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Art helping drug users detox November 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness.
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The 18 Ano rehabilitation center holds classes in music, painting, theater and literature > Every bang on the drums, every chord strummed on the guitar is like a call to a new life, free of drug dependence, for many young members of the 18 Ano rehabilitation group.

Members of the 18 Ano rehabilitation group are finding freedom from drugs with the help of art. Former users are piecing their lives back together again, breaking the grip of dependency. Through music, theater, literature and painting, they are healing their wounds and getting closer to beginning their new lives. Gogo, Dimos, Maria and Christina demonstrate that they have the strength to replace their dependence on drugs with the new, creative and liberating habit of art.

“Everything has changed; it was difficult, but there was a lot of will power. In the music group I found joy and pain again. I had got to the stage where I didn’t feel anything, and now that I am singing and writing music, I think that lost feelings are started to stir again,” Gogo, 26, said.

She has been in the 18 Ano social reintegration group for the past five months. Born in Hania, she started playing the Cretan lyra, a string instrument played with a bow, at a very early age. By the time she was 11, she had started taking drugs. Her father was an alcoholic, her brother and uncle were both drug addicts. “It was almost inevitable. My family and friends were users. At some point I felt psychologically exhausted and sought treatment. Now that I’m clean, I feel ready to take up the lyra again, and to work on my expression in the theater group.”

Dimos, 27, has spent 10 months in the rehabilitation program and experienced countless breaths of freedom in the art groups. He is keen on painting. “I feel free. I’m glad that I have managed to feel. When I’m in a good mood, I paint landscapes. When I feel lousy, I paint people.”

He will never forget his first day on the program when the counselor asked him, “Do you talk to Dimos at all?” he was astonished, and answered, “I’m not crazy enough to talk to myself.” Now, however, “I realize that when I don’t talk to myself I’m not well. I used heroin from the age of 13. I had a heart problem; I even had an operation. When I heard my mother say that I had to have more tests, I thought I was dying. It was then that I decided to start taking drugs so I wouldn’t think about anything.”

After five years at 18 Ano, Maria is completing the process of reintegration. She always has a smile on her face and talks with passion about music. “I used to play the harmonium and the flute. Then I gave it up, when I got into drugs. It was a time when I didn’t want to feel intensely. I was scared by strong feelings. When I got into the program’s art groups, I began to find myself again. Music, especially singing, makes me happy and satisfies me. Whatever I feel, I now express it in music.”

It’s never to late to fulfill a dream one missed by taking the wrong path. Christina, 25, decided to start again and to finish the drama school course that she had left halfway through.

“It was the first thing I thought of when I joined the 18 Ano theater group. I used to study at the Diamantopoulou school but I gave it up because of the drugs. I had a lot of family problems, but what won me over was curiosity. I ended up in prison. But now I feel very satisfied because I’ve been clean for 380 days. For the first time in my life. At the moment we’re working on Aeschylus’ ‘Eumenides’ and at every rehearsal I can feel a lot of things from my life coming out. Honestly, without these groups, the attempt to get off drugs would be very difficult and monotonous. But now I’ve gained a lot. I’ve improved my voice and movement; I feel more comfortable with my body. I think I’ll be ready to re-establish my relationship with my family at long last.”

Psychiatrist Katerina Matsa, scientific director of the 18 Ano program, talked about the role of art in rehabilitation. Art, says Matsa, “helps people who have difficulty expressing themselves in words or being creative to find a way to bring to the surface the burden that they have experienced as pain, to get close to others and to share ideas and feelings. Art in all forms is a form of mediation which helps emancipate people and free them from the bonds of substances.”

The 18 Ano art groups have been in regular operation for 10 years, and a study of the group shows that thanks to art, almost 70 percent of the drug users are rehabilitated.

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