Delta variant brings concern for workers in addiction recovery centers

Posted at 12:26 PM, Jul 28, 2021

NASHVILLE -- The delta variant has people across the country worried about what COVID-19 restrictions could return. Among the most concerned are those who work in addiction recovery.

“I always had this idea that if you had an office, that was the sign of 'you made it,'” smiled Yoland Maness.

So, now that Maness has office space, is that how she feels?

“No, that’s when the work really begins,” she said. “I did bring some things in that brought joy to my spirit.”

Her favorite is a little picture by her niece, Paige. The painted picture is of different kinds of women, all queens. To know why this picture means so much, you have to know the full story.

“I grew up in a very rural community,” said Maness. “I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. That eventually led to methamphetamine use.”

Maness felt her addiction had become so deep, there was no way of getting through it to the other side.

“I literally had no home,” she said. “No friends, really. My body was being completely destroyed. I thought, ‘this is your life.’"

Changing course, Maness arrived at Mending Hearts, a Nashville-based residential treatment service for women. It’s at Mending Hearts where Maness today has that little office where she now works as associate clinical director. Maness has a new worry.

Downtowns across the country are full again. It’s so different now from how it all was in April 2020, a time when the pandemic left businesses locked up and city streets quiet. When the country was under stay-at-home orders, stress, anxiety, and depression spiked. By June 2020, the CDC reported 13% of Americans were starting or increasing substance abuse.

Mending Hearts did what they had to do, holding their recovery meetings through Zoom. Maness said she knows from her experience the importance of in-person meetings.

“For a person in early recovery, the opposite of addiction is connection,” she said.

Though the meetings are back in-person now, Mending Hearts is watching news as the CDC recommends masks in high transmission areas, reporting the delta variant is making up 83% of all new COVID-19 cases.

“More than anything, what I’ve heard from them is, ‘are they going to shut our meetings down?’” said Maness, referring to the women in the program.

“We can’t pray that it not come,” said Trina Frierson, the founder and CEO of Mending Hearts. “We have to think that it’s coming.”

Frierson said in fighting relapses as numbers rise for the delta variant, she’s working closely with medical centers for guidance.

“I’m grateful today that we have the ability to test on site, we have the ability to vaccinate our women here,” she said.

Maness said there’s a key frame of mind to be taught to anyone in recovery.

“Hey, we’ve already been through something,” she said. “You’ll get through it. You’ve already got evidence that you can.”

It’s the importance of connection in this time that brought so many people to a Nashville bridge Friday night for National Women Touched by Addiction Day.

“Recovery ain’t for the punks, right?” Frierson said to cheers from the crowd. “When you get clean, you reach back, and you help somebody else.”

Perhaps going into more uncertain times in the pandemic, Maness said she’s grateful for a special picture in her office and for the artist niece who accompanied her to the event at the bridge. With people there for support, Maness believes no matter how deep the addiction, there’s a bridge to cross it.

“The secret is out,” said Frierson. “Guess what? We do recover! Right?!”