Addiction recovery hampered by COVID-19 protocols

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KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. (WDVM) — The pandemic has presented challenges for those in addiction recovery. Support groups can pretty much only meet virtually.

Social isolation hits people struggling with addiction especially hard. Experts say social isolation during the pandemic has fueled alcohol sales. For those in recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, not being able to maintain a social support network can be a struggle. Though there are virtual connections, they are limiting and vulnerable to “zoom bombing,” which defeats the purpose of being anonymous.

And those social bonds — like going to a diner after a meeting — are not possible with all the COVID-19 limitations.

Kevin Knowles, with the Mountaineer Recovery Center in Berkeley County, is familiar with the limitations.

“Having those personal reactions are very, very important,” says Knowles, “so that individuals can get the sense for one another, so there’s a connection and we’re going to be able to get into the right direction, find a solution and move forward.”

Tammy Sherrard is a clinical social worker who treats sex offenders and their unique set of addiction challenges during the pandemic. Some are prohibited by court order from accessing the internet.

“Some of them don’t have access to the internet,” says Sherrard. “They would use the library to do any kind of work they needed on the internet but obviously you can’t do treatment at the library. And libraries are closed now because of the pandemic.”

Another casuality of social isolation for those in treatment is not being able to celebrate the milestones of one’s sobriety. Usually these support groups grab hands and form a circle, saying a collective prayer of thanks. It’s quite a different experience virtually, as opposed to an in-person gathering.

Experts say these addiction treatment groups help cope with fear and stress that otherwise may lead to drinking as an escape.

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