Facing Addiction During COVID-19
Part 1 – Covid’s Impact on Most Excellent Way
All aspects of life have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and those already dealing with addiction have been on a collision course with the pandemic from the beginning. According to Marvin D. Seppala, MD, chief medical officer of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and a national expert on addiction treatment, “Addiction is a disease of isolation in the first place.”
As people were forced to stay home and isolate because of the coronavirus, those suffering from addiction were expected to adapt to new ways of finding support and recovery – through virtual meetings, social networks, apps and more. It is no surprise to many addiction experts that relapse and overdoses have soared. Those who support our Charis House and Most Excellent Way clients have scrambled for ways to help those who needed a lifeline during this unprecedented time. Both programs receive calls weekly from family members desperate to find help for their loved ones struggling with addiction. This week, we’ll look at the impact COVID-19 had on Olive’s Most Excellent Way attendees.
Most Excellent Way meetings held at Olive were suspended beginning in mid-March 2020 until May 2020. “Virtually all other recovery groups, both locally and nationally, shut down for much longer periods,” explains Scott Heald, Program Director of Most Excellent Way & Jail Ministries for Ministry Village at Olive. “Some programs are still not yet meeting, and others have terminated altogether.”
Scott agrees with published reports that cite boredom, isolation, anxiety and stress as the triggers that have increased the levels of addictive behavior throughout the country. “For a person active in their addiction to drugs or alcohol, isolation is their best friend. For a person in recovery, it is their worst enemy.” According to several sources, drug and alcohol overdose deaths in the U.S. have reached record high levels since January 2020. “I heard personally from several of our regular attendees who struggled – some unsuccessfully – to stay clean during the time our meetings were shut down.” Scott and each of the MEW volunteer leaders made themselves available to talk by phone to any MEW attendee who needed a lifeline throughout the shutdown, but Scott believes that regular attendance at in-person, group meetings are a vital part to success in addiction recovery.
“At The Most Excellent Way, we believe that a person can be totally free from addiction and other self-centered behavior by the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe we can become healthy, joy-filled, productive children of God with the support of others who understand what we’ve lived through. The only way to effectively promote this message is through regular group meetings. It has always been the case that a person’s chance for success in overcoming addiction is directly proportional to the effort he puts forth in his recovery. This requires a willingness to explore spiritual principles and consistent attendance at group meetings like The Most Excellent Way. Developing relationships with others who have successfully overcome addiction is also important. This is especially necessary for finding support outside of meetings.”
One year after the pandemic halted in-person group meetings, attendance levels at Olive’s MEW meetings have returned to pre-COVID levels, but some of the faces in the meetings have changed. “Some of the old regulars have fallen by the wayside, and newcomers have joined.” But Scott is encouraged that as attendees are able to steadily depend on group meetings again, their feelings of isolation will subside, and they will begin to rely on one another, and grow their faith in God.
Ultimately, it is God’s healing that can make a person whole, beyond the addiction.
Next week, we’ll learn how the Charis House clients have been impacted and how the leaders adapted to manage the challenges of the pandemic.
✝️ Most Excellent Way is our faith-based support group for those struggling with addiction. The Bible provides solutions for those struggling with behavioral and substance addictions, and the Most Excellent Way group meetings serve to encourage and support anyone who is in the midst of the ongoing fight to be restored. At Most Excellent Way, leaders teach that through Christ, you can find freedom from your addiction.
✝️ Most Excellent Way meetings are held each week at the Olive Baptist Church Pensacola Campus (1836 E. Olive Road) on Tuesdays and Fridays from 7pm to 8:30pm. Meetings are open to anyone struggling with addictive behavior, as well as the family members and loved ones of those struggling.
✝️ Volunteers interested in working with MEW can provide encouragement, a listening ear, and prayerful support to those who attend our meetings. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with MEW, or if you are interested in participating in a Friends and Family support group through MEW, contact Scott Heald at SHeald@ministryvillage.org or by phone at 850-475-1112.