Keeping connected important for people in addiction recovery

Benita Zahn
Created: April 01, 2020 07:18 PM

The isolation many of us feel as we adhere to social distancing can be especially difficult for people in recovery from addiction.

Their support groups have been suspended - and the routine of going to a meeting is gone.
So how do you stay the course?

"I have a lot of concerns, actually," said Dr. Jason Kirby, the medical director for the Addiction Services at St. Peter's Health Partners.

This is why he's so concerned. Based on government figures, almost 20 million American adults suffer from drug and alcohol abuse. In this time of social distancing, they could be at risk for relapse.

"You know, one of the key characteristics of this disease is isolation," said Dr. Kirby.

While the meetings of a 12-step program and other support groups have been suspended, there's still a community - a virtual fellowship as the support has moved online.

"The 12-step programs adapted shockingly fast. We have round-the-clock 24/7 meetings on Zoom, conference calls," said Diane Cameron.

She has 35 years of sobriety, and she still goes to meetings - only now she connects via the internet.

It's working for her, but what about other patients?

"Even though they may feel that it's not the exact same, they do find that it is helpful they're still are able to connect and they don't feel nearly as isolated as what they probably could feel," she said.

If you're living in an area with limited internet access, there's always the telephone.

Dr. Kirby says reach out to your sponsor, to sober friends, to others who usually provide support.

"So people are trying to imitate and recreate that as they can with smaller groups doing their own little after the meeting conference call, getting on friend groups things like that, making sure they can share things with each other," said Cameron. "It's a tricky time, and I will tell you I have concerns for two groups of people."

Learn more about the people both Cameron and Dr. Kirby are most concerned about - and how to recognize the warning signs you might need more intervention, by watching the video of Benita Zahn's story.

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