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Opioid crisis: Supportive sober housing - MessAge Media: Health

Opioid crisis: Supportive sober housing

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Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2019 5:00 am

Mary Dinger has more experience with addiction and recovery than one would expect for one who hasn’t struggled personally with substance abuse.

A number of family members have had first-hand experience with putting their lives together after being in treatment programs, so she has seen and felt the effects personally.


Mary and her husband Nick Dinger have spent the last several years giving back to the Aitkin community by acquiring and restoring blighted properties to create homes for recovering addicts.

A mens’ house was the first; after two years and countless hours and dollars of investment, that house was almost lost due to a financing glitch. At the last minute, the Dingers were able to return to the house and once again prepare it for residents.  

A nearby property was also acquired, cleaned and repaired in preparation for a second mens’ house to accommodate the overflow from the first, but a need presented itself when a family lost its home to fire. It turned out that the family had some addiction issues and was in need of a safe place to get their lives back on track, so the second house was made available to that family.

Around the same time, the Dingers’ ministry received an offer of a no-cost lease of a rural house that was in dire need of repair and cleanup.  Mary had been hoping and praying for the ability to accommodate women in a safe house, and she took this as a sign that this was really going to happen.


The ministry, United 4 Recovery, is a non-denominational community outreach arm-of-the-parent ministry, Sowing Seeds for God.

Volunteer workers and donations of furnishings are still needed to get the property ready and livable.  This third home will house exclusively women with children under the age of 3 years.  Up to four women and their youngsters will be accommodated there. Much work is still to be done, and volunteers are needed.


Residents of the safe houses are required to attend church and participate in some kind of personal growth program, such as a 12-step program or a weekly counseling session or outpatient treatment program.

They are required to be financially responsible for themselves, either by working, actively looking for work, or being supported by some kind of disability benefit. A fitness program is being started and the Dingers are working to find good recreational opportunities for residents that don’t involve alcohol.

Dinger actively works to teach healthy family relationships to the  residents of the three houses by having weekly “family” meetings at each house. Residents are involved in decision-making and learning to constructively deal with interpersonal conflict.


Because this series is about the opioid epidemic that has been so much in the news, the Age asked Mary what her observations were about the situation, and whether she sees it as a new crisis, or just something that has started to receive more attention.

“It is a huge epidemic,” said Mary “but it would be a mistake to think it’s just about opioids. We are in the midst of an epidemic of substance abuse. Alcohol and methamphetamines are the ‘drugs of choice’ in Aitkin County. Heroin is a bigger problem in Duluth. Other drugs are being laced with meth, causing even more people to become addicted.”


United 4 Recovery has just admitted its first two recovering heroin addicts, after having seen only alcohol and meth addicts, usually in combination with marijuana or tobacco. That fact suggests that opioid addiction might be increasing in Aitkin County. Dinger attributes some of the increase to the increase in prescription pain medications.

“Not everyone has the brain chemistry to predispose them to addiction,” said Dinger. But, because it’s hard to determine that ahead of time, medical professionals are working to treat every patient as if there is that potential, by lowering doses and shortening the time the drugs are prescribed. People don’t choose to become addicted.”


Mary would like to see medical professionals get more training on the science of addiction; people who suffer from addictions are very vulnerable, she said.


To volunteer with United 4 Recovery, or to make a donation, contact Mary at mary@sowingseedsforgod.com

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