The frequent walk-in meetings, where people find crucial support, encouragement and camaraderie, are not happening as before.


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Marc Lee Shannon, a musician who plays guitar in Michael Stanley’s Resonators band and performs solo at area clubs, has been sober since November 2014.


He’s active in the 12-step community and writes a column titled Sober Chronicles.


"This is a very challenging time and people are really struggling," Shannon said recently about the recovery community.


Social distancing to prevent spreading the coronavirus presents possible danger for people dealing with addiction and sobriety.


The frequent walk-in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, where people find crucial support, encouragement and camaraderie, are not happening as before. Plus there’s the added stress of a global pandemic.


"For those of us us in recovery, the interruption of the routine is kind of a red flag," Shannon said. "A constant level of connection is our treatment. We go places where everybody is the same as us. I go to 12-step meetings on certain days."


Especially vulnerable right now are those who are newly sober and new to the 12-step community.


"They don’t have those years of being able to get through," Shannon said. "In the program, we call it our tool box. When I’m feeling less than, I go to a gathering, I call someone, I help another person, I volunteer. It’s our training. Without that personal connection, it’s really tough on the new people."


Danny Ferguson, a licensed professional counselor for substance abuse, has been in recovery 23 years and typically attends one to three 12-step meetings a week.


"Meetings just aren’t happening like they were due to social distancing," said Ferguson, whose practice is in West Akron. "Most of them have gone online. We use a platform called Zoom, where you can connect visually with people. I heard about one meeting that had 1,700 people involved. People are meeting using Skype. I prefer to interact on a more intimate level. There are meetings where you can connect on the phone."


"There’s a lot of face-timing going on right now," Shannon said. "I need to look into someone’s eyes and say, `Dude, are you okay?’"


Just a couple of weeks into enforced social distancing, "The (recovery) community has really risen and come together," Shannon said. "I’m getting a lot of calls from people, I’m checking in with gatherings that I haven’t been to in awhile. Just hearing those voices again helps get it done."


Keith Hochadel, the CEO of CommQuest Services, which provides resources for people with alcohol and other drug issues, has been in recovery for 23 years himself.


"One of the things I worry about are people who typically use 12-step groups to start their day and end their day and maybe go mid-day, too. They count on the social interaction as much as the information that they get at the meetings" Hochadel said.


"I’m hearing from folks that come through my (CommQuest) program that there are small groups meeting at people’s houses, trying to practice social distancing and at the same time getting the support that they need," he said. "As it gets nicer, they'll be outside and providing support to each other."


As for the resources available for online meetings, "the sheer number available across the country and across the world is just remarkable," Hochadel said. "The AA network is probably the best-connected there is."


Listings of online AA meetings can be found at both AkronAA.org and CommQuest.org. The Canton AA office line is 330-491-1989.


Hochadel emphasizes that CommQuest’s services are fully available now.


"Our agency is open for business and very supportive," he said. "People may believe there’s no place for me to go and we are there for them, with the full continuum of care. We have outpatient care, we have detox units at Aultman and Alliance hospital with admission 24/7, a men’s residential facility, two women’s facilities and adolescent residential care."


CommQuest’s office line is 330-455-0374. The detox units are at 330-830-3393 (Aultman) and 330-821-8503 (Alliance).