Native American recovery group takes meetings outside

A recovery group through the Wabanaki Health and Wellness are taking meetings outside.
A recovery group through the Wabanaki Health and Wellness are taking meetings outside.(WABI)
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 7:17 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - The pandemic has put a strain on the wellness of our vulnerable communities, including Native Americans in recovery for substance use disorder.

“I don’t think I can remember a time such as this," says Sharon Jordan, Executive Director of Wabanaki Health and Wellness.

Jordan says being the executive director of the Wabanaki Health and Wellness Center in Bangor doesn’t feel like a job -- it feels like helping family. And like families all over the world, the coronavirus pandemic has been an emotional roller coaster.

“You know, for Native people, we have been through a number of situations through history and very tough situations. It definitely posed a very unique challenge to not only our community but the world" says Jordan.

At The Wab, they provide a number of resources including help with case management, supportive housing and their peer recovery center.

“We do a bunch of different initiatives around prevention of substance misuse and promoting recovery," says Jordan.

“My meeting on Thursdays we have, I would say about 35 people. There’s been up to 60," says Melody Paul who is in recovery and also runs a weekly 12-step recovery meeting.

Meetings are like medicine for those in recovery and for a while due to distancing requirements they were put on hold in recovery networks everywhere.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had some overdoses due to the crisis. We’ve had a lack of meetings. There was a lot of isolation and addicts have a hard time with that. We need each other," says Paul.

So, they decided to take their meetings out to Williams Park in Bangor, where they could safely get together and not have to solely rely on virtual meetings.

“On Zoom, there like, wasn’t that connection, like having that connection really helped especially an addict like me. I need that connection with people and having that connection," says Danielle Tomah, who attends the meetings.

Connections that bring those dealing with addiction out of isolation and into recovery.

“Without recovery programs there’s a possibility that we could die," says Paul.

The ability to hold the meetings not only helps them get their lives back but also maintain their progress.

“These are the things that have allowed me to stand here today and be a part of the society I was once apart from. That today I’m able to be a benefit to other people where I wasn’t as an active addict," says Steve Knockwood who is also in recovery and attends the outdoor meetings.

Across the river, the BARN in Brewer has been a partner and has let them hold meetings there in the past but with with the size of those who want to attend now conflicting with distancing requirements, meeting outside has been crucial. They say they aren’t sure where they will go come winter.

“Hopefully we get past this and we can continue on doing the things that we need to do to survive," says Paul.

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