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Drug, alcohol rehab shifting to online meetings during COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 3:52 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 17:00:03-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In-person meetings for alcoholics and addicts are now on hold because of coronavirus, but that's not stopping some groups from getting creative.

At the Alano Club in Grand Rapids, the nonprofit is shifting some meetings to online formats, allowing people who rely on face-to-face interaction to stay sober to get it.

One of those people is Keith Finkler, whose life changed dramatically 21 years ago.

“I flipped my car off the highway and did like a hood-to-trunk 10 flips going down towards West River Drive," Finkler said. “If an ambulance wasn’t a minute and a half down the road, then basically I would’ve bled to death.”

After the crash, a judge ordered Finkler ordered him to the Alano Club, a nonprofit that provides several treatment options for addicts.

He has been sober for more than five years now, which he says is the longest period since he was a child. Stories like Finkler's are shared during meetings every day.

Alano Club has more than 100 recovery meetings and 1,500 visitors every week. But coronavirus put all of that on hold until at least the end of the month as the building was forced to close.

It has been a struggle for those who need the help.

“I’m an addict alcoholic. If I don’t have contact with other addicts and alcoholics there isn’t the exchange, I’m like, 'what disease is most likely to get me?' And that’s my addiction versus the coronavirus," Finkler said.

Thinking about things in isolation and dealing with anxiety and make an addiction worse and cause someone to relapse.

"You need to socialize, to laugh, to feel like a normal human being.. only it’s being a healthy human being is what it is," Finkler said.

In place of face-to-face meetings, they have gone virtual. People are using services like Skype, Zoom and FaceTime to chat with others.

Finkler is hopeful that when this is all over, their support system will be even stronger.

“The happy energy, it’ll be better than any high that I’ve ever gotten before," Finkler said.

The club is posting information about its meetings on its Facebook page. For those who need immediate help, call the 24-hour hotline at 616-913-9149.