Ditching drugs, finding faith

Addicted to alcohol and heroin for 16 years, Karachi resident Farhad used to be part of a depressing statistic.

In a city where drugs are cheap and a lack of purpose drives many young men to start using, one in six men abuse heroin.

Farhad (name changed) saw many different doctors, and tried many different remedies, but he couldn’t break the habit. He dropped four stones in weight to a dangerous six stones (38kg).

He even lost his mother to drugs, as his addiction meant he couldn’t take care of her when she needed him.

Eventually, he came to Ibtida, a community-based drug rehabilitation centre, where CMS local partner Anila Justine works as project officer. Farhad began a 14-month rehabilitation programme.  

At first, Farhad was so weak, he thought the cold turkey detox would kill him. This is a crucial time for the patient, during which he is never left alone, and can take four days or 40 days. But when he started going to chapel twice a day, he started believing in God and that God was helping him. Previously, his god had been drugs, but now he discovered the living God, who he believes provided the rehab centre as a resource.

Farhad comes from a Muslim background but he now believes in the Bible and Jesus. Following his treatment, he moved to California to live with his uncle and is now working with a chain of food shops.

Run by the diocese of Karachi, Ibtida, which is Urdu for “beginning”, helps people of all faiths to come off drugs and stay clean through living a transformed life.

In the last decade the centre itself has experienced a turnaround almost as dramatic as Farhad’s. Anila’s faith and perseverance have played a key role in this.  

Anila’s journey

Born in Punjab province, Anila’s path in life took what we would see as an unusual turn. She ended up married to her sister’s love match, Reverend Julian, after her sister died in a car accident and Anila was given to Julian to compensate for his loss.

After they were married, Julian, a parish priest, encouraged Anila to go to seminary, which she very much enjoyed. In her final year, Julian encouraged her to write a thesis on counselling, on the basis that it would have a practical application. She took his advice and ended up writing a thesis on marital and pre-marital counselling. During her time in seminary, God also blessed Anila and Julian with two children, a girl and a boy.

In 2008, the Bishop of Karachi approached Anila and Julian, looking for advice and help. The diocesan rehab centre was out of funds.  What could be done?

As Julian started to address the lack of funding, Anila interrupted. They might not have funds, she said, but they did have counselling experience, skill, and God was there. She suggested the bishop give them some time and allow them to try running the centre, and he agreed.

Anila officially began volunteering at Ibtida in 2010. As Ibtida gradually became more successful, she eventually grew into her current role as project officer.

She is actively involved in giving counselling to individuals and families suffering from drug addiction. She also helps run the residential rehabilitation facility in which men and women stay before gradually re-entering mainstream life.

Furthermore, she reaches out to different communities with a message of prevention to help young people stay off drugs.

Published 25 January 2019

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