Coronavirus: Dealing with addiction during isolation

Suggestions to help people find a purpose and cope with the coronavirus.

Suggestions to help people find a purpose and cope with the coronavirus.


WILTON — Life has changed dramatically in these days of the coronavirus. With non-essential businesses shut down, and people living in self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus, many are coping with feelings of fear and isolation.

People dealing with addiction and alcoholism face additional struggles and challenges trying to stay clean and sober in the confines of their homes. Outside lifelines they relied on such as in-person meetings and therapy sessions have been canceled in order to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus.

But thanks to modern technology, people with addiction issues can get help and support.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have gone digital.

The program in Connecticut has 35,000 members and regularly holds 1,800 meetings over 700 locations, according to its website.

Until recently, there were six AA meetings a week held at the Wilton Baptist Church. A sign on the door now directs AA members to look for Zoom televised meetings in listings on AA Connecticut’s website

“Zoom meetings are a good substitute for live AA meetings,“ according to an AA program leader.

“We want people to know that AA is still here for you if you have a problem with alcohol and can’t stop on your own. AA doesn’t close ever, including now,” he said.

The Wilton Sober Sisters is holding a meeting on Zoom on Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m. Zoom Meeting ID: 306 389 768. Password: 606960.

“People are isolated now, but the good news is technology is helping people connect,” said the Rev. Shannon White, pastor at the Wilton Presbyterian Church.

White is supportive of AA’s Zoom meetings, which have become very popular. “Some are heavily attended by hundreds of people. They are holding meetings every half hour,” she said.

During these past weeks, where people are quarantining in their homes, White has been in touch with people who have been in recovery, and her husband, a therapist, is doing sessions over the phone.

“The lack of connection is a trigger for a lot of people,” she said. “We’re reaching out to people who are isolated and lonely and need to check in to be connected.”

She called these times, “extraordinary and unprecedented.”

She found it ironinc that liquor stores were deemed essential businesses and allowed to stay open at this time.

“People cope with isolation in a number of ways and alcohol is one way of coping. Many people can do that safely, but for others it is death-dealing. People who are addicted, and can’t stop at one, are really struggling,” she said.

In addition to participating in online meetings, White has other advice for people dealing with addiction.

“Reach out to somebody. A huge mainstay of recovery is reaching out, being of service, and helping other people,” she said.

She recommends taking on helpful tasks such as going to the grocery store or food bank for people in need. Or reaching out to someone else who might be struggling.

She also recommends physical activity such as walking or yoga, and taking deep breaths to gain a sense of equilibrium and spirituality.

“More people than ever are finding comfort attending the Presbyterian Church’s services online,” she said. Each week, she prerecords services from her home and posts them to YouTube. The services are getting around 200 views each week.

“In these times, when we can’t be together, we need to be creative to create a sense of community,” she said.

Mountainside Treatment Center, which has a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Wilton, is also reaching out via the internet.

The facility is offering telehealth options for its outpatient services and recovery coaching programs.

“Connections are an essential component of the human experience, and isolation — despite being necessary in the short term — can have a negative impact on anyone’s mental health over time,” according to Andre Basso, chief operating officer at Mountainside.

Mountainside has introduced telehealth services, such as videoconferencing and wireless communications, for people to connect without requiring them to leave the safety of their homes.

“Our outpatient services are 100-percent digital but remain 100-percent warm, compassionate, and human. These technologies provide a sense of comfort and normalcy during moments of uncertainty. While we may not always be face-to-face with our clients, we stand side-by-side with them,” Basso said.

Click HERE to access Mountainside’s free virtual support offerings.