Addiction Doesn’t Wait for Covid
Part 2 – Covid’s Impact at the Charis House
As addiction levels soared throughout the pandemic, the programs of Ministry Village at Olive worked to adapt in order to provide support to its clients. Last week, we learned how the Most Excellent Way program returned to in-person meetings as quickly as possible, and bridged the gap with phone support between MEW leaders and attendees. This week, we learn about the Charis House, MVO’s residential recovery program for women struggling with addiction.
Vanessa Bettis, Director of Women’s Ministries for Ministry Village at Olive, heard from clients regularly that they felt confined and were riddled with fear and anxiety. The Charis House, a program heavily dependent on nurturing client relationships with advisors and mentors, was forced to restructure, going virtual with classes and eliminating in-person visits with family members, teachers and staff. “Our ladies are sheltered so the impacts on them might not be the same as community impacts,” explains Karen Cox, Charis House Therapist. “We didn’t see major shifts in relapses. What we saw more of was restlessness. Too much downtime for those in addiction is a challenge because they ‘get in their heads’ and start thinking about people, places, and things from their former lifestyle, or what they are missing at home.” Within 3 months of the pandemic shutdown, 2 clients left the program. Their extended downtime led to feelings of boredom, and their minds began to reminisce about their pasts. They began to display old behavior patterns, and after leaving the program, they were sadly back on the road to a life of destruction. “If you are constantly thinking about those kinds of thoughts and that sort of life, you will eventually act on those thoughts, return to previous behavior, and that leads to relapse,” explains Vanessa.
Social distancing requirements limited the normal teaching methods used by the Charis House, but the staff was determined to provide clients with as much support as possible. “Maintaining a daily routine helped to preserve a sense of order and purpose in their lives, despite the unfamiliarity that isolation and quarantine caused,” says Vanessa. “We worked to keep their classes going virtually through Zoom, made sure they had time to exercise, and spend time outdoors to relieve stress and anxiety. We offered as much counseling and one on one time as they needed to talk through their feelings.” Karen agrees. “Some of the most helpful aspects of recovery are structure, balance, and maintaining support systems. Structure is important because it provides a sense of order which decreases stress levels. Structure also helps with keeping life balanced between productivity and rest.”
In order to provide the women with opportunities to connect, the Charis House began using technology and allowing them more time to talk on the phone and use FaceTime. “We maintained structure as best we could and some cool new things emerged,” says Karen. “We started letting some of our peer leaders teach classes or lead devotions when we had gaps in the schedule with available teachers. The ladies grew from those experiences and were able to utilize downtime for preparation and study. Our ladies are not exposed to news when they are active in Phase I, but we began to let them watch the daily Presidential briefings so that they could be informed. We were cautious, limiting their exposure and constantly monitoring how that exposure was impacting them. We wanted them to be informed but not overwhelmed.”
As life slowly returns to normal, Vanessa and Karen are both cautious about how the transition will impact the program. “Personally, it was like we were in an underground bunker for a year,” explains Karen. “We have emerged and nothing is the same. There is a shortage of workers, a change in national leadership, and unanticipated crises such as gas shortages. Hopefully, people have created new structure at this point and new routines. As helping professionals and ministry workers, it is very important that we are aware of how those in our sphere of influence are adapting. We should check on them often. Ask questions. Listen. Stay up to date on the status of resources and any change in implementation or distribution of those resources. Remind people of the power of prayer and actively pray for them. Send them to the Word for comfort, promises, and a reminder of the bigger picture of eternity. Be that light in these interesting and challenging times!”
Vanessa agrees. “The toughest step toward recovery is the very first one — recognizing there is a problem and deciding to make a change. Recovery is never out of reach no matter how hopeless your situation seems or how many times you’ve tried and failed before. With the right treatment and support, change is always possible. You must make a commitment to do better. If you trust God and trust the process, you can overcome addiction and regain control of your life. And that’s why we are here at the Charis House – to guide them through and support them during that process.”
✝️ The Charis House is a non-profit Christian-based residential substance abuse recovery program for females. The program is designed in 3 phases, each offering stages of recovery that provide the necessary tools for a practical transition into a new lifestyle free of addiction. The faith-based recovery program addresses the client’s personal relationship with God as the foundation for healing and wholeness. It requires a willingness to change and adhere to a controlled, strict and disciplined environment, allowing life-changing experiences to occur. There is no fee to apply.