GREENVILLE – Due to the persistence of some community members, a new support group, Families of Addicts (FOA) has found a home in Darke County, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, in Greenville.
On May 7, Betty Thompson and her daughter Diane Cundiff led a meeting to organize a Darke County FOA Chapter. The details are still being ironed out, but hopefully a first formal meeting will take place in June. The meeting began with a traditional reading of the FOA mission statement: “To educate, empower and embrace families, friends and individuals struggling with addiction, by providing support and promoting recovery.”
Thompson and Cundiff have been making the long trip to weekly FOA meetings, in Dayton, ever since around September of 2015, after they discovered that Cundiff’s son, Travis, was using Heroin. Travis sometimes attended the meetings with his family, but Heroin eventually took his life in September, 2016.
“We just sat and listened for a long time, because neither one of us felt comfortable,” Thompson said. “All of a sudden we thought, ‘Hey – they have the same problem we have. Maybe they can help us and we can help them’.”
FOA meeting members keep jars of rocks they collect, called milestones. Each milestone represents something deserving of a reward. Cundiff gave her son milestones when he came to meetings, but since his passing, she continues to fill his jar with her milestones.
“I get them for things like not giving up on getting an FOA Chapter started in Darke County,” she said. “I really think it would help the families.”
Founding Director of FOA Lori Erion said the number one thing that sets FOA apart from other groups, is that the members support anyone touched by addiction.
“We could be a grandmother, a grandchild, sister or brother, someone in recovery for a little or a long time, or someone looking for recovery,” she said. “We are different because we celebrate and promote recovery and it is that process that really brings hope to everyone involved. Because of that, we are not anonymous.”
While Erion attributes the success of her 11 years of recovery to the 12-step program, it is important that FOA is not anonymous, she said. Through the process, FOA hopes people find their voice and talk about addiction in their everyday conversations.
“It is so that the regular mainstream community realizes that we are just like any other person who has discovered that we have this type of disorder,” Erion said.
“Recovering addicts need to know that we all love them,” Thompson said. “That is our message.”
The floor was open for sharing.
Concerned community member Jackie Wittler said the main reason most people are welcoming FOA is so they can learn about addiction and see the signs of someone using. According to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Board President Mike Meckes, of Greenville, church Pastor Peter Menke, who is part of the Coalition of Darke County, said the church was glad to host FOA. In addition, the church hosts another 12-step meeting to help support the community.
“We think it is our responibility to God to help those who need help, and this is our way of doing that,” Meckes said.
According to Erion, the cost to start an FOA Chapter, a 501(c)(3) organization, is about $1,000, which includes printed materials, banners peer – mentoring and training. The Oakland Church of the Brethren, near Bradford, paid that charter fee for Darke County. The Coalition for a Healthy Darke County contributed to the startup. Convener of Oakland Church of the Brethren’s Outreach Program Jeremy Manalo said Betty Thompson is a parishioner of the church and through her encouraging, FOA became a priority.
“We work with our budget to try to do things like this every year,” he said. “Someone needed to do this. We are a team and St. Paul is more centrally located.”
“Our group is tailored more towards the person that has gotten to a point where they want to give back, so families don’t feel like they do by helping those who are still in it,” Erion said. “We give that peace to people who are surviving and recovering – we lift those people up.”