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Therapeutic centre near Bulgaria's Gabrovo offers professional help to drug addicts

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Photo: Facebook / “St. Elijah” addiction treatment center

Eighteen people, fighting with themselves and for themselves, welcomed 2022 in “St. Elijah” addiction treatment centre located at the foot of the Balkan Mountain Range not far from the town of Gabrovo. The centre was unveiled in the spring of 2021.


It is difficult to change yourself even without being an addict", says Ilko Boyadzhiev who works as a consultant at the center. Ilko is the founder of a foundation that helps addicts. "The problem is further complicated if there is personal disorder. I also had mentors and I have helped a lot of guys like me. It is important for people to know that they can rely on professional help. They must not hide or underestimate the problem. People cannot overcome the addiction on their own. That is why we are here to help.”


The therapeutic centre follows a model approved by the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities (WFTC). It takes care of the persons suffering from drug addiction for nine months - no one takes on the role of a boss and those who make a progress in their recovery take some responsibilities and help others.

Most patients started doing drugs at an early age. Martin and Kaloyan are no exception to this rule. However, they have been clean from drugs for 8 months. One of them continues his treatment in the closed community and the other one rents a flat and will soon start working.


I was left homeless, without friends and job and I was thinking about one thing only", Martin said. "In the beginning I was doing drugs because of my ex-wife, or for other reasons. However, I am already tired of being a drug addict.”

“It is very easy to go down", Kaloyan says. "I could neither live with these substances, nor without them. I was not able to go to work, sleep and eat. Meanwhile, I had no money. The only thing I had was my mother, who was suffering and feeling helpless, just like me. She was looking for help. However, help never came until I truly wanted to help myself. It may sound easy, but it cost me a lot of effort, pain and deprivations.”

A team of clinical psychologist, social psychologist, addiction counselor, psychiatrist and art therapist introduce the participants to the rehabilitation programme through making them aware of the problem and helping them cope with emotions.

The center brings people together through group therapy", Martin went on to say. "The people who work at this center can understand what I am going through. They are my family. When I am outside the center and I am clean from drugs, I need people I can share my feelings with, without being judged.”


Martin and Kaloyan are trying to break the stigma of addiction by making new connections. Their municipality showed understanding and helped them join various local initiatives.

The founders of the centre help addicts with everything they need. However, everyone must walk their own path, Ilko Boyadzhiev notes. “Things are slightly different here- we must show responsibility, in order to be healthy again. We wish ourselves to have a year filled with strength”, Ilko Boyadzhiev said in conclusion.

Compiled by: Diana Tsankova (reporting of Velina Mahlebasheva, correspondent of the BNR in Gabrovo).

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: Facebook / “St. Elijah” addiction treatment center
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