Growing up as an immigrant in the United States, Vladimir Gordiyenko felt like an outsider. Struggling to fit in and find his place, he turned to drugs and alcohol to connect with others.
“Coming to the U.S. made me realize I was different. I didn’t fit in. We started going to a Russian church, but I had no friends and I still felt like an outsider.”
These difficult feelings eventually helped lead Vladimir to try drugs for the first time.
The first time there was a D.A.R.E drug talk at my school, I had a different reaction than they were hoping for: I thought to myself ‘I have to try drugs and find out why people throw their lives away for them – what’s so great about them?’ Once I started using, drugs became a way to fit in with a crowd.”
Once Vlad started to use drugs he was hooked. Pot led to drinking and drinking led to pills and he felt powerless to stop the slide. His school suspended him when he was caught with substances on campus. His football coach convinced him to try a local rehabilitation program, but Vlad says he was high the whole time he was in the rehab. His parents became convinced Vladimir needed a stronger intervention and found TCAR. Vladimir says he also realized he was spiraling and that he needed help.
“I was worried about what being away for a year would mean for my sports career and my schooling, and I didn’t want to stop getting high. My main fear about getting sober was having to deal with all my emotions again. But there were moments of clarity that I knew I needed help.”
Initially skeptical of the TCAR program, Vladimir found himself surrounded by individuals who genuinely cared and supported him. The walls he had built around his heart crumbled, and he embraced a renewed relationship with God. This newfound faith provided him with the strength to overcome addiction and face the challenges that lay ahead.
“At first, I thought you guys were all psycho. I thought, ‘They are praying in tongues. Do my parents even know?’ We came from a Baptist background and all the churches we ever went to agreed that tongues was not real. Two weeks later I prayed in tongues in an evening chapel when 3 students took me aside and prayed for me. It was a shock, but that was my first real taste of God. It pierced all the way to the heart.”
Vlad says he was worried about what his life would look like outside of TCAR if he surrendered to God. He didn’t want to give up his music and movies that glorified drugs and other sins. But he realized he was focusing on what he couldn’t have instead of all that he was getting by serving Christ. Vlad says he had to learn to “talk to myself” in a healthy way. He became aware of his own maladaptive thought patterns.
Vlad says he’s glad the program was long because it’s hard to “fake it till you make it” at a long program. He became friends with all the staff, and he believes that wouldn’t have happened if the program was shorter.
“All the short-term rehabs and halfway houses didn’t change me. It was at TCAR and another long-term Christian rehab and missionary school where I changed.”
One experience at TCAR foreshadowed a relapse in Vladimir’s future. After injuring his hand and getting stitches, Vlad was prescribed a narcotic pain medication. Even though the pain was over, Vladimir pretended to hurt and continued to ask for his narcotic medication. He says he failed that test and it made him reevaluate what he was doing. He knew he needed to continue to grow.
Although TCAR staff would have loved to see Vlad launch into adult independence through a step-down plan, Vlad was anxious to return to high school for his senior year. Vlad left TCAR after 10.5 months to return home, and at first he did well and preached to his friends, but after a month or two Vlad started to compromise. First it was compromise with music and movies, then compromise with a girl, and then finally he started to smoke pot again. Eventually he became a heroin addict.
Vlad says instead of obeying the Holy Spirit’s nudges, he numbed his convictions after each compromise. Shame kept him from confessing to anyone or asking for help. He stopped reading the Bible and stopped praying. Then he used drugs to numb himself to the voice of God altogether. To continue running from God he watched content from atheists trying to convince himself that God isn’t real.
“But I couldn’t fully escape that voice. I had told myself in TC that there’s no way I can ever say God isn’t real. He had come to my aid too many times in TC.”
This lifestyle went on for a few years until as an adult facing prison, Vladimir took a judge’s advice and entered himself into another Christian long-term rehab.
“The first day in God Will Provide rehab program and in the first prayer time all the denial melted away. I felt my heart of stone squeezed out, and the heart of flesh grew. I had terrible withdrawals before in short-term rehabs (which never worked), but at God Will Provide, they prayed for me, and I had no withdrawals. In my heart I knew this was my last chance. I’d already experienced Him in a powerful way at TCAR and fell away. Now, at 22, after 4 years of relapse on heroin, this was it. By the third day I experienced a renewed baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was like I was picking up where I left off 4 years earlier at TCAR. One of the first books they gave us to read was The Cross and The Switchblade. I thought it would be harder since I had walked away, but God took away that shame and I was able to quickly build on the foundation that I had built at TCAR.”
Completing the God Will Provide rehab program was just the beginning of Vladimir’s journey towards a better life. He continued his pursuit of personal growth and spiritual development by enrolling in their missionary school in Portland, Oregon.
Vladimir’s life took on new meaning when he met and married Inna, a woman from his homeland who shared his unwavering faith. Their relationship brought balance and strength to his life, allowing him to flourish as a husband and father. Their son, Luca Isaac, now almost 2, became the center of Vladimir’s world, and he found profound fulfillment in his role as a loving and devoted father.
“Being a father is the single most important thing I’ll do in life. There’s no greater calling for me than to be a good father to my kids and lead them to Christ. They are my disciples. When I first held my son was the first moment I’ve ever felt truly content. It is still the greatest moment of my life.”
Vlad and Inna were born on the same street about 3 miles from each other in Ukraine but had never met. When they were children, Vladimir moved to Chicago and Inna moved to Seattle. They met when they ended up in the same missionary school. Even though they had become friends and Vladimir felt like they were the perfect couple and would surely be married, Inna was more cautious. “I know for a fact you’re not the guy for me,” Inna told him. Inna had never got into trouble as a teen and she comes from a line of pastors and powerful men of God, and Vladimir didn’t seem to fit the family tradition. Vlad said he had a hard year, and a lot of growth happened that year. As he prepared himself to move on, Inna had a change of heart. They have been married 4 years, they’ve never had a fight, Vlad’s father-in-law is his mentor, and Vlad feels Inna’s innocence and his hard experiences really balance each other out and make them a powerful missionary team.
Now Vladimir is 30 years old and 6 years sober. His happy family resides in Portland, Oregon, where they enjoy the beautiful countryside. Vladimir makes an honest living by driving a concrete mixer. When he’s not working, he and Inna volunteer in their church. They are both close to their church family and Vlad is a deacon and oversees the music department.
I was surprised to hear that Vlad was leading the music department, because I don’t remember Vlad being musical. But he reminded me he started trying to learn guitar at TCAR, and he continued to work at it afterwards. Vlad says people told him to put down the guitar because he wasn’t a fast learner. It would take him days to learn a song, but one day he prayed and asked God for help. That night he learned 4 songs! Later he was forced into a guitar spot in his church. In missionary school, he was asked to lead a worship team. Vlad says he’s not the best musician, but his ability to lead and coordinate a team has helped him in his role as music leader at his church for 3 years now. Way to press through, Vladimir!
Vlad’s church, the Fountain of Life Evangelical Center, is a Russian Pentecostal church. It has a missions school and 2 drug rehabilitation centers. An interesting fact Vlad shared with me about the church is that they don’t clap because in the old Soviet Union, the people had to have underground church, and if you clapped the soviets would find you! The tradition has lasted and serves to remind us all to be thankful for our freedoms! In case you are wondering, Vladimir is from Ukraine and both he and Inna have family in Ukraine. He says all their immediate family is out and safe since the invasion started. Sadly, one pastor Inna is friends with was killed.
Reflecting on his journey, Vladimir urges parents to practice tough love when dealing with their struggling children, emphasizing the importance of setting boundaries and refusing to enable destructive behaviors or protect them from consequences.
“In the moment you may feel like you’re doing the worst possible thing, but the best thing my parents did to help me was to kick me out and quit enabling me. Tough love is real love. Most addicts become master manipulators to survive and who best to manipulate than your parents and others who love you.”
To current TCAR students, Vladimir advises making the most of their time in treatment, cherishing every moment and embracing the resources and support available.
“No matter how hard TCAR seems in the moment, the time is going to fly by. One of my biggest regrets is wasting much of my time at TC. The TCAR experience is precious and when it’s over, it’s over. Take advantage of every moment and all the resources.”
Vladimir’s story serves as a powerful reminder that redemption and transformation are possible for anyone, regardless of their past mistakes. Through his unwavering faith, resilience, and the guidance of organizations like TCAR and God Will Provide, Vladimir emerged from the depths of addiction to become a beacon of hope and inspiration for others. His journey reminds us that no matter how bleak the circumstances may seem, there is always hope for a brighter future.
“You hear crazy awesome testimonies and stories about God’s work in the lives of others and you always want that for yourself. Then another voice tells you that it’s not going to happen to you. But throughout my life I’ve seen the hand of God: how my marriage came together, how I got my job, how I got sober. And these miracles are not because of me – it’s just God. He loves each of us the same. He doesn’t limit us, we limit ourselves. Ask Him for big things. Dream big. We have a big God, and He can answer big prayers.”
Written by Stephen P. Williams, TCAR Case Manager