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In March of 2016, Greg Bufkin checked himself into the Home of Grace, a faith-based drug treatment center, for three months after a near-death experience from a drug overdose. Bufkin best describes himself to this day as a recovering addict. For many years he was addicted to pain killers after being prescribed them for a migraine under a doctor’s care.
Through the duration of his stay, Greg and his wife noticed a gap with the patient’s addiction and their family members. “If you don’t’ treat the family at the same time and the same way you’re helping the addicts, then you’re missing a big portion of addiction”, says Bufkin. This discovery led Bufkin and his wife to start El Roi Ministries. El Roi (pronounced ‘row-eye’) aims to bridge that gap by building a network of churches, counselors, companies, charities and skilled individuals to help these families.
“When I was in rehab, I lost my salary and things were happening with my family and our house that needed to be paid for”, says Bufkin. “Life goes on while you’re in rehab and most of these addicts’ family members don’t have the same support system”, he said.
El Roi’s mission is to first help the physical needs of these families and secondly educate them. Bufkin stressed how the family’s adaptation to the addict’s release from these programs is just as important as the addict’s. “If what the family is doing before the addict goes into rehab isn’t changed when they come out, why should you expect the result to be that much different?”, says Bufkin. “And how do they know what to do differently unless you educate them”, added Bufkin.
El Roi isn’t just Home of Grace specific. They work with many other rehab organizations, churches, and facilitations. Recently, the El Roi ministry team volunteered to feed the people at Home of Grace by providing a Thanksgiving meal. They had 30 volunteers from Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, come together to spend Thanksgiving with the men at The Home of Grace in Vancleave, MS. “Some of our volunteers were former clients at The Home of Grace”, Bufkin said. “Some of the volunteers had loved ones who were previously clients, some were people who just wanted to spend Thanksgiving doing something for somebody else rather than doing the same old family gathering”, he said.
Bufkin says it’s all about loving these people and letting them know they are there for them and their families before, during and after their rehabilitation. “If the family falls apart while the addict is in rehab, then the odds of the addict first finishing the program is slim; and even if they do then they won’t be sober long if the family is not stable enough”, Bufkin said. El Roi’s goal is to have agreements with these organizations and individuals to offer services for free or reduced rates.
Bufkin says he sees El Roi expanding to more churches and organizations over the next few years. Within the last year, they’ve expanded by reaching out to other organizations they had originally not intended to work with, including Steps Coalition. “My goal is to have people to follow up with these rehab/AA programs even if it may take them to a different facility, but with the core focus being on the family”, he said.
Greg is also in the midst of writing an informational booklet detailing what addiction is and the best way to combat it with your family. “I’d like to call it something like ‘Addiction for Dummies'”, Bufkin jokingly added. “I just want these families to understand why they behave like they do, so they are coming home to an understanding and educated environment after treatment”, said Bufkin.
Bufkin also encourages people who would like to volunteer for the El Rio ministry to message their Facebook page. “We can always use folks to help make phone calls, companies and people to offer free or reduced services for families of addicts in recovery who are in need”, said Bufkin. “Even if it’s five minutes or a few hours, we’ll find somewhere you can help out”, he said.