Life seemed to be crumbling more every day, and something had to block the pain.
Daniel Ramey started using methamphetamine after his wife was sentenced to two years in prison. As a result, his stepsons were taken away by the Department of Child Services.
The resulting two-year binge of drugs and alcohol led the 34-year-old Edinburgh resident further and further into darkness. But after being arrested for dealing meth, as his mother lay dying of cancer, he vowed to get sober.
Ten months later, he still is.
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“I took a lot for granted in my life. I wish I would have come through those doors sooner, but you can’t change the past, you can only change the future,” he said.
Ramey credits his success to an Edinburgh-based program called Free Indeed. As addictions become more rampant in the community, particularly with opioids such as oxycodone and heroin, the grassroots program has emerged to help people overcome their dependencies — and stay drug-free.
Free Indeed was formed out of Who So Ever Will Community Church to offer faith-based support to people whose abuse of drugs and alcohol, as well as other substances, has damaged their lives.
By bringing people to Christ, the hope is to provide them with a starting point and the strength to escape addiction’s grasp.
“We’ve got to try to come all together — law enforcement, faith-based communities, other organizations. We really need to all get together to offer help and hope. That’s what people need: hope. Often, when you’re addicted, you’ve lost hope, and when you lose hope, you don’t have anything.”
—Karen Hudson, a founder of Free Indeed
“We want people to help be delivered from that addiction, and we believe that we are just the conduits to offer help and human support in trying to do that,” said Karen Hudson, a founder of Free Indeed at Who So Ever Will Be Church. “The ultimate goal is to introduce them to Jesus Christ, that he is the one. One of the things we say is that we can’t fix you, but God can.”
Free Indeed is focused on battling all forms of addiction: drugs, alcohol, food and pornography, among other things. A majority of the participants have problems with drugs and alcohol, though.
At a recent meeting, each person sitting around the table shared how addiction had shattered their life. One spoke about overcoming his reliance on heroin, and the despair he felt watching his wife self-medicate with alcohol to deal with chronic pain.
Another woman described how she had become so dependent on prescription opioids that she would steal medication from her husband while he recovered from a massive motorcycle accident.
“We talk about our triumphs and our defeats, our struggles and our victories. Then when we leave, we come back and do it again the next week,” Hudson said.
Free Indeed formed three years ago when Pastor Lewis Burton was approached by about 10 members of Who So Ever Will Community Church about creating a program for people who deal with addiction. The members themselves were in different phases of recovery, and suggested that the Edinburgh community could benefit from a weekly meeting at the church.
“That’s been the foundation of the church since day one. We wanted to establish a place where people could come no matter what they were dressed like or were dealing with,” Burton said.
Burton has been active in ministering to people dealing with addiction, and agreed that it would be useful. That work fell in line with the mindset that he and church co-founder Larry Bryant had when they started Who So Ever Will in 1982.
“I’ve always had a care for the alcoholics — in my time coming up, there were no drugs, now there are. But I’ve always had a heart for them, that they’ve needed help. That’s how we embarked on this, to show them love,” he said.
Shayna Wheeler, who struggled with addiction to pain pills, alcohol, methamphetamine and heroin for 16 years, was involved with the program early on.
Wheeler has known Burton for her entire life, and when he asked her to help with a recovery support meeting, she agreed.
“I was born and raised in Edinburgh. People that I knew, that I did drugs with, that I ran around like a crazy lady with, drug dealers, in this small community where we’re all tight-knit, they see this huge change in me, and it has sparked their interest,” she said. “We had a lot of people who really came and it started to take hold.”
As word spread throughout Edinburgh, more and more people started coming to the meetings. At times, dozens of people have come to the sessions, 15 to 20 people attend other weeks.
Ramey was arrested in 2016 for dealing methamphetamine. While awaiting trial for the charge, he started attending Free Indeed at the urging of his family.
Ramey’s mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, which has spread from her colon to her lungs and pancreas. To be with his dying mom, he was allowed to take a furlough from his jail sentence and come home.
He promised her he would get sober.
“I made her some promises, and I intend to keep them,” he said. “I got to be out with her for almost three months, and I was with her every day and night, sober. That’s time I would never get back. It was precious.”
Ramey is on house arrest from his dealing conviction, and he is asking the court to allow him to continue so that he can go to addiction counseling and receive outpatient treatment. He attends four addiction recovery meetings each week, though it was Free Indeed that was the first step toward sobriety.
“They make you feel at home here,” Ramey said. “I’m not the only one going through this situation when I’m here. There are other people with the same charges, same issues, same charges.”
Free Indeed meetings are conducted every Thursday, even on holidays. For people who take part, having that regularity is a comfort. To interrupt that would place people seeking help on unsteady ground, Hudson said.
“We try not to ever cancel a meeting, because it can be a mental downer for people. Most of their lives are filled with chaos and everything that you can imagine. This is there one time a week when they can get into a non-chaotic, loving situation and just be themselves,” she said.
Each session starts with a meal, letting the group come together and visit before getting into the more serious business of the support meetings. Free child care is available.
People have come to meetings high and drunk, but organizers don’t judge anyone who attends, Hudson said.
“We’ve had people who have come and been successful, and there have been people who have relapsed. There have been people who we thought were good but weren’t. There have been people who have tried and just couldn’t overcome it,” Hudson said.
Often, people who come to the meeting are suffering from repercussions of their addiction. When individuals who have become homeless come looking for help, the church arranges for a night or two stay at a motel. Officials use connections throughout the Edinburgh community to find jobs for those taking part in the program.
Program organizers envision opening a halfway house someday, where people in recovery can transition from an in-patient facility to independent living while still receiving critical support.
“They could spend six months to a year here, getting back on their feet, finding work and focusing on their recovery,” Hudson said.
The Free Indeed program has spread beyond the Who So Ever Will congregation. A group with The Crossing, a church in Nineveh, has adapted the model for their community as well. The Crossing program meets every Tuesday, with a light meal starting at 6:30 p.m., and the meeting itself starting at 7:15.
Organizers of Free Indeed hope that the concept spreads to churches all over the area, Hudson said. They also want to partner with more organizations and agencies to help others realize how big of a problem addiction is. Only by working together will communities be able to solve this crisis.
“We’ve got to try to come all together — law enforcement, faith-based communities, other organizations. We really need to all get together to offer help and hope,” Hudson said. “That’s what people need: hope. Often, when you’re addicted, you’ve lost hope, and when you lose hope, you don’t have anything.”
What: A faith-based addiction ministry aimed at helping people start and continue along in their recovery process. The group meets each week, starting with a community dinner followed by a meeting.
Who So Ever Will Community Church, 623 Eisenhower Drive, Edinburgh; 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Thursday. Community meal starts at 6:30 p.m., with the meeting beginning at 7:15. Information: 812-526-5436
The Crossing, 8728 S. Nineveh Road, Nineveh; 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday. Community meal starts at 6:30 p.m., with the meeting beginning at 7:15. Information: thecrossingind.com or 317-933-3400