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Addiction recovery groups get creative in new social distancing era

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Posted at 11:17 AM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 12:17:43-04

As social distancing becomes more imperative, support groups many people rely on are forced to cancel meetings.

When it comes to addiction recovery, there are people working hard to make sure those in need can still get critical help. Leaders are trying new things to get the point across that social distance doesn’t have to mean isolation, especially when nearly everyone has a smartphone.

Michelle Jaskulski’s two sons, Darrell and Kyle, are recovering addicts who’ve been sober for almost three years. The entire family still utilizes various recovery support groups.

“Our current support group was in the middle of a seven-week session,” Jaskulski said. “We were four weeks in, and had to make a Facebook group to finish.”

But not everyone already has an established group, and with COVID-19, fear and stress are heightened.

“Especially in early recovery, you really need that community and support,” Jaskulski said. “Many of them might be in a situation where they are estranged from their family. Now in our current situation, they’re left in a very vulnerable position.”

Jaskulski works for the Addiction Policy Forum, which just in the past week has developed a free app for recovering addicts called “Connections.”

“It’s just another way for people in recovery to connect with other like-minded people,” she said. “It has features similar to Facebook where you have a wall and a profile. You can communicate and chit-chat with other people. There is also 24/7 access to therapists, and other important features.”

Meanwhile, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are going online. They are walking people through how to connect via Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. There are “virtual meetings” every night of the week in our area.

“Don’t be intimidated by the technology aspect of this,” said Public Information Chairman for Alcoholics Anonymous in southern Wisconsin. “It’s absolutely simpler than you think. The resources are out there, just make the effort to reach out.”

The organization is also putting more emphasis on personal calls every day among members.

“Those calls have the impact of getting the caller out of our own heads, and then the benefit to the person we call is knowing that somebody out there cares enough to call and talk.”

So far, some of the virtual AA meetings are getting better attendance than in-person meetings were.

Helpful resources:

Support groups for loved ones:

  • Nar-Anon: A worldwide fellowship for those affected by someone else’s addiction. Utilize their online meetings and forums to talk to other individuals.
  • Al-Anon: A 12-step program based and focused on loved ones who have alcohol use disorder. They offer online and phone meetings.
  • FAMILIES ANONYMOUS: A 12-step fellowship for families and friends who have a loved one who struggles with drugs, alcohol, or related behavioral problems. They have online and e-meetings.
  • SMART Recovery Friends and Family: SMART Recovery Family & Friends is a science-based, secular alternative to Al-Anon and Johnson Intervention.

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