HOST (IN PERSIAN): Honored viewers, on this week's Healthy Living we delve into the disease of drug addiction and speak with Mr. Siamak Afshar, an Iranian-American, who is a State of California Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (ＣＡＤＣ II).
Mr. Afshar successfully recovered from alcohol, drug and gambling addictions and thus knows first-hand the tremendous challenges involved in overcoming this condition. Addiction affects both the brain and behavior of an individual. The use of drugs or alcohol causes severely detrimental changes to the brain's activity and chemistry resulting in vastly altered moods, memories, perceptions, and emotional states. Repeated drug or alcohol use may mean permanent changes to the brain's structure with hugely negative consequences for the user.
Mr. Afshar became free of his addictions in １９８３ and since then has accomplished many things in life. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, became a highly regarded chemical dependency counselor and interventionist in California and founded the Iranian Recovery Center in Santa Ana, California, a non-profit organization offering free of charge help to those struggling with addiction and support to clients' families.
Mr. Afshar is also the program director at a drug and alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation facility called the New Life Center in Irvine, California.
Siamak (Male): I am Siamak Afshar. I am an addiction counselor. I was an addict in my youth and it is now ２７ years and nine months that I have recovered from this disease. Addiction is a disease because it has special characteristics. And any condition with such characteristics is recognized as a disease.
When someone gets addicted, becomes an addict, it's a condition which is well recognized and it can be diagnosed. Because the addicted person will misuse the substance in large quantities, he becomes over indulgent. This is one aspect of the addiction process, called 『known cause.』 The second aspect is called 『progressive,』 which means it develops. What a person gets addicted to, he will continue to repeat, he will continue to take that substance on a continual basis and over time, the quantity of the substance increases.
This process keeps expanding, hence it's called 『progressive.』 That was the second aspect. The third aspect is 『uncurable,』 which means it never goes away. Uncurable means a treatment which never cures the disease. It always stays with the person, but it may be improved. The fourth aspect is 『fatal,』 i.e. it can kill a person.
Many people die from this. Any condition with these four characteristics, with these four qualities, it is called a disease. It's a kind of illness that does not go away. However, it can be treated. Now, let's talk about how a person gets addicted.
Well, there are many different reasons. Usually, it is because of emotional problems, that is some events occur in the person's life, and he cannot cope with them. He cannot cope with them or overcome them. When these problems accumulate, when they build up on top of each other, the person cannot cope with them and he turns to drugs, or to alcoholic drinks, or over-eating, smoking, or whatever. (Yes.)
This is one of the roots for causing addiction. In other instances, the person might be born with this disease. It's called 『genetic predisposal,』 which means that the addiction gene is transferred to him, from his father, grandfather, and great-grand father. Sometimes, this process may skip a whole generation. That is, one generation won't get it.
For instance, the person's father may not receive this gene, but that person himself will get it. It can be this way too. Such a person is always under threat. If these people drink alcohol or take other substances, alcohol or drugs will affect them differently, their bodies have a special reaction to these substances and alcohol compared to a person who does not have this gene.
Another factor is 『environmental』; some people call it 『peer pressure.』 Many children in school, or where they live, or in the neighborhood or in the family, who are in this direction already, they can find someone who is not strong. Such a person is a 『follower,』 someone who always 『follows,』 someone who cannot say 『no,』 and someone who does not have self-confidence.
Then such a person is under threat, because of being in an un-healthy environment, such a person can go astray, because he cannot say no, because he wants to get accepted by his peers or by a specific person. Then he will do what a so-called special group or person does. Then they will repeat this behavior many times, till they become addicted. These are different ways of becoming addicted.
Supreme Master TV(f): As you mentioned at the beginning, you said that you yourself used to be an addict. Could you please tell us more about yourself？
Siamak (m): At the age of １４, I was taking opium. I think at １６, I was taking heroin. And at the age of ２０, I came to the US. Since I couldn't smoke heroin here, I started to inject it. For about eight or nine years, I continued injecting it. Actually injecting it started here, in Iran, I was only smoking it through 『zarvaraghi』 (a way to smoke the drug in Iran).
In the end, I was living on the streets in downtown Los Angeles. I was sleeping in cardboard boxes, in the parks, yes, and had a miserable life, until, with God's grace, I was saved. One day I attended a session of the 『１２-Step Program.』
It was there that, for the first time, that I met other addicts in worse situation than myself who had been able to break free from the habit. They were saying that they were cured for many years, and that they were completely off drugs.
So I thought, 『If they can do this, I will also be able to give up the habit.』 On January １６, １９８３, that is ２７ years, nine months and a few days ago, I was awakened.
Supreme Master TV(f): So, if we want to know the reason why you give up the addiction, somehow you were tired of that life, you were willing to give up taking drugs, is that right？
Siamak (Male): You are right. Yes. Because prior to that, I had also given up drugs １９ times. (Yes.) Two or three times, I gave up while I was in prison. I remember once, I had given up for about four months. I had been in prison, and it was four months that I was clean. When I left prison, I started again. Nineteen times, I returned to drugs. I was living on the streets, I lost everything. My brothers no longer could tolerate me. Fortunately, my mother and father were in Iran. I say that, because if they were here, somehow they would help me, give me a place to live, give me money, etc.
They were in Iran, and hence they could not help me to continue my addiction. (Yes.) And my brothers had also realized the severity of my addiction. They couldn't tolerate me or accept me, they didn't even want me to go near their homes. For this reason, I learned my lessons on the streets. You are right; I was tired of that life.
When I attended the first session of the 『１２- Step Program,』 it was Saturday night, in Venice Beach. I went to the meeting, I listened to what they said, and I realized that at last I had reached 『home!』 They even told me, 『Welcome home!』 At last I reached the 『home』 that I needed, I got the love and attention which I needed.
HOST: Let's hear from one of the New Life Center's clients who benefited tremendously from their recovery program. This gentleman has now been free from drugs for three years and four months.
SIAMAK (m): What happened？ What happened that you finally succeeded getting to recovery, and staying clean and sober？
Interviewee (m): Well, I think first and foremost, I got really desperate. I got lucky that God gave me the gift of desperation, and I got to the point where I had nothing. I was nothing. I wasn't doing anything with my life, and I knew it, and my family actually intervened.
It was my mother. She just told me, 『It's do or die, you either you go on and die off, or you do the right thing, and change yourself.』 And that's when I changed everything; that's when I came back to you. I had met you before, but I didn't stay with you, and when I finally came back to you, I listened to everything you said.
I decided to change everything about me, because the person that I was before wasn't adding up to being anything in life besides a loser. So that's what happened.
HOST: The New Life Center also helps smokers quit, and only treats people who are willing to give up smoking on top of their other addictions, because if they hold onto their smoking habit it can lead them back to harder drugs.
Siamak (Male): We also help smokers, and also those who smoke and also are addicted to other substances such as alcohol, etc. These people must give up smoking as well. We are the only center in California, I haven't researched this, but perhaps we are the only one in the US that does not accept any addicted person until they agree to give up smoking as well.
Whoever gives up heroin, or alcohol or any other drugs, they must also give up smoking. If they don't give up smoking, most probably they will go back to their chosen drug in a stronger way. This means that between a person and his heroin or opium, there is a close link, a bridge. We have to break that link so that the addicted person can respect himself and respect his body, and have better nutrition.
He should even be able to become vegetarian, similar to you and your group. His spirituality will grow. A smoker always thinks that in some way he is harming himself, or with his own hands he is administering poison to his body. For this reason, we believe that an addict must give up smoking as well.
HOST: Join us next Monday on Healthy Living when we will continue with part two of our three-part program on the disease of addiction, with more from our interview with the knowledgeable Mr. Siamak Afshar.
For more details on the intoxicant treatment facilities featured in today's program,
please visit the following websites: New Life Center www.NewLifeForYou.org
Iranian Recovery Center www.IranRecovery.com
For additional information on how to quit drugs, please visit these websites:
United Nations: www.UNODC.org
South Africa: www.StopAddiction.co.za