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Coronavirus restrictions could threaten sobriety, but help is available to Central Coast addicts

Posted at 8:26 AM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 12:26:21-04

The feeling of isolation brought on by California's shelter at home order can lead recovering addicts to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope but there are a number of resources available to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County residents.

Recovering addicts and people just starting the journey to sobriety can receive help via tele-health, as well as virtual meetings that can provide the support needed to stay sober.

"Isolation, personally, is what nearly killed me," Andrea W., a recovered alcoholic living in San Luis Obispo County, said.

As a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Andrea W. will not reveal her last name or face, but she is sharing her story as an alcoholic.

"I lost myself and my health and luckily that's when I made a decision that I couldn't do this alone," Andrea W. said. "I was grateful to find AA as a resource."

Andrea W. is now a board member of the SLO area Alcoholics Anonymous, which she credits for her sobriety.

As the coronavirus forces people to stay at home, she fears the inability to for addicts to attend group meetings or meet with sponsors may create for addicts of any kind the same sense of isolation that sabotaged her sobriety.

SLO County Mental Health Services Coordinator Frank Warren said isolation can have a negative impact on addicts and even lead to an increase in new users.

"People who were prior drug users who are not able to stay in treatment are relapsing, as well as those starting to experiment right now," Warren said.

Warren said his team is focused on intervention, directing addicts to resources before it's too late.

"I personally see it's difficult for people in recovery because the way we maintain our sobriety is through connection, one alcoholic helping another," Andrea W. said. "Traditionally we do that face to face."

But Andrea W. and her fellow AA member, Jeff L., said virtual AA meetings hosted via Zoom are a life raft for those in recovery to stay afloat.

"It prevents the need for trial and error, there's living proof in the room that the program works," Jeff L. said.

Like Andrea W., SLO County resident Jeff L. now enjoys a life of sobriety. He wants other addicts to know there are over 300 Zoom meetings for both longtime AA members and newcomers alike.

"There's a wide variety of meetings that people can attend where they can go and feel comfortable being there," Jeff L., who is also a SLO Co. AA Intergroup board member, said.

Though AA members, as well as participants of Narcotics Anonymous, cannot join one another under the same roof, they can still support each other virtually.

"We moved away from the term social distance to really talk about physical distance because while we need people to stay physically distant from one another, we really want them to be socially connected," Warren said.

All behavioral health clinics are deemed essential services during the shelter in home order. But the office is contacting clients with scheduled appointments to offer telephone appointments instead of in-person visits.

You can find those AA Zoom meetings on the Central Coast Intergroup website. Some of the meetings are closed and only accept members of AA, while others are open to anyone who wishes to participate.

Santa Barbara Co. AA meetings can be found here.

Other virtual recovery options offered through the County can be found here.

The SLO Behavioral Health access line phone number is 800-838-1381 and additional hotline numbers can be found here.

A list of frequently asked questions can be found here.