In the roughly eight years since she left treatment for alcohol-use disorder, Amy Durham has been to countless recovery group meetings. At first, she went every day, before gradually scaling back to two or three times a week — a routine she stuck with until this past March, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered many in-person meetings nationwide.

“I was really on solid ground in my recovery at that point, so I would say I wasn’t fearful for my own recovery, but it was quite jarring to me,” said Durham, 48, who is the corporate director of alumni relations at Pennsylvania-based Caron Treatment Centers, where she herself received treatment.

“As a person in long-term recovery, I never in a million years thought this could ever happen,” she added. “It never dawned on me, it never crossed my mind, and we were forced to pivot quickly, and we did.”

Church basements and other usual gathering spots were largely abandoned as community addiction support groups switched to virtual meetings, driven by concern that the estimated 22 million people in the United States in recovery from substance-use disorders — many of whom are also at an increased risk of developing a severe case of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — would be left without a critical resource as they navigated life amid increased isolation and stress.

But as Zoom meetings have become prolific, expanding access to these vital support systems, reception among addiction specialists and attendees has been mixed. For some, the virtual meetings are a lifeline that has helped them maintain their sobriety during a time when mental health issues, alcohol consumption and overdoses are on the rise. Others, however, say virtual platforms have not been able to fully replicate the close connections formed during in-person meetings.

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