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KAIFA CENA ⟩ "A friend overdosed next to me." The story of Jānis Skrastiņas

High is a dose of drugs, narcotic intoxication, a set of pleasant feelings caused by the effects of drugs and alcohol, reports "Tezaur". It is clear that the price of a kaif cannot be measured in money alone. And everyone pays – addicts, their families, society as a whole. Are there any benefits here and what is left over? Money can't buy an experience. What to do with it and how it can help others - we talk about it in the project "Kaifa cena" with both addicts and experts in various fields. This is the story of Jānis Skrastiņas, the founder of the rehabilitation center "Sober soul".


"A friend of mine overdosed at home next to me. In fact, he didn't overdose - his blood clot burst. But for a while I blamed myself, I thought I had killed him. It wasn't really clear what happened there.


For two weeks, I had gone through all this in the final oats, thinking: something must be done. I can neither use nor not use anymore. I can't do anything more, that's all."


This was the moment when Jānis Skrastiņš, who had been using alcohol and drugs since the age of 12, made the decision to seek treatment for the first time. It really is.


On the day of the interview, Jānis is able to say exactly how long he has been without alcohol and drugs: "Five years, four months, four days."


Can you say you are cured?


I work with addicts in our center, and often people say: well, you are already cured and you understand everything now and teach others. It is absolutely not. I am not better, nor do I know more or less than others. I'm still in recovery myself, seven hours a week I have conversations with people who help me. This is not at all a story about someone knowing better than someone else. People have a problem, including me, that they get attached to their thinking. If I stick to my thinking, it leads in one direction, I can't expect other results. When I start thinking in one direction, I see only one way.


As an addict, as soon as I have any negative, strong emotions, I immediately turn on: alcohol, drugs, sex.


Mentors or advisors are meant to suggest an alternative and for you to follow their advice. Not because he knows better, but because he will show another way.


How did your addiction journey begin?


I tried alcohol for the first time when I was 12 years old and it got really bad right away, I ended up in the hospital. I was washed out, I was still in the hospital overnight. Of course, I thought I would never drink again.


I had already been kicked out of the first school I attended. I studied very poorly, you could say, I didn't study at all. But my behavior was not bad. I had withdrawn into myself - shy, withdrawn. I wanted warmth and love at home - to be in my safe environment.


And then I went to the new school, which was a private school, quite a few people in the class. I felt safe, there were no messes around. That's where I first heard about drugs. I had always been interested in such things. It was a little scary, but I thought I should try it.


When I tried it for the first time, it was a very interesting experience in the sense that I finally felt at home. I felt warmth, I love everyone, everyone loves me... I felt that I am becoming more active, more active, my results are starting to improve. I started to communicate more with girls, therefore I started cleaning the room more. Girls like me, girls like me, I'm becoming more active at school. Parents love it, teachers love it, anything goes.


Here's the guy you've been wanting! This guy was also how I wanted to feel myself.


As soon as I was off the drugs, I shut down and didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. But I want to be this active guy, I want to be this smart guy, I want to be this guy who studies, I want to be this guy that everyone likes. I'm ashamed when I'm not messed up. Realized: this clear, strange life is not for me, or at least I don't want to be.


What were the drugs and how did you get them at school?


Amphetamine. How did I get them? I don't even remember. You could get what you needed. One knows where to get it, one knows where to get it... It was quite simple: if you want it, you can get it.


Of course, adults occasionally taught in their own way what drugs are, that it's bad, that you can become a bum and you can have bad health and you can become addicted and all kinds of weird things like that. But when I tried it, I realized that I am neither bad nor becoming a bum. At that time, I didn't think about whether I could control it or not, I just realized that I felt really good and that I wanted to feel that way all the time.


Here is the story of what is short-term and long-term. If I'm talking about the short term, this one also drags. Similar to alcohol. We drink, we feel fun, why not. But as time went on, when I no longer needed to maintain that cool image, I started using one. I was no longer interested, I started playing with my emotions. If I take these drugs, there will be such emotions, if they - then different. Hence, I can easily control everything. As soon as I stop using, my life spirals out of control. At least that was the feeling.


It's not just an illusion that the user is in control?


I live in illusions all the time. Such a parallel life all the time. I have to lie that I'm going to work - but I don't want to go to work. I have to lie that I go to school. I say one thing at school, another to my parents, something else to my colleagues at work, but in reality I don't know where I am. That's how I got to the point where I had already started stabbing. I had already given birth to a boy. When he was three years old, I was 21. I didn't finish school, I have 10 classes. I started working - I couldn't really work either. My wife kicked me out of the house, we began to separate. I started living on the street. I had friends, but there was only one conversation - drugs and fun, no responsibility.


I lived on the street for a while until my sister offered to look for help. I went to see a psychologist, got up after 20 minutes, said I was going to the toilet, and went back to the guys.


Have you tried treatment yet?


At the age of 21, I first agreed to outpatient treatment in the Minnesota program. There I was given an insight into what addiction really is and what happens with it. But it was like this: it is clear to me, I know what is happening to me, I go out - and I continue to use. I'm interested in clarity, but I'm not determined to stay clear.


But after the Minnesota program, I had the bright idea that I could be a pilot. With the help of my parents, I started studying to be a pilot in America, lived there for two years.


Not used?


I use. I used to alternate drugs with alcohol all the time. You can't walk drunk all the time, strange smells, etc. Drugs are a convenient way to fool those around you.


You could say that between the ages of 12 and 32, my greatest lucidity was 9 months long. The second longest was 48 days.


How can pilot training be connected to drugs?


I came home after America, I didn't settle anything, I had spent a lot of money on my parents. I came to Latvia, broke up with my girlfriend, then there was my first suicide attempt. I drank anti-hypertensive drugs, sat at home, in my room at the computer. Dad came in to talk. At one point I fell to the ground, my heart had stopped.


Dad called an ambulance. I fell into a coma. After the coma happened what characterizes addiction, dependent thinking. I get up, I realize that I am in the hospital, I have wires, a catheter. I'm pulling everything out - no need, I'm going home. Well, not at home, I went to hang out. I remember looking for a phone where I could call my boyfriends. I walked out the door naked, was pulled back and put to sleep. I don't think I can die - it's just like that: I'm up - I'm walking. Such a real autopilot, so real.


That coma didn't make you think about something? Scary experience.


Possibly. Soon after that I met my now wife.


We used something together, drank, and at one point I say to her: maybe we could try to stay sober. She agreed. And we stayed clear - those are the nine months of clarity.


I got my commercial pilot's license, almost started working - and just before starting work I started drinking again. But I had already been to work, I knew: now everything is settled. And everyone around says: when you get your life right, everything will be fine again. It turns out like this: I have settled my life, now I will have money, a job, a family, everything is in order, I will now learn to drink or use normally... Nothing like that happened, I continued.


How and why did you start drinking again? What happend?


Just in the mountains. Nine months clear, I felt great, I have passed all the exams, I have a job, everything in my life is going up... My wife and I had gone skiing. I was waiting for my wife, I sat down on such a half hill. Everything is beautiful, Alps, mountains, cafe. I thought: I can do one, I'll take the grok. I take it, drink one - really cool, enhances all feelings. Then the wife arrived. I say I drank.


She is exactly like me. In the evening, both of us were already in complete rags.


The crazy thing about an addict is that if he drinks and he doesn't feel good about it, he will drink again, for sure. And will try until there is something. And when it is, it will be bad again, and there is no point, and he continues to drink.


Did you manage to stop?


For a time. But I'm not getting better. I just live in the dry. I just don't drink or use. Not drinking and not using and simply not doing anything with it, if there is no relevant environment around - it is very, very difficult and you have to be very conscious. I did not recover from the way I do it today and the way I recommend it to others. I quit and that's it - and I'm holding on, and it'll be fine. And more and more emotions are rising in me, both good and bad - and I can't tolerate them. I can't let emotions pass through me, I can't.


There are usually two things that have the biggest and strongest impact on the person you are falling for: relationships and finances. What is the relationship at home, what is the relationship with colleagues, how do I feel, what is my environment... And of course, financial and social pressures. Very few people fall for it: it's really cool, I want it to be even cooler. Usually it's family pressure or financial pressure. It's the biggest where people can get off.


When a friend died in your home while using drugs - was it like the last straw?


I don't like living by rules. I have a hard time with rules, with boundaries, with authority and all that stuff, but I have an okay philosophy. Some philosophy of life, some principles that I stick to. The philosophy that is most acceptable to me is something related to the East. I looked for it myself, I looked all over the world, I looked for something different from here. It's again a story about me needing an alternative to something. I can't: this is the only option. Then I try this, and if it doesn't work, then I must die. No, I'm always looking for - what else, what else. And I found a rehabilitation center in Thailand.


I went there. What appealed to me the most - freedom. There are limits, their rules are very simple. Phones are not taken off there. But it's not a prison. We learn to live, we learn to feel free. There was meditation, there was mindfulness, behavioral therapy. There was no narcologist, no psychologist, no psychotherapist. There were people with different periods of lucidity who are recovering on their own. When I talk to him, I hear: he is his own, truly his own.


After Thailand, did you start building your own rehabilitation center?


I really liked the Thai rehabilitation center. Even then, the thought dawned on me: I also want to create something in this way. I went home - and what do I do. Again, I did not continue to recover. Everything is clear to me, spiritual practices, I walk, run cross-country, I will be healthy - I left for a healthy lifestyle. It turns out that recovering from alcohol and drugs is not about living a healthy life. Then I heard that you can recover with psychedelic substances. It is true - but there must be specialists. Of course I listen, I'm five months clean and I want to recover even more. And this time with psychedelics. But there were disagreements in the family - and after five months I left.


I drank for three months, used something and realized: I have to go back. A never ending story. I went back to Thailand. I left in complete space, I don't really remember how I got there.

I came home and finally started to do what needs to be done in recovery. I went to self-help groups where people share and go together, where I can get people who support me on a daily basis. For the first six months after I got home, I did nothing but focus on recovery and went deep, deep into what was happening to me. Half a day a day without missing a day.


It was the most confused moment of my life: now I have to live in the clear, to be among strange people.


Why weird?


I've always found people strange. Everyone is seriously doing something, living their lives. I never wanted to be serious, normal. When I used it, I knew that when I stopped using it, I would have to be normal. I don't want to be normal. I do not like it. I was very afraid to be normal. After I stopped using and learned from other people, I started to recover.


I realized that I don't have to be normal at all. We are different with our imperfections, with our stories.


It turns out that I can be free, tell others: hey, how interesting it has been for me. And I'm slowly starting to do that too.


In the Thai rehabilitation center, people talk a lot about themselves, so I also talk a lot about myself when I work with people. I believe in one thing: I will be trusted as much as I trust the other person. And even now I have noticed: I can go with any person, sit down, and I will tell you how I am, where I have done shit, where I have been wrong, where I hurt, who I have hurt. The other person starts telling me the same thing, I don't have to ask for anything. It's a therapeutic conversation in itself.


It's an unwritten rule - contact three of your friends every day, ask how they are doing.


Caring for other people allows you to love yourself and the healing process. Life is completely different. As you used, so you must recover. Jack called you at three in the morning - let's go! And I said: let's go! If someone calls me today and says they need help to recover, I have to go. It's not a mission, I don't want to say - a mission. I think it is important to be useful in this life and through that I also gain. Salary is also my clarity and happy life, there is nothing more complicated.


What is the price of addiction? What have you paid? What have you lost?


By losing my pride, I gained freedom. What I have lost is pride. But I want to say one more thing: every gram, every 50 grams was needed to get me here. It may sound strange, but I have no regrets. If my actions have been horribly wrong, then I am the result of wrongdoing. And I don't think so. I no longer value my past. I don't value my present and also my future. I live life according to my conscience.


My wife is an alcoholic, I am an alcoholic and a drug addict. thus we both move forward together. We understand what it means to be in a family with two addicts, how to create an adequate family. We have done a pretty impossible thing. But it has required a lot of humility, loss of self-pride and also blood. But we've got a family.


That pride, that sense of security - it's like a currency, and it's maybe a little bit lost, because I'm like on a tray. If I can pay with my pride, sense of security, and for me to get freedom - I think it's a good enough price. Only, before I have that freedom, I don't know how free I can be. And there is a risk.


Or do you now have to fight the temptation of drugs?


Yes, I have had cases, moments when I sit at home by the fire and think: to go - not to go? It doesn't work? All tired. There are such moments. But I have such a large group of supportive people around me - there are no other people around me at all. In my circle of friends, in the circle of close people with whom I have regular contact, there is no one who is not an alcoholic or a drug addict and who is not now in recovery. And they are hundreds of people. You could even say thousands. And they go forward. That's an awfully powerful support. Not only in Latvia, but also in the world.


We all cling to one thing: to organize life, to take responsibility for him and to be adequate members of society and family who can also support others. This is the ultimate goal, and through it life gives very, very much.


Motivation is often talked about. I don't think motivation is enough, motivation is fleeting. It has to be a decision: I stay clear. It's like I'm ready to die, just like I'm ready to die when I use something I don't know what. But I stay clear.

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