Empowering individuals in recovery to focus on sobriety during COVID-19

“My six-month-old son and I live in transitional housing. I have been unable to work because of COVID-19 and need help to pay rent. Living here gives me accountability, a greater support network and exponential opportunities. Before living here, I was living with my mother who is actively using – it was very hard to focus on my recovery. I do not want to have to go back to a toxic environment because I can’t afford my rent.”

This is the personal story of a young woman named Sandra* who submitted a scholarship application in seek of financial support to Families Against Narcotics of Washtenaw County (Washtenaw FAN). Though she expected a stimulus check and applied for unemployment and other government assistance, she had yet to see any of it in her bank account.

The ongoing pandemic has created similar predicaments for many others like Sandra – all feeling the financial stress, all worried it will affect their sobriety, all hoping for a solution. Fortunately, these individuals could turn to Washtenaw FAN to help them through a difficult situation.

In April, Washtenaw FAN President Mario Nanos and his team awarded individuals in recovery with $10,000 worth of transitional housing scholarships so they can focus on maintaining sobriety; this was made possible thanks to an emergency grant from the Jamie Daniels Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Nearly 40 individuals were awarded approximately $250 – about half the average cost of one month’s housing.

“In effect, these small stipends impacted many more than 40 individuals,” Nanos said. “Helping people to focus on recovery has implications for not only themselves, but their spouses, children and loved ones.”

Maintaining sobriety is hard work, especially during the ongoing crisis when the level of difficulty to do this has gone up appreciatively. Now more than ever, these individuals need the support and coaching provided at transitional living. It is the best place for them to be.

“We are grateful to Jamie Daniels Foundation for allowing us to help Sandra and others like her in recovery,” Nanos said. “This little bit of money is going a long way. It is not just financial reassurance, it is empowerment – it is giving these individuals hope and faith that no matter how tough things get, everything will be okay.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Teletherapy enables breakthroughs for kids struggling with sobriety

Samaritas knew there was a need for teletherapy for teens in fosters homes struggling with substance abuse disorders during the COVID-19 crisis. However, they did not expect to see such outstanding progress.

It turns out, screen-time has made the difference for many clinicians working with adolescents via teletherapy – just like it has for Brandon*.

The seventeen-year-old who is ready to age out of foster care has a history of using narcotics and alcohol. Life simply has not been easy for him. At age six, Brandon was placed into foster care after his single mother was incarcerated. He has moved seven times since then – falling behind academically and socially. As a result, Brandon has anxiety and anger to work through which has prevented him from developing the necessary coping skills to maintain long-term sobriety.

Shelter-in-place days have isolated Brandon, making it difficult for him to find the motivation to resist using. But a breakthrough started to occur when he was provided with a tablet to receive teletherapy support from Samaritas.

“It seems Coronavirus broke the screen-time debate.” said Kelli Dobner, chief advancement officer at Samaritas, a faith-based organization that helps children find loving families and empowers them to live their fullest lives.

“Adolescents are so used to being on a screen to communicate with people that it has made all the difference in their sessions with clinicians – teletherapy has allowed kids to open up in ways they weren’t before.”

For Brandon, the counseling is working. He is talking about past traumas, expressing feelings, identifying triggers and working to develop coping skills. His personal motivation to stay sober is present and he is finally experiencing the growth necessary to maintain sobriety.

With a $10,000 grant from the Jamie Daniels Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, Samaritas purchased 20 devices and necessary software to distribute to Brandon and his peers living at foster homes or with families in rural areas.

“Kids who have been feeling hopeless and struggling to find their way are making incredible strides in a short amount of time. We aren’t at the finish line – they still have a lot to work through, but we are so happy that this form of therapy has finally sparked a transformation for them.”

As Dobner and her team look to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, they are taking what they’ve learned during the last few months and planning to blend teletherapy and in-person visits.

“The opportunity to implement teletherapy has been such a blessing and we intend to keep the conversation going about its many benefits as we work to help kids heal and become successful adults.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity