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Throughout western Ukraine, parish communities have organized support groups for recovering alcoholics and chapters of the “Brotherhood of Abstinence,” an advocacy group committed to raising awareness about the risks of substance abuse. Notably, the brotherhood publishes the “Golden Book of Sobriety,” a compilation of prayers intended to help those struggling with addiction. Chapters of the brotherhood regularly hold prayer vigils to strengthen those affected by addiction.

For many addicts, a renewed faith in God helps them find the will to kick the habit and reclaim control of their lives.

One recovering alcoholic is Stepan Kovpak, a 61-year-old farmer from the small village of Turycha. For many years, Mr. Kovpak had been a seemingly hopeless alcoholic. But one April afternoon nine years ago, his life took a new path. That day, he had gone to the market with the intention of purchasing potatoes for planting on his farm. Instead, he succumbed to temptation. With the little money he had, he purchased a bottle of vodka, draining it that afternoon. Soon after, this married father of two daughters and grandfather of two passed out and nearly died of alcohol poisoning.

After some days, Mr. Kovpak regained consciousness at his home on what happened to be Palm Sunday. Immediately, he began to crave alcohol. His wife, Ivanka, was at church. With no alcohol in the home, he approached a neighbor and asked for a shot of vodka. The neighbor refused and Mr. Kovpak returned home deeply ashamed. He knelt before an icon in his home and prayed, reciting some 50 prayers repeatedly.

When his wife returned, she was astonished to see her husband awake and deep in prayer. She brushed him with the blessed willow branches she received during the Divine Liturgy, which according to Ukrainian tradition brings good health. Mr. Kovpak has not touched a drop of alcohol since that fateful day. He and his family are convinced his recovery is nothing short of a miracle.

Though Viktor Proskuriakov does not attribute his recovery to any sort of miracle, he does believe his renewed faith inspired him above all else to quit drinking. For years, his wife, Halya, and their children tried everything to help him recognize his problem and seek the appropriate help — but to no avail. And despite a handful of earnest but failed attempts to stay sober, Mr. Proskuriakov continued drinking, sinking deeper and deeper into an “alco-hell.”

It was not until 1995, when the architect became acquainted with Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky, the former head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, that he gave up alcohol once and for all. At the time, Mr. Proskuriakov was writing his doctoral thesis on architecture and the Ukrainian theater.

“The archbishop’s life, his exploits, his writings and letters, turned my inner nature on its head,” Mr. Proskuriakov recalls.

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Tags: Ukraine Health Care Socioreligious programs Alcoholism