Healing through faith, with the help of Teen Challenge

My name is Cătălin and I come from a Christian-Orthodox family. I have a younger sister and a family who has loved me since I was a little child. As the first born and as a boy, I was the spoiled one in my family, my grandparents used to spoil me the most. I used to get anything I wanted, and when I made a mistake or did only as I pleased, I usually faced no consequences.

At school, ever since the first grade, I didn’t earn a diploma because of my behaviour, I didn’t earn an A grade for behaviour, not even in my first year of school. But I liked mathematics. In the fourth grade, I was an olympic at maths, I even made it to the county stage. Once I entered the fifth grade, I started to skip school and opened the door to bigger problems in my life.

When I was a seventh grader, I broke into the school library, I stole many books and set them on fire. This was my first experience with the police. My parents paid for all the damage and thus, I got away with it. Ever since I was young, when I discovered the value of money, I loved it more than anything in the world. I started stealing, at first just change from my parents’ pockets, but in time I got to wanting more.

After the revolution, I started to steal more “professionally”: I broke into cars and shops. After a few years, a boy in my circle started to take drugs. At first I couldn’t understand why. He got high one night after we had stolen from a shop, we were supposed to share the prey, and he rolled a heroin cigarette. I asked him to let me try it, and he did. This was the first step on my long road of addiction.

I started to take heroin, at first every 3 or 4 days, but gradually I made it to several doses a day. In two years’ time, I went from heroin cigarettes to injectable. I didn’t know what addiction meant, but I was experiencing it, my body asked for more and more.
I started to steal from anyone. I was completely ruthless. I would steal from the house, from shops, from cars and even from my friends. In time I estranged myself from all my good friends, I was left with the “friends” I would take drugs with.

The problems with the police became more and more frequent. In 2003, I got arrested and imprisoned for 3 years, on account of stealing. Then, I thought that maybe while in prison, I could quit the drugs. I had tried before, when I was out there, to get clean by getting hospitalized, but after 2 or 3 weeks I would be discharged and resume what I knew best — stealing and drugs. It didn’t turn out as I had hoped, prison didn’t keep me away from drugs, because I got high while I was there as well. Not as much as outside, but the habit nevertheless continued.

After I got out of prison, I left for Italy, where I went on doing what I knew best: stealing and doing drugs. After a few months I returned to the country, determined to quit drugs. I had already lost too much: 3 years of my life, money, friends, almost my family. I replaced heroin with methadone, then with suboxone. In the meanwhile I met a girl who was everything I wanted: good, hardworking and beautiful.

While we were planning our wedding, I discovered ethnobotanical drugs, which once again started to destroy my life, while it wasn’t even fully recovered. I realised that if I continued with the drugs, I was going to lose my wife and any chance at a normal life. So I decided to get hospitalised again, and I met the Teen Challenge team. I heard stories similar to mine and I was determined to give it a try. If others had made it, why couldn’t I? So, I went to the center and even though at first I didn’t understand much of what was going on there, and even if it was hard for me, I didn’t give up my plan to change. One thing I did know: no change is ever easy and everything worthwhile needs sacrifice.

When I reached the 6 month mark in the Teen Challenge programme, as I saw and felt the changes in my life, I decided to quit the programme, thinking that I was already healed. This was the biggest trap that the devil had laid before me, because I was thinking that God wasn’t the one that made wonders in my life, I believed that I did it all by my own will. As I got back home, I gradually distanced myself from Jesus, I stopped reading the bible and going to church. It didn’t take long until I started doing drugs again. It was at that point that I realized the full extent of my weakness, and I understood that without Jesus, I quickly go back to my former self. I went back to Teen Challenge where this time I treated my relationship to Jesus in an entirely different way.

I was reading the Bible as much as I could and I wanted to know more about God. I started praying because I witnessed the power of prayer and understood that all the credit for the change in my life belongs to Jesus. Now I know the reason I received God’s good grace: I needed to be a living proof of His power and kindness. I believe that God’s plan for me is to get involved and help other people who are going through what I have gone through.

Today, I count six years of involvement in the Teen Challenge work and I thank God for the favour of serving Him in his wonderful work. Every day, I cherish the wonders and changes that God does in the lives of the boys here, at the center. And I witness God’s love in my life, especially as I look upon the people surrounding me, especially my family — today I have a three-year old son, a great blessing from our Lord.