Not another Greek tragedy: surviving addiction
Ten years ago, Greek first year Santa Monica College student Chrissa Loukadakis was battling a powerful addiction to drugs. Rather than remember it with despair, she now carries expression of pride in herself, because after years of battle she managed to turn her life around and made it back to school. “I come from a family that was very messy and my family had a lot of fights and a lot of violence and basically I grew up on my own, supporting myself especially emotionally,” said Loukadakis. “But then when you find yourself shooting heroin, it’s like what happened? So when I got to the point of catching myself relapse once, just because I felt good, I realized it was all an excuse.”
Her drug-filled escape from the struggle with her family life, she came to realize, was all a farce on her part. It was almost as if her life were a personal reflection of the chaos that had enveloped her own country since the 2009 economic collapse.
She compared the impulse to do drugs to a voice that without logic, without reason, always pleaded for her to indulge herself. As the years went on, Loukadakis was in and out of rehabilitation centers, trying to kick her drug habit as it had developed from European hashish to shooting heroin.
Rehab was an especially difficult experience for her. She was always told what to do and when to do it, as well as what not to do. It was so demanding that she often found herself relapsing after leaving. But she soon found a safe haven that more effectively helped her quit drugs.
“Narcotics Anonymous welcomed me every single time, with hugs, even when I made my mistakes, they accepted me for who I am,” Loukadakis said. “That was the biggest thing.”
As she met interesting people at NA she learned new things too, and despite her history with drugs, they did not dictate her life. “You see your own excuses in other people, they become your mirrors,” she said.
Loukadakis also found solace in dancing and dreamed of becoming a dancer. She had already graduated from professional dance school Rallou Manou in Athens, but because the drugs had damaged her body, getting a job as a dancer was a struggle.
After working harder than ever before, she was able to get a dance job. Dancing with big celebrities in Greece got her to look back on her time with drugs and contrast the two experiences.
“I kind of felt that my life was like a fairy tale. Like, I had an image of me being in the streets, shooting heroin and suddenly, I was in this theater. I really fought for it,” she said. “I fought like there was no tomorrow.”
Although she was dancing again, Loukadakis did not feel fully accomplished. She had missed out on plenty of school knowledge in favor of drugs and felt sometimes that she could not successfully communicate with people in an intelligent conversation. So she took the next logical step, she decided to go back to school.
Her first class at SMC was English 21A this past summer, which she found particularly inspiring when her professor, Jennifer Triplett, assigned her to read Jeannette Walls’s memoir “The Glass Castle”. She found herself relating to the fear that woman felt. “I was afraid everyone would reject me if they found out who I really was,” she said. “And that’s like my biggest fear. If people find out that I used to be a junkie, they will not look at me the same, they will not trust me the same.”
Loukadakis soon became a star student, doing all of her work and more. “She’s the king of the nerds,” her boyfriend Srdjan Lakobrija said. “She’s the most dedicated person I know. Once she gets started on a task, she’s set on completing the task.”
With consideration for her progress, Loukadakis revealed that she is not one hundred percent happy with her life at the moment, but that’s the point. What really matters to her is that she’s working on herself everyday. “Some days I’m happy, some days I’m not, but that’s the beauty of it. If I were always happy, then I would be bored of it,” she said.
Loukadakis believes every drug user is different in terms of their addiction, but if they’re seeking help, the best option is to take responsibility for themselves. “You’re living a lie. Because one day you’re going to wake up and you’ll be very sorry that you’re losing time,” Loukadakis said.