodox family and have been born and raised in Bucharest. The family I grew up in was middle-class, like many others, but I had a nice childhood together with two brothers and a sister. Until the age of 11, I was a normal child, respectful of God and with good grades at school. As my parents were mostly away at work, me and my brothers were raised mostly by our grandparents.

When I was 10 or 11 years old, I found out that my father had cheated on my mother, a discovery which troubled me and seemingly diminished my father’s authority, as I perceived it. At 12 years old I got drunk the first time and started to smoke. Claudiu, my older brother, had already started doing drugs, especially heroin. At 13 years old I also injected heroin, together with him and two other friends.

13 years of addiction have followed: heroin, alcohol, methadon, marijuana, we would only finish one to start with another, then ketamine, amphetamin, occasionally LSD. It wasn’t long until our younger brother also started doing drugs. When I was 20, ou parents had already divorced, I had dropped out of school and was having a pretty antisocial behaviour. The mirage of heroin had caught me and this became something I couldn’t live without. I started to steal, to cheat, to do anything I could in order to get money for drugs. I didn’t see or feel any real reason to live without that high. But these states came with a very great cost: health, education, money, freedom, and for many of my friends, even life. Because I needed to maintain my addiction, I started to sell marijuana, spending the money earned to buy more heroin.

At a certain point I wanted to quit heroin, I had started to earn a lot from selling marijuana and my life was becoming more extravagant. Clubs, parties, travelling abroad, always entertained by alcohol, cocaine or amphetamine. I thought that if I left the country for a while, I would finish it off with heroin, so I left for Spain, with a lot of methadone for detox, combined with alcohol and marijuana.

I was so caught in the chain of consumption, completely ruled by substances and I needed to give my body what it was asking for. It didn’t matter if it was heroin, cocaine, alcohol or other drugs, as long as I was high. I was trying hard to quit heroin, although I liked it the most. The pressure of the entourage and the costs were imposing. I went to rehab centres, psychologists, I got treatments, none of it had much effect on me. I left the country once more, trying to escape the addiction, but as soon as I returned, straight from the airport I went to buy heroin.

In the meanwhile, my younger brother had been arrested for drug trafficking. He had sold heroin, so at the age of 20 he received a 6 year imprisonment sentence — a shocking news, which made us rethink our position, but it was hard to resist the temptation either way. We were in a situation with no escape. Although we were trying many methods of quitting (me and my older brother), nothing would work. We were selling weed and consuming heroin. Dozens of used syringes were under the mattress of the bed we slept in. Our mother and father were completely down, no one would want such a faith for their children.

In 2012, because of accumulated debt towards the man I procured the marijuana to sell, I blocked all contact with him. My source of money had run dry, and what came next was my hardest year. Not having money for drugs, the withdrawal states were frequent and tough. I had become addicted to diazepam. Claudiu (my older brother) chose to leave the country, as we tried to part ways. Although we were getting along well, all we were doing together was drugs.

After a while, I started to look for the spiritual part. I was under treatment with methadone (a substitute for heroin) from the hospital. I had started to consume psychedelic drugs in various contexts, combined with spiritism sessions and meditation. In the meditation sessions, the experiences were either induced by drugs, or led by a person. One would always feel pushed towards feeling something.

Still, I was only feeling worse, physically and mentally. I had sold everything in the house, there was no more money left. I decided to go to rehab, I thought I could get back on my feet for a while. There, the same story: cocktails of pills which mostly kept me in bed, in a state of sleepiness. Because visiting was not allowed in my section, I could only speak to my mother through the bars of a window, as she was on the ground floor, and I, at the first floor.

My mother had started to go to an evangelical church and pray for us a lot. During one of her visits, she told me something that left me thinking. She said that I seem to follow the steps of Pavel, my younger brother, and that it’s a high chance that I would also end up in prison after rehab, if I go on this way. Being behind bars was the last thing I wanted, for my life. I came out of rehab after two weeks and started another treatment, with naltrexone, a more innovative medicine which acted on the brain receptors, without inducing any kind of mental state. It did have its risks or disadvantages. If you took heroin while under treatment, you were at high risk for a stroke, and if you stopped the treatment, the need for heroin would return. Which did happen. After about a month, I stopped the treatment, but returned to heroin the next day.

At the beginning of 2013, my mother was getting more and more persistent with her church. I finally accepted to go there once, I thought, I had already tried everything, what harm could this do? I would go to church that one time and I would at least make mother stop insisting on it. My expectations were low. I would go there, sit quietly on the bench, not understanding much of what they would talk about. But it wasn’t like this at all. I was shocked by the joy and sense of fulfillment those people showed, something was off, I was supposed to display that state because I was the one on drugs. How could anyone be so happy without consuming something? Then I went to church a few more times, and my need to consume was already on the decrease, it seemed like my inner need for something was starting to get fulfilled.

Another thing which posed questions was that, although the pastor’s message was different each time, I would always leave the church with one thought lingering in my mind: that Jesus Christ saves you. I was slightly disquieted by this thought until one Sunday morning, when I was sitting alone in my room and I started to pray. I wanted to pray to Jesus, although I didn’t know Him much outside of what I had heard from others. I prayed that He would enter my life and, if He was as the others told me, He would free me and take the lead in my life. I had lived for 26 years on my own and I was physically and mentally crushed, without a purpose and meaning in life.

I didn’t tell anyone that I had prayed, and the same day I went to church. After one hour of worship, the leader at front said that he would like us to pray for those with addictions, I thought that was very cool, because drug addicts are usually marginalised. I started to pray as well for my friends and everyone I knew, and I knew so many people controlled by addictions. Plus, the families of those who were no longer alive. I’ve had dozens of friends who died on overdose.

After we finished praying, the pastor asked: “Is there anyone here with us today who is a drug addict? If he wishes, he should come out front and let us pray for him.”. I came at the front, he asked my name, and then he told me:

“Andrei, today is the day that you have received absolution.”. It was the same day that I welcomed Jesus Christ in my life.

I thought this was all fantastic, no one knew about my prayer, it was something completely personal. After this, my life earned a meaning, I started to go to church often and, although the pressure to get high was still big, for the first time I began to hope that I can do without the drugs.

I received the fulfillment I needed. My life seemed to start making sense. Shortly afterwards, I found out about a Christian rehabilitation center — a place where I could gain power to overcome my problem. The power to stay away from something that had been governing my life, had kept me captive for over 10 years. Although I had received liberation from drugs in the church, I really needed the strength to stay clear and free. For a year and a half, I lived at the Teen Challenge center, I followed the programme for 3 months, and the rest of the time I did an internship, while learning to be strong in the face of drugs.
There were moments when I would only use water to wash myself, I had no money for shampoo, but I was happy. God had washed away my addictions, all my sins, I was like a newborn.

Then came the outreach, a day when I went with the team on the streets in order to reach out to other drug addicts. It was the first time that I got in contact, visually, with heroin, since my last dose. I felt a lump in my throat, my stomach cringed, but the fact that I could talk freely with those who took drugs and I could lend a hand (to help, this time) was incredible. God had put a purpose in me, to tell people about Him, about His infinite kindness.

Shortly afterwards, I met the woman who would later become my wife. Although I had nothing and I started this new life from scratch, God was very kind to me. We had a beautiful wedding, and not long after that we left together in a mission.

We went in a Romanian town where we worked with Muslim children from underprivileged communities. Delousing them, teaching them, preaching — these were the activities we carried on day by day. Although we were only paid for the food we needed, the joy of serving God was huge. After a year of mission, my wife got pregnant with our first son.

Luca was an immense joy to us and gave us the chance to reach a much more profound understanding of God’s Father quality. Although none of us had gone through higher education and I hadn’t even finished highschool, I was offered a job as manager in a restaurant, for a very good salary. This is where I currently work.

In the meantime, both my brothers turned their faces towards God and have been released from drugs. In 2019, I count 6 years of freedom from addiction and I have a life I didn’t dare dream of.

Three brothers, all addicted, then released and restored.

My second son is soon to be born, I have a wonderful life, full of challenges that I now face with the help of the One who has been with me all the time, Jesus Christ. I couldn’t fully express the happiness and fulfillment of being a free man. And I could never say any of these would have been possible if it weren’t for God. The story goes on…