Avon Lake United Church of Christ recently introduced a community-oriented, biweekly support group called Families United Through Recovery. The group’s intent is to assist the families of those struggling with addiction or opioid abuse in supporting their loved ones and managing their own stress.
Although the group has been in the works since October, with sparsely attended meetings and limited community outreach, the revived group launched last month with a new name and a focus on helping protect the family unit.
“We believe if we all unite and get educated that we will be accomplishing a great deal in terms of helping to prevent and maybe reduce the impact of the addiction problem,” Pete Barth, one of the members of the church’s mission team, said. “That’s where the FUTR family group comes in. Our mission is to get our arms around the family — educating them and helping them to protect themselves.”
The church’s mission team is in charge of carrying out the church’s strategic plan and ensuring that long-term goals are properly enacted.
The group was started by the church’s mission team after the Rev. Kelly Brill experienced the death of a family member due to opioid overdose. The tragedy drew the congregation’s attention to the epidemic sweeping Ohio and was the impetus for the support group.
“We all felt the church can be a part of the solution, but we didn’t know how,” Brill said. “So our first step was to get educated. Some on our mission team began researching all of the resources in Lorain County.
“We were told by our county’s expert, Tom Stuber, that one of the best things we can do as a church is to help confront the problem of stigma, so we held an Addiction Awareness Sunday,” Brill said.
Stuber is president and CEO of The LCADA Way, which offers services to individuals and families struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
“The sermon that day was on the issue of stigma. We distributed literature, and we included a presentation from Tom Stuber. Finally, we were asked if we would host a support group for family members and friends of those in the sober-living facilities,” Brill said.
While there are programs around the county working to help people struggling with drug addiction, the mission team realized there weren’t many groups in the area supporting family members, even though the recovery process can be stressful for the entire family.
“The more we learned, the more we learned how pervasive the problem was we didn’t know,” said Elaine Newlin, one of the group’s organizers and member of the mission team.
Although the group has been around since October, word of mouth about it hasn’t spread.
“We just weren’t reaching the people we needed to reach,” Newlin said. “What we found out was even though we were giving information to the treatment centers, it wasn’t getting disseminated to the right people. We’ve had meetings where nobody has showed up. Our last meeting we had seven people there, and that’s including me and several other mission leaders.”
The support group is similar to other 12-step recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, except that its 12 steps will be tailored to each family’s needs.
“Our challenge was trying to figure out how a church fits into the problem of the opioid crisis,” Barth said. “Within the immediate support group for a person fighting addiction there is a tremendous amount of stress on the family and they need tools, they need training, they need to know how to properly support an addict. So our FUTR group fills that need.”
The next FUTR meeting is at 8 p.m. Thursday.