CUMMING, Ga. — As COVID-19 continues to spread, many businesses have been forced to make use of online portals, in order to continue with training seminars, group meetings, etc. The Connection in Forsyth County is no exception. It’s an addiction recovery support center that offers free services to those in long-term recovery. A quick Google search of “The Connection Forsyth” brings up all the necessary stats, referencing the non-profit as a social club in Cumming. But, as social distancing becomes the norm, social clubs everywhere are taking a hit. However, that’s not the case for The Connection which recently started hosting video meetings on Zoom.

“We have this platform that lets us reach people that might not otherwise be able to reach us,” director Bill Whitney said. “I believe we're going to grow our community and grow our support, and more people in our community are going to feel supported with the availability of this technology.”

Prior to the online meetings, he said they would see an average of 100 people each week. Now that COVID-19 has forced them to take the meetings online, Whitney said they’re on track to double those numbers.

“We, in the last two days on this online platform, have seen over 100 people,” he said. “In two days! So you get the impact that this platform potentially has on reaching so many more people than were able to reach in person. This is a gift, I'm telling you! People in recovery are a bunch of hope dealers and obnoxiously so. We see something like that, and we get excited about 'oh my gosh, here's this ridiculous virus thing that's driving the whole world crazy, and we have an opportunity to touch more people with the message of hope and recovery. We'll take it!'”

Whitney himself is in long-term recovery, which he said is one of the reasons he continues paying it forward.

“It's been 11 years, 10 months, and 21 days since I felt it necessary to take a drink or a drug to deal with the circumstances of my life, and I've been granted a gift,” he said. “I was lucky as can be. A bunch of guys took me in and helped me out until I learned how to love myself and figure out there’s nothing wrong with me. The difference between me and my brother who didn't have the connection and tragically took his own life because he couldn't find it, is that I had that connection. And these recovery community organizations throughout the state are available at the grassroots level to listen. And we do that, we listen extraordinarily well to the needs of our communities, and try to cover those gaps with services, and with support, and with empowerment.”

He said the goal of the organization is to engage with people and help them craft a long-term plan to staying sober.

“Everybody understands the emergency nature of going to treatment, or going to the emergency room, or getting Narcan to survive the initial incident,” Whitney said. “But after the short-term treatment, we send people out in the world and ask them to be sober for the rest of their lives, and there's no roadmap for that.”

So how do they navigate the highs and lows of life? They meet on a regular basis in an effort to encourage and support each other.

“We share experience, strength, and hope,” Whitney said. “It's remarkable. We speak a common language. People who are recovering from substance abuse disorders have been through a special kind of war. Not unlike veterans of combat, when we are together, we are able to relate on a level that is unique to our community. And it doesn't matter how old you are, or what you look like, where you come from, or what language you speak, the fact that we have this common experience makes us brothers and sisters before we walk into the room. It's an amazing community. We are never alone in the recovery community, as long as we have each other.”

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