With Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order limiting public assembly to fewer than 50 people and President Donald Trump’s call for a cap of 10, many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have been impacted.

Twelve Step meeting organizers are forced to put local meetings on hold, and this leaves many in recovery searching for options.

Online meetings have been available for many years and Alcoholics Anonymous provides access to the “AA Intergroup,” which has a directory of online meetings available on its website.

Treatment centers have also identified the need and responded. High Watch Recovery Center in Kent is holding two online meetings every day — one at noon and one at 7:30 p.m.

High Watch CEO Jerry Schwab, says that he started the meetings after receiving word from former guests that local meetings were being canceled. According to Schwab, the first meeting took place on the night of Sunday, March 15, with 60 attendees. Just 24 hours later as word spread, the March 16 meeting had nearly 190 participants, and Schwab says High Watch is working to schedule more meetings to meet the demand.

“We had to offer an alternative,” Schwab said. “Stress is among the most frequent causes of relapse and the outbreak of COVID-19 is similar to the days and weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

He says that at a time like this “people in recovery need meetings” and cites research and data to make his point. Between December 2002 and April 2003, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services conducted a study of the impact of 9/11 on New York City drug treatment programs.

Researchers interviewed 75 patients and 16 administrators spanning 15 rehab centers. The results showed that relapse spiked in the weeks and months following the terrorist attacks. Fifty percent of patients in outpatient treatment and 37 percent of methadone patients used illicit drugs on or after 9/11. Nearly 30 percent of patients reported an increase in alcohol consumption after the events.

According to Schwab, meetings give many people that additional structure and support that they need to succeed in recovery.

“Weekly meetings, sponsorship, and fellowship can help coach and support people through stressful times like these. Meetings help people remember that they are never alone,” he said.

High Watch meetings utilize a Zoom meeting platform. Meetings are open to all and can be accessed by going to the High Watch website, www.highwatchrecovery.org.