NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — People struggling with addiction are feeling more isolated and alone than ever, but they don’t have to be. Many are turning to social media for help.
Phil O’Hara has done a complete 180 over the last four years. He went from battling a heroin addiction, to getting sober and helping others recover. But he told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge on Wednesday since the coronavirus outbreak started, it has been a lot tougher, especially for those who rely on 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.
“My first year in recovery, I lived inside of meetings … I can’t imagine what it would be like right now to be in my first 90 days and being told you can’t go to a meeting, you can’t connect with people, you need to isolate. Isolation is death for a lot of these people,” O’Hara said.
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Before the coronavirus, O’Hara traveled around the country talking to high school students about addiction. Now in the COVID-19 era, he’s taking that message online.
“I’ve seen a lot of people reaching out for help in the apps and, in turn, I’ve been able to step up and kind of get on the phone with somebody,” O’Hara said.
From hotlines to virtual meetings, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have found new ways to meet, like on Zoom and Google Hangout.
There are also apps like DynamiCare Rewards. It holds people accountable to staying sober by recording them while taking a breathalyzer or drug test and then rewards them with cash.
Or try the app Loosid, which connects the sober community with services. MJ Gottlieb founded the app after he got sober.
“You don’t have to be alone. Even though you’re physically alone, you’re surrounded by 50,000-plus people … You just need to say those three words: ‘I need help,'” Gottlieb said.
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Gottlieb added the key is to stay busy, and most of all, “Be of service to your parents, to your grandparents. Service keeps you sober, and being of service gets you out of your head and gets you to focus on somebody else.”
But if all you can focus on is your addiction, facilities are still accepting clients. Experts say the treatment world will not stop because of coronavirus.