Center provides a safe space for people in recovery during the holidays

Opioid Crisis

LEMOYNE, Pa. (WHTM) – Experts say the holidays can be a trigger for people battling addiction and in recovery. It can also be a time when families unite and users are inspired to get or stay clean.

Everyone’s experiences during the holidays is different. JFT Recovery & Veterans Support Services in Lemoyne is getting the word out that there are options to keep people on a safe and happy path during this time.

“You have so many that burnt bridges in their life with their family, don’t have the past or not being with them causes a lot of depression,” said Steve Barndt, the executive director of JFT Recovery & Veterans Support Services.

Bardnt says this time of year can intensify emotions.

“Loneliness and being separated, that’s what our disease does to us,” said Barndt. “It really just magnifies that isolation sometimes, when they see TV, or in the mall with people walking with their kids.”

Some users may be pushed away from loved ones. Or, maybe they panic when they’re offered a glass of wine: a gesture which may seem routine, but could be detrimental.

At the same time, there are some families praying a loved one battling addiction comes home, so they can reconnect and inspire them to get help.

“The other side is being in recovery and getting your life back together and getting your family back together can be a very happy time too,” said Barndt.

Everyone’s experience is different, but staying clean is always the goal.

“Take someone else in recovery with you, especially if you’re traveling,” said Barndt. “You don’t want to get caught in a situation.”

“These people really helped me here at JFT,” said Joe Schimmel, who is in recovery.

JFT was packed for Thanksgiving, and will be holding events all through the holidays, surrounding people like Joe Schimmel with a community of support.

“This place is always open for people who need that safe haven,” said Schimmel. “Somewhere to come, relax, watch a game.”

“Christmas Eve evening, we’ll have food here, Christmas stuff on TV,” said Barndt. “We’ll have a grab bag of gifts so everybody will have a gift.”

Barndt says if you’re not nearby, there are other centers, faith-based groups and 12 step programs across the state offering safe spaces.

“Everything else you would do, minus the alcohol or the drugs or that atmosphere,” said Bardnt.

“You may feel lonely but you’re not alone,” said Schimmel.

More information about JFT’s Christmas and New Year’s events can be found on its Facebook page.

The PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has a database that links people to resources at the local, county and state level.

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