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Recovery meetings adjusting to 'new normal' during coronavirus pandemic

With coronavirus concerns on the rise, some people in the recovery are concerned they will no longer have a place to go.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings are held daily all across the state. They are a safe haven for those in recovery from drugs and alcohol. In fact, many credit these 12-step meetings for their continued sobriety.

However with coronavirus concerns on the rise, some people in the recovery are concerned they will no longer have a place to go.

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Since 1982, the Wolfe Street Foundation in downtown Little Rock has been a central meeting place for those in recovery. But starting this Tuesday, the nonprofit is making some big changes.

“We did have our last meeting here in the past couple of days,” said Executive Director, Vickie Siebenmorgen. 

Due to Covid-19 concerns, all meetings at the 10th and Louisiana location will be suspended upon further notice. However, Executive Director Vickie Siebenmorgen said she wants to make it clear that there is still help available for those who need it.

“We can offer a peer recovery specialist who will be here to do one-on-ones, so if someone has a real need for a meeting they can contact us. If they don’t have that interest, they can meet with their personal sponsor or a group of three or less. We are going to allow them to come here and sit in a space where they can sit at a distance and have that meeting,” said Siebenmorgen.

The building will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for those purposes and Siebenmorgen asked that those interested call ahead. She also said the bookstore will be open during those hours as well. 

At Recovery Central on Markham St. in Little Rock, meetings will continue, but precautions will be taken.

“People need to go to meetings and it can be lifesaving at times so we want to keep having meetings if we can,” said Tom Barron, former board member of Friends of Recovery.

Tom Barron, a former board member of Friends of Recovery, said the group is keeping meetings smaller and the chairs spaced apart.

“Some of the night meetings have 70 to 100 people and we may not be able to accommodate all those people right now,” said Barron.

Barron said to help stop spread of the virus, rooms are deep cleaned after each use and plenty of hand sanitizer is available. However, he said touching is off-limits.

“Hugging is a big part of NA meetings and we say no hugging right now,” said Barron. “We close with a prayer and our arms around each other and people stay in their seats and do their prayer now.”

Virtual or online meetings are being recommended to avoid spreading germs.

“What we are suggesting is people do a Facetime meeting or Skype meeting or join an online meeting and we are actually encouraging people to hold small meetings at home if at all possible,” said Barron.

The Arkansas Central Office of Alcoholics Anonymous has some meeting change suggestions to avoid the spread of Covid-19:

  • Place wipes by the coffee pot.
  • Eliminate all community food.
  • Place the contribution basket in a common area.
  • Create a safety statement.
  • Look into setting up electronic group contributions.
  • Wash your hands frequently and don't touch your face

For virtual meetings, visit the link below.

These virtual all recovery meetings are very similar to in-person open recovery meetings. People can join from anywhere and either listen, share, or both. Participants are often in recovery, but may also be allies of the recovery community or family members and loved ones of individuals in recovery.

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