Group addiction recovery meetings to resume in Kelowna

Isolation hard on addicts

“Isolation is what will take us back out, isolation can kill us.”

The Kalano Club is a Kelowna facility offering meeting rooms for groups that support those struggling with various addictions, like Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. The centre is the primary meeting point for about eight addictions recovery groups in the city.

The centre closed its doors in mid-March due to the pandemic, something club president Joe Kumalae called a difficult choice.

“Isolation for an addict is the worst thing … it’s so unhealthy for us, we know, we talk about it all the time," he said.

Many of the groups pivoted and started delivering their meetings virtually, but that didn't work for everyone.

"A lot of people were using them, but old-schoolers like me aren’t real comfortable sitting in front of a computer screen and looking at nine to 15 faces,” said Kumalae, explaining when people are hurting, providing emotional support face-to-face can't be matched by phone or video chats. 

“A lot of the seniors haven’t used a computer for most of their life and now we’re saying sit at home, get on the computer, tap into these live meetings — they’re not going to do it.”

He says the biggest struggle in dealing with addiction is staying connected with the people who support you and having a safe space to work with people to improve your life. 

Three of Kumalae’s sponsees relapsed during the pandemic, in big part because they were not able to attend in-person addictions meetings. The BC Coroners Service has reported that fatal overdoses have surged during the pandemic, with 3.2 people dying per day in B.C. in the first four months of this year.

As a volunteer-run organization, the Kalano Club is in need of non-medical masks and gloves for participants and volunteers.

“We’re going to encourage everybody, you need to bring your own PPE stuff. We’re not going to be able to sustain on a day-to-day base - we can have an upwards of 350 bodies walk in-and-out of the door every week.”

How exactly in-person meetings will be safely delivered will be up to the individual groups and clubs that use the Kalano Club when it reopens. 

“We don’t have any say as part of what any group is doing for themselves but we’re going to stress guidelines here," Kumalae said. "We’re going to encourage nobody hangs out in the small meeting areas and have your meeting and get up and go out to the wide-open parking lot.”

Kumalae stresses if anyone is concerned about their immune system, feels sick, lives with elderly people or if you’re not comfortable, don’t visit the centre, as this is just the first stage of reopening. 

The Kalano Club has reduced capacity to less than half, removed seating in all areas and closed their concessions. They are accepting donations of non-medical mask to help the over 350 people who visit the centre a week. To set-up a drop-off before they re-open their doors on Jun. 8 email Joe Kumalae.

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