Notable Women of Austin: Lukes helps others cope with substance abuse

Published 8:28 am Monday, June 4, 2018


Chris Lukes went through a dark and scary time when she realized that a member of her family had become addicted to drugs.  As with so many stories we hear, it started innocently with a prescription, given for dental surgery.

Chris felt so alone and afraid as she tried to help her loved one.  She began to educate herself about addiction, but that didn’t make her feeling of isolation go away.  She felt she was on her own in dealing with this problem.  In talking to her pastor, Karen Behling at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, she was assured she was not alone. There were others around her who were dealing with the same challenges.  Together they looked for a group that could support Chris.  Finding none, Chris with Pastor Behling’s encouragement, decided to start a support group for family members of loved ones who struggle with addiction.  Frosty Miller, a retired police officer and police chaplain, has worked with Chris from the start to facilitate this group, called Circle of Hope.

Three years after their first meeting they have seen an estimated 150-200 different faces at their twice-monthly meetings.  They meet at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month in the Fireside Room at Our Savior’s Church.  Chris is there every time to greet both familiar and new faces and to give hugs.  Some people come just one time, others come regularly,  and everything in between.  Some people never say anything, and only listen as others tell where they and their loved one are on this torturous journey.

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Chris grew up in Austin, as one of four children of Jerry and Linda Reinartz, who were “the perfect parents” she says, “They were always there for their children.” And they also were very active in the community, so Chris grew up knowing lots of people and understanding the importance of networking. That helps her credibility when people hear about her work with Circle of Hope.  She has also been a member of the Austin Area Drug Force for three years. This group meets monthly to discuss the current  “drug scene” and ways to intervene. The Austin Positive Action Coalition is also a place Chris serves, and she was involved in creating their current initiative, “Just Talk,” which is an effort to encourage teens and their parent to develop frequent communication.  Participation in Apex Austin is another of Chris’s community interests.

Chris organized the “Wake Up Austin” series of four seminars in 2016-17 to educate the community about the new drug culture, which has changed from alcohol and marijuana to prescription drugs, meth and heroin.  Speakers at this forum included professionals working with addicts and addiction, as well as people in recovery who shared their stories. And three local area moms who lost their children to heroin overdose,   and who had been a part of the Circle of Hope, helped to make the seminars successful.

More recently Chris arranged for a representative of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation to give a training course in the use of the life saving drug, naloxone, which blocks the effects of an opioid overdose.   Twenty additional people in our community now know how to administer that drug.

Chris is married and is the mother of four children.  She also has three other types of employment.  She does interior painting, landscape maintenance, and she is on the staff of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church as Director of Missions and Hospitality.

She says she has tried to pull back some from all her involvement and is always is confronted with other ways she can help.  “God puts you where you need to be,” Lukes comments. “Once you’ve developed the strength and knowledge to get through the dark times, you have to do something with it.”  She hopes giving this interview can help one more mom get her life back.

Your community applauds you, Chris Lukes, for taking on the difficult and heart-wrenching work of standing with families and making for them a “Circle of Hope.”

Danger signs

Chris Lukes of Circle of Hope adds a few things to watch for in your family and friends. She says these can be red flags for an addiction or mental health issue:

•Are there changes in behavior?

•Do they have bursts of anger or irritation for no apparent reason?

•Do they seem to be unhappy most of the time?

•Are they skipping school? are their grades slipping?

•Are they hanging around with a new group of friends?

•Are they being secretive?

•Are they avoiding eye contact?

•Do they have slurred or rapid speech?

•Are they paranoid?

•Do their eyes seem red or pupils very small or very large?  Different drugs will change the look in your loved one’s eyes.

•Are they losing weight?

•Do they seem withdrawn from you and other friends and family members?

•Do they hide out in their bedrooms alone when they are home?

•Do they lie to you?

•Do they have a hard time keeping straight conversations they’ve had with you?

•Do they say one thing and do another?

•Are they reliable when they say they are going to do something?

•Do they follow through?

Are items or money missing from your home?

•Are there new financial problems?

•Do they seem to stay awake for long periods of time or nod off in the middle of a conversation, etc.?

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact program co-chair, Sue Grove  or Carolyn Bogott