He's Almost 13 Years Sober. The Pandemic Is Testing Him

12-step meetings have moved online, but there have been snags
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 2, 2020 1:15 PM CDT
In the Era of Social Distancing, Those in Recovery Are at Risk
In this March 6, 2020 photo, Charlie Campbell, center stands with his mother, Dorothy Campbell, as they talk with a worker about his father, Gene Campbell, who can be seen through a window at left, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Charlie Campbell, nearly 13 years sober, is feeling tested today more than ever to stay that way. His dad is recovering from COVID-19 in a suburban Seattle hospital. His mom, who has dementia, lives in a facility that now bars visitors because of the virus. A good friend recently killed himself. Last week, Campbell, 61, tried his first online Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. His internet was shaky and he didn't get to speak. The meeting did not give him the peace and serenity he craved. "I'm a face-to-face kind of person," Campbell says. Still, he hasn't relapsed. The coronavirus pandemic is challenging the millions who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction and threatening America’s progress against the opioid crisis, says Dr. Caleb Alexander of Johns Hopkins' school of public health. People in recovery rely on human contact, Alexander says, so the longer social distancing is needed "the more strained people may feel." Some details, from the AP:

  • In suburban Boston, Catherine Collins, a 56-year-old recovering alcoholic, says it has been an adjustment to attend AA meetings via the online platform Zoom, and the leader of the Inter-Group Association of AA of New York said there have been snags. Some groups did not know how to change settings to private, others have gone over capacity, revealing phone numbers.
  • In Olympia, Washington, a clinic for opioid addiction now meets patients outdoors and offers longer prescriptions of the treatment drug buprenorphine—four weeks, up from two—to reduce visits and the risk of infection, said medical director Dr. Lucinda Grande.
  • Elsewhere, federal health officials are allowing patients to take home methadone, another treatment drug. And they issued emergency guidance to make it easier for addiction professionals to offer help by phone, without obtaining the written consent required to share patient records.
  • With cities and states locked down, online support groups are forming, among them a global group started by a San Francisco-area tech worker that's called One Corona Too Many. In the New York City metro area, with more than 6,000 meetings weekly, organizers offer guidelines on best practices and tutorials on how to set up video conference calls.
(Click for more, including one former addict who worries the pandemic may lead to "a mass relapse.")

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