Even before the Corona virus, only 10% of those struggling with addiction were in treatment. Social distancing and closures will no doubt increase this statistic, which has been influenced by many factors: lack of treatment providers, stigma, and transportation barriers to name a few.
As we have discussed before, Sam Quinones, author of the book Dreamland, insists that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection. While we know that social distancing is required to stop the spread of disease, we also know that isolation is a serious threat to our loved ones who struggle with mental health and substance use disorder. Now with the stay-at-home order, mutual aid recovery groups such as AA and NA are unable to meet, and people in recovery may be left without support.
AA and Smart Recovery offer online meetings to assist with this issue. (Online AA meetings may be found at http://aa-intergroup.org/directory.php) (Smart Recovery online meetings may be found at Smartrecovery.org.)
I recently learned of a free recovery app called Connections developed by the Addiction Policy Forum and CHESS Health. Their website states that Connections is evidence-based with years of research to prevent relapse and promote social-emotional engagement.
The app has a variety of features including daily check-ins, message boards, AA meeting locators, goal setting activities, journaling, surveys, suggestions for activities, and e-therapy.
I was especially interested in the e-therapy section. This section provides interactive lessons on topics related to recognizing, avoiding, and coping with situations that may lead to relapse. The seven lessons discuss triggers, cravings, problem solving, how small decisions lead to relapse, and avoiding risky situations that may end in drug use.
The e-therapy lessons are based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people pay attention to their thinking, allowing them to control their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Each lesson description, video, alternative behaviors, skills practice, and worksheets to evaluate a person’s own behavior and thinking. At the end of each lesson, there is a CBT Challenge to test concept mastery with a series of true/false questions. Additional practice is offered for each skill as well as a downloadable review for each lesson. Viewers are encouraged to practice the skill on their own and asked if they completed the assignment at their next log in.
In addition, an online resource library provides links to online videos, music, and speakers related to various areas of recovery support.
Each viewer is encouraged to personalize the app by entering motivations for staying sober, such as a picture of loved one, a quote or a video to remind them why they are in recovery, contact information of people who support their recovery, ore reminders of risky places to avoid. The hope is that having the information at the viewer’s fingertips will allow quick access when resolve waivers.
A red lighthouse icon will immediately provide connection to a supportive help if the viewer feels very stressed or needs urgent help in recovery. (911 should always be called in a medical emergency.)
There is also an area similar to Facebook that allows the individual to post on his own wall or view the walls of others in recovery.
To gain access to the Connection app go to https://www.addictionpolicy.org/connections-app. Enter your name, email, date of birth and gender, and within twenty-four hours you will receive a link and password to sign in and begin using the app.
During this time of social distancing and sheltering in place, it is helpful to know there are online resources available to those in recovery to aid them in sobriety.
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.