Sobriety support groups seek ways to stay connected

Meetings continue in Baxter, others go virtual

Lakes Area Alano Association. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Doors are still open at Lakes Area Alano in Baxter for those in need of support in their recovery from addiction.

“We just feel strongly that if we engage in the common sense measures that we’ve been given like everybody else has, we’re going to do what we’ve always done,” said Maury Graham, past president of the nonprofit, by phone Wednesday, March 18. “I guess we consider ourselves a necessary business. … Our mission is to provide a safe and sober environment for people in recovery.”

Graham said they’re taking precautions and following the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in light of the new coronavirus pandemic. These measures include sanitizing tables after every meeting, ensuring hand sanitizer is available and maintaining distance. If more than 10 people show up for a recovery meeting, Graham said the group will split into different meeting rooms, and there’s no holding hands during prayers.

“A lot of the stuff that’s been suggested we are following,” Graham said. “But our purpose is we can’t let people who are in need of this recovery process be left out in the cold.”


Although meetings are moving forward as regularly scheduled, Graham said he thought attendance was down a bit as people make decisions about limiting time in public. The same sort of support network that’s always been available to those in need is still in place, however.

“Some people are choosing to get together with another person or two at someone’s house,” Graham said. “They have access to a whole lot of people’s phone numbers, and that’s always been the case. … Whatever it takes, we will do to help people. If that means me making a personal visit to somebody, that will happen.”

For a complete list of meetings at the center located at 7829 State Highway 210, visit .

Some of those in recovery are offering support to others via social media. Crystal McCormick of Brainerd, a peer support specialist at Nystrom & Associates in Baxter, offered her time to anyone in need of extra help to maintain sobriety in this time of uncertainty.

“It’s just one of those things where people are panicking, they’re scared,” McCormick said by phone Tuesday. “Addicts — when we start to panic — sometimes that can end in relapse.”

Also a member of the Sober Squad, McCormick said the organization isn’t able to host its regular Pizza Hut gatherings on Fridays, but they are organizing online resources. An announcement posted on the group’s Facebook page shows a list of live speakers planned for every night through April 1. The speakers will be livestreamed through Facebook.

McCormick said especially for those early in recovery, finding a hobby and reaching out for support are very important actions to take any time, not just during a time when isolation is encouraged.

“I think the main part of it is being able to reach out in early recovery. I was too scared to ask for help or let anybody know that I still needed help,” McCormick said. “That’s the biggest focus, is for people to reach out.”


There are number of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other support group meetings available online. Visit for a lengthy list of online meetings.

For those who may not have access to online resources, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a national helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY at 800-487-4889. The information service is confidential and free, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English and Spanish. It’s intended for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

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CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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