July 14, 2022 – Within five minutes, a colleague reached out to Nelson and explained that he was six days sober — his second time trying — and looking for support groups. She knew instantly that her personal risk was justified. “We always said that if we helped one person, it would be worth it, and I still get goosebumps when I tell this story, because the reaction was so swift,” says Nelson, now the VP of revenue at Visit.org. “This community is intended to be of service to people who are sober, sober-curious and sober allies, with the intention of destigmatizing addiction in the workplace.”  

The launch of Soberforce came at a tough time for folks struggling with substance use, as the isolation brought on by the pandemic created fresh challenges and often, a lack of support. From March through September of 2020, alcohol sales spiked 20% compared to the year prior, according to a Columbia University study. Overdoses saw an 18% increase in the early months of the pandemic as compared to 2019, according to reporting system ODMAP. And by June 2020, the CDC reported that 13% of Americans had started or increased substance use as a way to cope with the stress of the pandemic. 

Despite those troubling statistics, COVID-19 pushed substance-use disorders to the forefront of conversations, particularly as they relate to work and workplace culture. That’s a step in the right direction, says Cheryl Brown Merriwether, VP and executive director of ICARE, the International Center for Addiction and Recovery Education, which provides everything from clinical care and coaching to training programs and risk assessment tools to support and manage addiction recovery in the workplace. 


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