Data from the federal government recently revealed a 1.5-year decrease in life expectancy, which marks the greatest single decline since World War II.
COVID-19 is the driving factor but the second leading cause of bringing that number down? “Unintentional injuries” which, according to the nation’s vital statistics system, were “largely driven by drug overdose deaths.”
Christy Moore, a board certified addiction counselor, and her husband, Dewayne, started a support group a couple of years ago as an alternative to traditional Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programming. It also serves as a “bridge” between those those groups and churches.
Forced to take a break during the pandemic, Overcomers Anonymous is back in swing. The group meets weekly on Thursday nights at Praise Fellowship, 7451 Market St., Russell, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“This is a critical time we are living in and we certainly want to reach as many as we can,” she said. “The percentage of increase in overdose or death… the numbers just have climbed significantly during the pandemic.”
They run the group “with the idea that we’re all overcoming something. There are some people that come that just have mental health issues and just need a support group.”
They’re coming into this space as a unique pair. Christy, with her professional experience, and her husband, who she said is celebrating 12 year of sobriety.
They bring the specialized training but also the practical experience needed to support people in their recovery.
“The idea just came from the need of people reaching out to us basically at church and saying ‘We don’t like AA or NA,'” Christy explained. “(We) tossed the idea around. It’s really our hearts.”
Relying on her 21 years of experiences and her husband’s past, they drafted their own curriculum and adapted their program to also allow family members and loved ones to have a voice.
“(It’s) really neat to watch the people in recovery in the group listen to the impacts that they’ve had on the family systems,” she said. “That’s been a really, really solid piece. That kind of makes it unique.”
Relationships appear to be at the heart of the program which is rooted in a faith-based perspective.
“I personally join alongside the individual or individuals of whom I’m working with,” Christy said, and “let them explore the need for a higher power. That’s all you have to do. Don’t shove it down their throats. … We’re here to help people find strength, hope, healing, support, (a) network, just encourage each other and build the faith. (We are) trying to meet them where they’re at.”
And that need may never be greater than now as we emerge from over a year of relative isolation.
“With the pandemic and the increase in overdose, now is the time to be reaching out to these people, helping them walk through the fire,” Christy said.
“People who have never touched drugs, moms and dads becoming teachers, turning to alcohol out of fear and anxiety. It’s just crazy… people you would not think would turn specifically to alcohol.”
For those already with substance abuse issues, she said the “fear, loneliness, boredom” of the pandemic were triggers.
“Addiction is often referred to as a disease of isolation, and overcoming that challenge has only become more difficult during a pandemic that has forced people indoors — in some cases to live lonely lives, with drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress,” she said.
Between 15 and 18 people are attending Overcomers Anonymous at this point. Moore said the meeting can meet court requirements for meeting attendance. “This is a great alternative,” she said.
Anyone interested can either show up on Thursday nights or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.