WATERFORD, CT – Retired Greek Orthodox priest Constantine J. “Charles” Simones told the New London, CT newspaper The Day that he considers heroin to be “the poison of Satan.”
His perspective comes not only his years in the clergy, but as a grandfather, because on February 16, his 21-year-old-grandson and namesake, Costa (Constantine), died of a heroin overdose.
In the days following Costa’s death, Fr. Simones wrote a letter to the editor, published in The Day on February 23, in reaction to a Day article that day about accused heroin dealers free on bond:
“We recently buried our precious grandson who died from a heroin overdose. I was astounded to read in the article, ‘Accused heroin dealers free on bond, due in court March 4’ (Feb. 23), that one of the heroin dealers who had been arrested last weekend was released on bail. This is insanity. People who sell heroin are purveyors of death.
Heroin is like handing a young person a loaded gun to shoot themselves. The article spoke about ridiculous rules that allow criminals to be released on bond. Heroin is lethal and those who sell it are murderers and they should be put away for a long time without the privilege of being released.
“Costa fought the monkey on his back for three years while attending many rehab programs, safe houses, and detoxification houses. All these state programs are broken and need to be re-evaluated. Heroin is the killer of our young people and we must look upon dealers of heroin as murderers. The laws have to be changed in order to remove these monsters from our society. May our Lord grant peace to all young people who have died from heroin. They are true martyrs in the war against drugs.”
Simones told the Day in an interview published on March 2 that he used to tell Costa “you’re involved in this stuff because Satan is getting back at you because I’m a priest.” (Though officially retired, Simones still assists at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in New London, where he served for 45 years.)
Simones told the Day that Costa started with marijuana, “the gateway drug,” before progressing to heroin, which he “mainlined” (injected directly into his veins). Costa enrolled in various rehabilitation programs, Simones said, but to no avail.
Simones said that Costa, despite the addiction having overtaken his life to the point where he even stole from his own family, always ended his conversations with Simones and with his parents (Simones’ son and daughter-in-law) with “I love you.”
The National Herald spoke with Fr. Simones, who further elaborated on his grandson’s life, death, and afterlife, by sharing the following:
“The chemicals Costa was injecting into his body changed his personality completely. When he was high on some kind of opiate he seemed to be a completely different person. There were moments when he was in this condition that I would say to him in Greek, ‘you are crazy, Costa.’
“Remember that a drug addict in Greek is descriptively referred to as “narkomanis” narcotic mania (insanity). During his drug addiction Costa was not the human being that I loved in spite of his compassionate heart. The family suffered terribly during the last three years of his life.
Family members were literally fighting with one another because of the great stress that he brought into all our lives. Our daily routines were constantly being interrupted and we could not live normal lives because of the constant fear of what might happen to him at any moment.
“The family spent a lot of money in an attempt to resolve his addiction but nothing worked. We sent him to many rehab facilities throughout the state without being able to make any impact on his addiction. The system for drug addicts in the state is broken and it must be changed.
It became very evident that we were fighting a losing battle. At this point Costa’s father warned us during the last year of his life that he was in danger of dying at any moment. Every time the phone rang morning or night, we expected to hear the bad news.
“This is the human side of the tragedy that took Costa’s life at the age of twenty-one. After the overdose that killed him, the spiritual struggle began for all of us in dealing with his loss. During that first week after the repose of Costa,
I had difficulty dealing with the finality of Costa leaving the physical world. I must confess to you that the image of his lifeless body kneeling before me on the floor as I chanted the prayers for the dead haunted me for a week and then suddenly the healing power of Jesus Christ took over. We could feel Costa’s presence around us and he was communicating with us telling us how beautiful the new world was into which he had entered.
And then the classic Jesus Prayer was brought into play with its most comforting words: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner and give repose to the soul of Costa.’ This prayer is now constantly on our lips every moment of every day.”