“In contrast, Corona is a no brainer”

How the men from the Johann Weber House manage the pandemic

Karl-Heinz Maier would never have thought that he could one day face such a huge dilemma. He did a good job. A house. Was married for 20 years. But he couldn’t stop drinking. Maier sank deeply as he drank. “I was in hell,” says the 63-year-old resident of the Johann Weber House in Würzburg. Maier has been in prison for four years and three months in a homeless shelter. For him, the corona crisis is a “no brainer” compared to what he has experienced. The Johann Weber House wrote in a press release.

After his release from prison, there was no sign of a chance to get back on his feet, the Lower Franconian says: “I didn’t even find a cheap pension for a few weeks.” He, who had been addicted for years, ended up in a shared room a homeless shelter. Everyone drank except him. Maier tried to be in the room just to sleep: “I was out all day.” In the middle of winter. At minus degrees. Almost without money. Finally, in February, the redeeming call came: “A place was vacated for me in the Johann Weber House.” Maier moved in. As one of the last residents. Because of Corona, the house had to close shortly afterwards.

Just as diabetics have to follow a strict diet, Karl-Heinz Maier has to be careful not to touch alcohol. It is not difficult for him in the social therapy facility of the Christophorus Society, because alcohol is taboo there. Above all, he always finds someone to talk to in the Johann Weber House. In the past few years, says Maier, he has spoken a lot. He went to the correctional facility or therapy to find out why he was addicted to alcohol. Today he knows what drove him to it: “Everything was always going too fast for me, I always wanted to go higher and higher.” Maier drank to endure the enormous pressure.

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The trained road builder knows that he must now stay on the ball. Because those who have been addicted to alcohol are always in danger of relapsing. Maier has been dry for five years now. A relapse would be fatal. He would possibly catapult him back to “hell”. Maier: “The Johann Weber House is now my base from which I want to build a new life.”

Maier is firmly convinced that he will be able to free himself completely from the mess he had gotten into. Although it takes a lot of perseverance. In the Johann Weber House, he sees that he is not alone in his fate. Many of the 24 residents have experienced catastrophic events. Many were deep down. And now laboriously work out again. According to facility manager Brigitte Abt, it is characteristic for a large part that they do not see the corona crisis as an absolute horror scenario: “Our residents are used to crises, just like our team is experienced with crises.”

Stefan Nothegger is happy that the wood workshop has opened again.
      Photo: Günther Purrlein

Most residents know what it means to live in poverty. And not just in relation to the material. Not having enough money is bad enough. “A large proportion of our residents also have practically no social contacts,” says Brigitte Abt. The restriction of contacts during the peak phase of the crisis was therefore of little concern to her. On the contrary. Some slipped out in conversation with the employees of the Johann-Weber-Haus: “Now others know what it’s like when you don’t have anyone.”

Furthermore, caution is required so that the corona virus does not spread explosively. That is why everyday life in the Johann-Weber-Haus still does not run as men were used to before the crisis broke out. After all, admission interviews are possible again with the approval of the health department. What Brigitte Abt is happy about. But other men, like Karl-Heinz Maier at the beginning of the year, are waiting to finally find a place where they can calm down and stabilize, the message continues.

In individual cases, the personal situation of the residents was exacerbated by the crisis. So it was with Thomas A. He also has to deal with addictions. Unlike Karl-Heinz Maier, however, he is not yet strong enough to master the inner urge to drink. In the past few weeks, addiction pressure has been almost unbearable for Thomas A., says Stefan Nothegger, who heads the wood workshop of the Johann Weber House: “He could not cope with the fact that his day had no structure.” Thomas A. employed in the wood workshop until mid-March. Then this facility also had to close. Thomas A. fell into a hole.

To finally be able to work again is a great pleasure for Thomas A.: The wood workshop has been open since the beginning of May. There is enough work, but a lot has been left behind. Thomas A. is currently mounting fittings on a piece of furniture that has been restored in the workshop. He loves that. However he loves to have lunch with the boys from the workshop. This is done on a large, freshly made “Corona table” that offers so much space that the minimum distance can easily be maintained.

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