Local experts advise people in recovery to find online, in-person support on New Year’s Eve, other holidays

BUCKHANNON – Those in recovery from alcohol or drugs should be with people they trust on New Year’s Eve.

Doug Spears, executive director of the 180 Center, and Matt Kerner, executive director of Opportunity House, said the most important thing a new person to recovery can do is spend time with people who are conducive to their recovery.

“Don’t spend New Year’s alone, don’t spend it with old acquaintances, and don’t go where you used to go,” Spears said. “Make sure you do something different this holiday season, this new year. If you struggle with alcohol, the last place you need to be is someplace where there’s alcohol.”

Kerner said it’s important not to isolate during the holidays, even during a pandemic.

“We’re going to do what we’ve been doing for months now, and that’s stick together,” Kerner said. “Our people have been pretty much locked down because of COVID, so we’ve been doing a lot of Zoom meetings. Initially, there was strong resistance to it because we didn’t have that close, personal contact with people, but I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.”

He said the Opportunity House typically arranges a New Year’s event, but the pandemic put a damper on that this year.

“If you’re in recovery, be connected to people in recovery, whether that’s a phone call or the Zoom meeting or whatever form that takes,” Kerner said. “Even though we are for the most part isolating because of COVID, we’re not alone and it’s just a night.”

Spears recommended a game night, watching a movie and making a fun meal.

“You can have a game night – I always tell people if you’re in recovery, you don’t want to spend it alone,” Spears said. “Isolation is never a good thing, watch movie, game nights, there’s different things that you can do that don’t involve drinking.”

He said his houses have made sauerkraut and kielbasa for New Year’s, but their favorite dish is deer chili.

“I have several guys who hunt, so we have a freezer full of deer meat and I really like to make deer chili and grilled cheese sandwiches and most of the guys are in the houses unless they’re working, but most of them seem to like it,” Spears said.

Kerner, who has been in recovering for more than 13 years, explained holidays and anniversaries can be particularly hard for those in recovery.

“Every anniversary in recovery can be difficult for people because it means two different things: one, people were also mourning the loss of the longest relationship: addiction,” Kerner said. “The first set of holidays is like that because we are conditioned that during new year, we get drunk and a lot of the things of that nature seem strange; it seems like we can’t do the other stuff that happens on the New Year’s Eve.”

Spears said spending the holiday season with the right people can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

“Be with people that care about you, get with family and friends who want to see you do the best you can, people that are supportive in your sobriety, instead of wanting to support you in drugs or alcohol or partying,” Spears said. “Because it can kill you, a relapse can kill you if you’re a heroin addict, so it’s life and death.”

Kerner said if anyone is having trouble finding a virtual meeting, they can email him at mattkerner@opphousewv.org.

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