UNION CITY, Ind. — The Union City chapter of Brianna’s Hope has been meeting since April at 6:30 p.m. every Sunday. Meetings are held in the basement of Wesley United Methodist Church at 515 W. Oak St. in Union City, Indiana.
Brianna’s Hope is participant-driven, faith-based, compassion-filled support and recovery group for those battling the battle with addiction. It is open to all addicts, strugglers and overcomers.
“It got started when I got married and four weeks into my marriage a nephew of my husband came and told us my husband’s son was on heroin,” remarked Lisa Lyons. “I investigated and ended up going to Brianna’s Hope in Redkey, Indiana. A couple of months later in August, he was on our doorstep living a life of drugs. That’s why I’m divorced.”
Lyons said she then went to the resource officer at Union City Community High School, where she works as treasurer and athletic secretary, and told that officer that something is needed in in town.
“Our police department, pastor, youth pastor went to Redkey and visited Brianna’s Hope,” she said. “They realized right away we needed to do this. A 25-year-old Jay County heroin addict [Brianne DiBattiste] came up missing in August 2014 and her body was found weeks later at the Jay County Conservation Club. Anything to identify her was cut off of her, and she was even decapitated. It’s an unsolved case.”
Lyons said that was when Pastor Randy Davis of the Redkey United Methodist Church started the group Brianna’s Hope and its beginnings was in November 2o14.
“Brianna’s Hope reaches out to heroin addicts who want to get clean,” Lyons said. “Redkey meetings have 50 to 60 who come to the meetings. We’re struggling.”
She said there are 34 who had been coming to the local meeting, but noted that those numbers have dwindled.
“The meetings in Redkey are different because that’s the area where Brianna was from,” Lyons said.
“There is nothing we can do but be like Redkey,” said Kevin Lawrence, UCCHS football coach and employee of Applegate’s who helps out in leading the weekly meetings. “We’re going to be open every single Sunday. I put together a lesson, an overcomer report and ask about victories they may want to share. We give out victory tags and t-shirts if they’re here for three meetings.”
Lyons, Lawrence and Sharon Price are known as Team Hope and lead the meetings.
Sometimes, their meetings feature a guest speaker, including the pastor in Redkey who has come to Union City a couple of times.
“We have a life coach come in for certain subjects,” Lyons said. “The lessons are small. We try to encourage people to be involved in the meetings.”
Brandon, age 25, one of those who attend the meetings in Union City, goes to other meetings when someone wants to open a new chapter. He did so in Winchester.
“I tell them what I’ve been through,” said Brandon who came to the recent meeting with his son. “This is helping me tremendously. I am finding out that there are people out there who care and don’t think you’re a waste to society and can overcome.”
“One of the main things we tell them that to overcome an addiction you have to have God in your life,” said Price, one of the leaders. “We want people to realize we are there even if it’s not inside our family. Others also need to know there are people who care. It’s hard to get that trust back.”
“This is faith-based,” said Lyons. “A couple of students at the high school join us every week. They are here to learn.”
She went on, “In the beginning, a drug is a choice, now it is an illness. The heroin ….they’re lacing it now.”
Michelle, who was brought to a local meeting the first time by her niece, said, “This [Brianna’s Hope] is a very good support system. when you don’t have a lot of help.”
Lawrence and Lyons agreed that is is hard for them to reach students under 18.
“You can’t walk up to a 16-year-old kid who is in the line of fire to become a heroin addict,” Lawrence said. “I have hope for Tyler here. I know Tyler will save people’s lives. He was not on heroin, but he’s changed. Tyler’s a typical teen; he’ll be a great man. It’s my hope he will always make the right choices and stay out of the danger zone and that no good scenario comes out of it. I want to help those struggling. I have a big goal to help young kids. Heroin is a bad deal and you’ll probably be in a situation for the fight for your life.”
“It’s frustrating when someome comes here and it’s tugging at your heart,” said Lyons. “I’ve seen hurts and struggles.”
She said she would like to see a facility, something like Harbor Lights Rehab in Indianapolis, come to Randolph County.
In a conversation at last week’s meeting, someone said a person has to want to become clean, “but the hardest part is the withdrawal.”
“They said it’s like the flu 100 times,” Lyons said.
“You get the sweats. You’re cold then hot; you throw up; have leg cramps and diarrhea and you have anywhere from three to 13 days of sleeplessness,” Michelle said.
“It gives me hope when people come up to me and say, ‘I’m a heroin addict,’” Lawrence said. “Those people give people hope. Most heroin addicts don’t believe they can beat it. The trump card is getting over the hump. One fellow was off heroin for six months. He had a wife, children and every reason not to use. He was 10 months clean when he relapsed.”
“It takes two years for the brain to work like it did before,” said Brandon. “The physical you can get through; but it’s the mental you’re battling.”
“They go from drinking, to weed to pills,” said one of the leaders. “We gotta get God in our schools. The party lifestyle is not working. After they have marijuana, they want to move on to the next thing.”
“They’re experimenting,” said Lyons. “There is not enough for kids to do these days. We invite kids to come here and learn. There is confidentiality here.”
“We care about the struggler more than the struggle,” said a spokesperson. “We care more about the individual than the chapter. We believe. Come and believe with us.”
There are currently nine chapters in six Indiana counties, meeting five days a week. Two more chapters will be joining before the end of 2016. They are in Redkey, Daleville, Hagerstown, Hartford City, Lafayette, Winchester, Muncie, Dunkirk and Union City.
At Union City’s initial meeting of Brianne’s Hope in April, a group of approximately 100 people gathered at the cafeteria of the Union City Junior Senior High School to kick off the opening of the Union City Chapter of a Better Life, of Brianna’s Hope. This was the fifth chapter formed and spearheaded by Lawrence and Lyons with the intention of helping to help educate the public about the rising heroin epidemic. Sister chapters were in attendance to kick off the newly formed Union City Chapter.