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Masking PTSD from Bosnian War with Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

“You know, after every day you're listening to the grenades and bullets and everything else. It's all terrible thing that happened in Yugoslavia at that time. Just the brothers and sisters separating, you know, killings everywhere. You know, it's just terrible," states Aleksandar Opancic.

He is from Yugoslavia and witnessed firsthand the terror of the Bosnian War. In 1997 he moved to the United States, but was unable to escape the horrors of what he had experienced.

“After the war, you know, I had the pretty-pretty bad PTSD, you know. I've been – I've been shot over there. I've been uh – I have shrapnels in my legs,” Aleksandar says with a sad tone.  

He continues, “You wake up in the night, you know, in a cold sweat and uh all these memories are going, it's just a – you try not to think of – you know, you try to deal with everything uh trying to heal myself with everything else, you know, it's like, it's all good. It's gone, and it's... And I try to tell myself things, you know, it-it happened because –  You've gotta forget this because it's going to affect me in the future."

Aleksandar turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the trauma.

“I was doing the methamphetamines at that time and uh smoked a lot of weed, and drink a bunch of alcohol, you know, so I could cope with uh whatever I was going through.” He remembers, “...you know, all the memories and everything. And I would just, yeah, I was drunk, you know, I would work midnight to eight and uh after that I would go to the bar until two, three o'clock afternoon and then pass out at the house and go back to work. And that was my days, you know.”

He eventually got married and had a son, but his escalating drug addiction destroyed his young family.

“Drugs, you know, and alcohol that-that's all I could see at that time, you know, there was no attention to her,” says Aleksandar. “I started going out. Like I would stay out for like a couple of days and-and then, you know, I understand everything that happened, you know, what-what drove her to just take my son and, you know, just go.”

Aleksandar’s wife took everything and left him. He became friends with a group of bikers who led him into a life of crime, selling drugs and guns.

“We would hang out and they were friends, you know. At that time they would just -- to help me out, they would give me, 'Here you go, buddy, you know, take some of this, take some of that and uh you'll make this much,' you know,” said Aleksandar.

Many arrests followed, but in the summer of 2006, while locked up in jail, he heard a minister talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He recalls, “And they're like, 'Jesus is the Son of God,' you know. It's the Father’s Son, you know. And then I listened and listened and all of a sudden it just like – I received; you know. I – and it was just like a lightning to me. And I was like, 'Wow, and He loves me?' And then I felt His Spirit on me. And-and I was – I was just overwhelmed with uh – with love."

When he was released from jail, he went back to his old ways and before long he was arrested again on weapons charges. He became overwhelmed with hopelessness.

“I was just like – what my life is, you know? I thought like, 'I mean, why doing drugs, stealing, you know, taxing people for money.' And I decide to hang myself that day. I was like, 'Eh, it's time for me to go. You know, I lived kind of a rough life, you know.' And uh I said, 'It's time for me to go.' So I decided and then I hear this voice, it says, 'Open the Bible.' With a slight laugh he continues, I was like, 'Open the Bible?' I said, 'Okay.' And I opened the Bible. I mean, I just opened the Bible like and I read."

In his cell that night God revealed the many ways he had protected him and saved his life through the years. Aleksandar then fully surrendered his life to Jesus. His gun charge was dropped unexpectedly, and he was released from jail, this time to a new life in Christ.

“There is freedom in Jesus. There is love in Jesus. There is acceptance in Jesus. There is a friend in Jesus. Anything that your heart is missing and it needs is in Jesus, you know. if you decide to believe Him. I decided to believe Him all the way on every word that he told me.”

With earnest sincerity he continues, “I knew the life without it and right now I know a life with Him. It's fulfillment of every need that I have. Right now I just want to live a life for the Lord.”

God has given Aleksandar a new start in life. He was also set free from the PTSD that had kept him chained to a cycle of destruction.

“I (am) so thankful for God right now in my life right now. He gave me a beautiful wife. He gave me a mission to do in my life to glorify His name through – to whatever I do that He'd be in the first place. And uh – it's amazing freedom that I feel and cleanness inside me. He cleansed me from all my sins. I feel clean like I'm just a newborn man.”

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