Father Decewicz said a major component of the ministry will be the opportunities for one-on-one encounters. If people call the program, he said the organization will the return the call within 24 hours and connect the person to a recovering addict who can be a guide or a friend.
Decewicz will be one of the individuals answering calls, helping direct people to the proper services, and discussing his or her experience. Another volunteer for the ministry is Carol Smith, a retired Program Manager for a women's residential facility and a recovering addict of nearly 24 years.
"You need the right tools, the right people around you to support you," she told CNA. "There is someone here who can help you, who can identify with you, and get [you] to a meeting."
She stressed the healing potential of 12 steps programs and shared her own experience with addiction – getting into prescription drugs when she was about 12 and the damage that followed.
Smith was introduced to prescription painkillers because of a dental procedure. She fell in love with these opiates, she said, noting she began stealing drugs from her father's drug store. After her little brother was born and she felt more estranged from her family, Smith began to spend more time with the wrong crowd, getting deeper into alcohol and other types of drugs.
Even as the drug habit progressed, she was able to function, receiving good grades throughout high school and getting accepted into the University of Pittsburgh. While maintaining an addiction to heroin, Smith graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology and later on worked for the government as a supervisor in the welfare department.
She said her life began to take a tragic turn after her husband died. She was forced to resign from her position because of a problem with theft, and eventually ended up in the hospital with sores on her legs from heroin abuse. From the hospital, she was taken to jail which then led to a work release program.
After prison, the addiction was still too much, and Smith again began shooting up heroin. "[Getting high,] that's all I know how to do. I've been doing it for the past 40 years," Smith told her supervisor when she was confronted about her relapse. But, instead of getting taken back to jail, Smith was taken to an eight week outpatient program, where she was introduced to NA.
"I started going to meetings every day and that's when the bulb finally went off – you can get through a day without getting high, you can live without using."
Smith explained the importance of faith in the 12 step program, calling it an opportunity for people to experience the love of God. She further added that evangelization efforts begin with people living this love.
"God is a part of it," she said. "There's a lot of people, especially people in addiction, they think that God's given up on them and that he could never love them with the horrible things they've done."
(Story continues below)
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"The biggest thing is you let them know that God's love them," she said. "I think it is more about being an example if you are going to try and have other people come to God or look at him the way you do."
This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 13, 2019.
Perry West is a staff writer for Catholic News Agency. He graduated from Franciscan University with his bachelor's in English. Prior to his job at CNA, he worked in construction staffing and coffee.