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Addiction helpline provides a listening ear

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Battling an addiction is difficult in any circumstance. But like many other people struggling to stay sober, Daniel Stendeback had to do it while in jail, a place when he felt very much alone.


“Most all my family turned away from me. I had no communication with friends,” he said. “Facing addiction alone is a losing battle. I knew I didn’t want to keep doing what had got me in the situation to begin with, yet (I) was helpless to face it.”


Fortunately, Stendeback became friends with someone on the outside: Dave Druitt, a Vietnam War veteran, a recovering addict and parishioner of Church of the Nativity in Burke. Having someone to listen to him made all the difference in Stendeback’s life.


“Having the ability to call and talk to someone who understood, someone I could tell actually cared about whether I made it or not quickly became priceless in my recovery. The first step in my spiritual awakening was having that outlet,” said Stendeback, now a parishioner of Nativity. It’s why he now volunteers with the Dreamcoat and Calix Helpline for Addictions, a helpline staffed primarily by members of two local organizations — Dreamcoat and Calix.


Dreamcoat, founded by Druitt, is a not-for-profit Northern Virginia painting and home improvement company that employs veterans and former inmates. The Calix Society is an association of Catholic alcoholics, drug addicts, and family members and friends affected by addiction. Both groups, as well as priests such as Father M. Paul Richardson, the Calix chaplain, have teamed up to staff the new helpline.


The start of this project comes at a time when isolation, joblessness and other effects of the coronavirus pandemic make recovering addicts and addicts more susceptible to relapse or overdosing. The American Medical Association recently released a report noting “an increasing number of reports from media suggesting increases in opioid-related mortality — particularly from illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.”


George Swanberg, executive director of Life Line Counseling Center and a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Church in Warrenton, has noticed an uptick in calls since the start of the pandemic. “In the last three or four months, my work has exploded,” he said. “I’ve probably got four times as many clients as I did before. Relapses are happening, and there are some opiate ones but most of these are alcohol.”


Most of the helpline volunteers are not counselors, but many have been through recovery and are able to direct people in need to local resources. “We care, we’ve been through it, and we have experience to offer those in need,” said Druitt. “We offer the helpline as a way to interact with those in our diocese who are touched by addictions and need a warm heart and experienced hands, with many resources as referrals. It makes all the difference in the world.”


Timothy, who asked that his last name be withheld, is a helpline caller and a prisoner at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn. He said he appreciates being able to talk to a fellow believer. “Being able to reach a priest or another devoted Catholic, it’s a true blessing. In prison, you get to the point where it is a struggle and there are times when it messes with your faith,” he said. “When I get depressed or angry or in one of my moods, I know that I can reach out to somebody (who’s) going to give me some good advice.”


Find out more


To reach the Dreamcoat and Calix Helpline for Addictions, call 970-989-2670. For more information on additional local resources, go to ccda.net/opioids


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020