Organization is a place where those working to remain sober can find support, friendship, assistance, a listening ear and more
By Jessica Arsenault Rivenburg
Addiction is a disease that doesn’t easily let go of its victims.
Whether the struggle is against heroine, alcohol, methamphetamine or gambling, those trying to stay sober need support and assistance to succeed. And that is nothing to be ashamed of or judged on, according to Melissa Snyder, director of prevention and recovery services at the new Rise Recovery Community Outreach Center in Herkimer.
Following a year of shuttered or severely limited services, Rise RCOC is inching back to normalcy as it has reopened to walk-ins as of May 3.
“It’s been a long road and we’ve done our best to be here for our members and support them from afar,” said Barb Bellstedt, volunteer coordinator peer advocate. “We’re very happy to be opening up more again.”
Rise RCOC closed its doors completely in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, it began holding one-on-one meetings by appointment only. Throughout the year, workers and volunteers stayed busy and worked hard to keep members engaged with daily texts, Facebook posts, Zoom meetings and classes.
Now, they are welcoming walk-ins again, with a 10-person limit in the main room, Bellstedt said.
Rise RCOC, located in the Herkimer Commons Mall on East Albany Street, Herkimer, opened its doors in October 2019 as a place where those working to remain sober could find support, friendship, assistance, a listening ear and a safe place to hang out away from substances and temptations, said Bellstedt.
“This is a completely voluntary program,” she explained. “We’re not court-ordered.”
When someone completes a treatment program or has made the decision to stop using drugs or alcohol, facing the same community, people and stressors that existed during substance abuse can serve as triggers and make recovery difficult, Bellstedt said. Any new stressors, such as the loss of a job or the need for a new housing situation, can also be large stumbling blocks on the road to sobriety.
Rise RCOC is not a treatment facility. There are no counselors, doctors or nurses and no one issuing medication or prescriptions, Bellstedt said.
What Rise RCOC does offer is caring people, many with personal experience in addiction, who are willing to listen and suggest assistance from other agencies when appropriate, Bellstedt said. As a program of Catholic Charities of Herkimer County, Rise RCOC already has a good working relationship with many other state and county organizations.
“Our goal is to help them continue on their pathway to recovery,” said Bellstedt. “We’re here both for those dealing with the addiction and also their family and friends, too.”
To that end, an Al-Anon group meets there Wednesday evenings, for family members affected by alcoholics.
Another goal of Rise RCOC is to battle the stigma surrounding addiction within the community and society at large, said Snyder.
“Sometimes the fear of the stigma surrounding addiction and addiction recovery prevents those struggling with the disease from admitting the problem or seeking help,” she said.
Snyder and her team are currently running a campaign for understanding addiction.
Rise RCOC offers members sessions with peer advocates, various training life-skills courses and serves as a general recreation center with a pool table, foosball, ping-pong table, giant-screen TV, crafting area, meditation room, game systems, books and board games.
“You really can’t appreciate it fully until you come and see us,” Bellstedt said.
Anyone interested in becoming a member at Rise RCOC can stop by the center any time during its normal hours. No appointment is necessary. And, there is no insurance cost or fee for services. Membership does, however, require individuals to sign a statement of intended sobriety and the center’s expectations. Rise RCOC will not tolerate active substance abuse, Bellstedt said.
The center is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the Al-Anon group meeting Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
For more information on the center, visit: www.risercoc.org or facebook.com/risercoc.
Photo: Rise RCOC offers support, assistance, a listening ear and a safe place to hang out for those recovering from addiction. Above, from left, are team members and volunteers Barb Bellstedt, Jeff Petrie, Melissa Snyder and Jean Verri.