Sergei, who just celebrated his thirtieth birthday, is also a former addict. As they say here in Russia, Sergei “sat on the needle” for five years. I asked him what he remembered from his time on the needle. “Ломки” he replied. Lomki, which literally means “breakings”, are withdrawal symptoms. These “breakings” are what drive addicts to extreme measures to find another fix. Sergei mischievously grinning told me, “I am a good runner, good lungs. I could run a long time, so nobody ever caught me”. He said this in reference to a common winter practice among addicts of sneaking up on people to snatch fur hats from their heads.
Sergei and Max both went through the recovery program for drug addicts through our church. “Sergei how did you end up at the center?”, I asked. “It was a cold winter, so I decided I’ll wait out the winter there.” “So you lived on the streets?” “Yes, my Mama kicked me out.” “How did she manage that?” I asked. The people at the center told her, “Sergei doesn’t want to come to the center, but if you stop giving him money, and take away his keys, he will want to come.” They told her, “Giving your son money, is killing him.” Since Sergei’s Mom wanted him to live, she kicked him out. It worked! Sergei thought he would hang at the treatment center until it got warm on the street, and then bail. “When I first got to the center, I walked around scowling at everybody, but I couldn’t help noticing their warmth toward me.”
“Sergei, was there a particular time when you encountered God, or was it a slow process?” “One day at the center, I started to cry. And I never cry. The tears just poured down my face. I cried for a long time thinking about all the trouble I had caused, all the bad things I had done to myself, family, and how much I regretted it all. Then I stopped crying and an amazing feeling of lightness came over me, I felt as if all of those things I had done had been washed away. I wanted to live! God gave me my dreams back.”
Both Max and Sergei are following Jesus, doing well here in Irkutsk, and I am honored that they are my friends.