Those in the recovery community are experiencing a double whammy from the current pandemic. Not only do they need to isolate to try to avoid the coronavirus, but isolation remains one of the main causes of relapse.

Loneliness makes these individuals more vulnerable to setbacks. They already face a high rate of relapse, then add in the pandemic and their susceptibility goes off the charts. Financial struggles, unemployment, monitoring virtual school for their children, lack of in-person support to help with their addiction and fear of contracting the virus all serve to gnaw away at their success.

The Oregon Health Authority observed that Oregon saw an almost 70% increase in overdose deaths during April and May 2020 compared to that same period in 2019.

It’s not all bad news. Help is available and adaptations have been made to assist those in recovery.

Online support

Virtual 12-step programs have replaced physical meetings for a number of months now. To vary their experiences, some in recovery have attended meetings at different locations. Brother Duke Moten, CADC II, QMHA-1, a therapist at Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon, says his clients have expressed satisfaction with meetings in England and Hawaii.

“It can be more challenging to create connections and develop a support network through online meetings than it is through traditional face-to-face meetings,” says Ryan Opsahl, director of clinical outreach at Crestview Recovery.

Those new to recovery may find it difficult to find support during this time, but it’s especially important to find ways to make those connections, Opsahl says.

Alternatives for treatment and connection

Maintaining support and connections is key to recovery. As treatment providers, we need to be proactive, Opsahl says. At Crestview, that means shifting all outpatient services to a virtual platform, instead of providing face-to-face treatment. 

Crestview has adapted their intensive outpatient program to use a variety of telehealth options, including phone, video chats, texting, apps, web-based treatment and virtual reality. 

“In our inpatient program, we’ve implemented the testing of all clients for COVID-19 and taken steps to limit their exposure to the outside world,” says Opsahl. “While in our program, clients attend 12-step recovery meetings via Zoom, maintain social distancing on outings, and wear masks.”

Connections outside of treatment are important to maintaining long-term sobriety. Opsahl, who has been sober for 10 years, has a wife and three kids at home, but he says it’s still crucially important for him to maintain his connections with friends, extended family and others in recovery. To do that he uses the phone. A lot.

Recovering addicts with sponsors might want to connect with them regularly via phone, as well.


Moten heard from one of his patients how she found a new support group. She belonged to a business group that met monthly. When she shared her recent recovery journey with them, she discovered three others in the group on the same journey, with one of them having over 20 years of sobriety and had never mentioned it.

“Now the four of them have started a different virtual group where they can support each other’s recovery,” says Moten.

Other ways to cope include:

Although the current recovery options may be less than ideal or more challenging than in the past, it’s still important to make the most of the options available. Crestview’s tips for maximizing success? Attend all sessions, speak up in meetings, ask for help.

Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center with the experience to help you recover. Our caring and understanding staff members are among the most experienced in the field.