STORIES OF ONLINE RECOVERY
I was in my car on the way to a liquor store. I had a meeting in my pocket. I got on the meeting and my loving online AA family talked me off the ledge that minute. Reversed the car and went back home. I have been sober and active in online AA ever since this spiritual experience.
Having AA meetings available online was my entry into becoming sober. Without them I don't think I would have 148 days right now. The flexibility of being able to immediately join a meeting 24/7 is priceless to me. I also love being able to join groups with people from all over the world. I came into these rooms because my attorney suggested I do it for my DUI case. I didn't think I had a problem. I learned very quickly a lot about alcoholism that I didn't know and now have a sponsor and attend regular meetings. I am so thankful that AA meetings are available online.
One time I was traveling on Amtrak and we were stuck on the train. The food cart ran out of everything except alcohol. I was able to join a meeting on my phone and not drink.
After my “rock bottom” arrest in March 2021, I was placed on house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor. I was not allowed to leave my home at all. I was terrified I would isolate & drink myself to death, unable to go to a brick & mortar. GRATEFULLY, I discovered the online AA community. I was able to acknowledge, admit & surrender to being an alcoholic through these online rooms. I’m 15 months sober today, with an online sponsor & 2 online sponsees, & as a member of an online AA home group. I would 100% be dead if it weren’t for the freedom & family I found in online AA meetings.
I realized I had a problem with alcohol in May of 2020, and that my life had become unmanageable. I was living in Philadelphia at the time where all in-person AA meetings had closed and I knew I needed help. I Googled online meetings and found what was then the ___ ___ ___ and thought to myself if these people are from Portland, I can't be in much worse shape than them - oh, my pride! My ego! The ___ ___ ___ welcomed me with internet hugs, loved me before I could even think of loving myself, and connected with me and got me connected in service almost immediately. I continued to show up every day and celebrated two years of continuous sobriety on May 15th, 2022. When I was hospitalized after a surgery, I could attend meetings from my hospital bed. On the road, I can tune in and get to a meeting. 3am and can't sleep? No problem, someone's holding a meeting. I would not be sober today without the help of the AA online intergroup and I am forever grateful.
I have been able to attend meetings online while whale watching in Hawaii. In those moments my Higher Power has convinced me that I am not alone. It's a really big deal!
My very first AA meeting was online and I didn’t have the courage to walk into a room. My online group has kept me sober over 130 days and this group means the world to me and my sobriety.
I believe the online zooms helps me very much especially when they do have their 24/7 zoom help me in a very big way especially the first couple of days they help me.
Zoom meetings had been a blessing during the pandemic and now. Whenever I can't make it to an in-person meeting or feel like I need to hear the message I can log on and attend a meeting. It has helped me a lot in addition to my in person meeting. I strongly wish online and zoom meetings continue to do the service and help those who are still sick and suffering.
I’m a newcomer and have thought about coming to AA for a few months but I kept putting it off until I saw that there were online meetings. I’m quite shy and didn’t really feel comfortable going to physical meetings but finally I decided to log on zoom last yesterday.
I found one of your meetings called the ___ ___ ___ and I just wanted to say thank you so much for the meeting. I have no idea why I was so worried about going. Everyone was so welcoming and couldn’t have been more helpful. I loved the desert island theme and how everyone was so friendly. I really can’t say thank you enough and will definitely be coming back.
My sobriety date is May 3rd, 2021. I went to my first in person AA meeting right before the pandemic shut everything down in 2020. There were no meetings available. I found out about online zoom meetings and I got sober online. The online meetings saved my life! I have an incredible sponsor that I got online, I am a member of an amazing home group online, and I have been doing service through online meetings since the beginning of my sobriety. My sponsor took me through the steps online and it has been and continues to be an incredible journey.
I have moved three times within my first year of sobriety and because of online meetings I was able to go to my regular meetings and stay connected with my AA fellowship and stay sober. No matter where I am in the world I can always go to my online meetings and that part of my life stays consistent. Since being sober I have attended in person meetings. In my experience I prefer online meetings and find them to be more personable and accessible. I can't get enough of online meetings!!!! It's a game changer.
March 2020 the world shut down and I spiraled into a deadly drinking relapse. I thought I had nowhere to go and my sponsor exclaimed AA is now on-line. I have been sober and in AA online meetings daily since then. I meet newcomers daily in AA online meetings who do not know f2f or care to know. It is a different technical generation where everything is done on a smart phone. I currently help many go through the steps by going to on-line meetings and using virtual rooms to read the big book. No covid concerns, no gas expense concerns, no babysitting concerns-- open to all, all over the world anytime. AA online is saving lives and these groups should be recognized as able to participate in AA General Service.
I do not believe I would be sober today if not for Zoomed-AA. Furthermore I am certain that if COVID/stay at home was not a thing and if I had to go to work, that happy hours would have stayed in my daily life. I am 51 years old and in the 30+ year habit of going to work, just to be able to get off early (or leave without saying anything) and go to a bar. I am a mother of 2 beautiful boys, but in my drinking days - I did not want to go home. My then-husband did not drink and I always felt like home was a miserable destination. It was a somber, boring prison. Even with 2 wonderful kids..... After my divorce (at age 40), a severe DUI and a failed attempt at AA, I was drinking bottle(s) of wine almost daily. Alone. I would still go to happy hour (either with or without people) and then buy a bottle or 2 on my way home. If I bought one bottle, I would end up driving to get another around 9-10pm. I was a functional drunk. Kept my job, took care of the kids. Once they were fed - I would get blitzed... At the end of 2020, after hitting my bottom (another story for another time), I joined AA. A friend gave me a few female's phone numbers to call just to check AA out (again)…. This time it stuck!! AA was online and it was full of people just like me. I made AA friends, got a sponsor right away and worked the steps. All 100% online. Did 90 meetings in 90 days. Chaired a Sunday morning women's meeting..... It would not have happened, I honestly believe, if not for Zoom AA. You see, I am a shy introvert. Previously, I was only able to get to work, because I knew happy hour would be near. When I lost my job in 2019, then hit bottom in 2020 did I finally face my demons head-on with (literally) nowhere to go. Everyday Zoom AA was a lifesaver!
I got sober just before Covid, I came home from treatment just as the world was shutting down and I am pretty confident that if it weren't for AA online I wouldn't have stayed sober these last 2 years. I found my sponsor online, someone who had what I wanted but didn't live anywhere near me. I found a way to be of service to sponsees and to various groups by taking on commitments and learning about the traditions. My recovery has excelled and has been enriched by AA online because I can join a meeting anytime, anywhere and I have been able to hear the message of AA in ways and from people I would have not had the chance to because of AA online.
Online aa meetings saved my life. I had been around AA, went out and finally crawled back, desperate and alone. I came back to meetings just before everything shutdown, and in person meetings were not available. I knew I needed meetings if I was to stay sober and was willing to go to any lengths to stay sober. So, I worked with another sober woman to set up a zoom AA meeting. I attended daily and explored other virtual meetings as they became available. My recovery blossomed in virtual meetings and became better than it had ever been. There was a global AA community that I could participate in that was exciting. I personally feel very connected to the others on a virtual meeting and hope virtual AA is here to stay and grow. I think a whole new world of recovery awaits us.
Hello, my name is ___. I live in Los Angeles, CA and my sobriety date is January 18th, 2021. I am sober today because of online AA. I found my sponsor on zoom and have done the steps all on zoom. I am incredibly grateful for technology and this platform. If it wasn't for me hearing the message and getting into AA via online, I am not sure where I would be today. I went to my first AA meeting, court ordered, 10 years ago and despised everything about it. 10 years later I found myself extremely lonely on the inside and my life crumbling. I was full of so much fear. So fearful, I couldn't walk into an in-person meeting. I was trying to get sober on my own and failing miserably. Get me to go to a meeting where I knew no one and not be under the influence of anything. Good luck. I couldn't even socialize or be with my friends sober. I hated myself so much and did not know who I was. Online meetings grew during the pandemic and a friend sent me some zoom links. I reluctantly joined. I was able to be incognito if I wanted, the comfort of my own apartment helped too. It was here that I really started to hear the message. I wasn't as afraid to join. The in-person meetings I went to, not many people at all came up to me but that is also because I hid. It was on zoom where I could comfortably say I was new, and where people could reach out via private chat. That is how I found my sponsor. Multiple guys messaged me, saying they could help. This felt amazing. I now try to do this on zoom and in-person. There are less distractions with online AA and I love that. I was so scared before and zoom broke that wall down for me. I have met and heard so many incredible people through online AA. From all over the world. I have also been able to help the most people through zoom. I remember the first time another alcoholic called me after I posted my number in the chat. He was from Alabama and doesn't have many in-person meetings near him. We were different but I had a solution and we ended up sharing so much of the same feelings. There are a lot of people out there that don't have the luxury of so many meetings around them like in LA. That is why I help make one of my in person meetings hybrid and why I consistently stay on zoom for meetings. I also came out of the closet in sobriety and the online queer meetings have helped me so much. I can safely join them and this has helped immensely with my acceptance of my true self, all parts of me. I am able to be among community and that has helped so much with my sexuality. The access to recovery is infinite w. online AA and we can help so many people. I am so grateful for AA and what online AA has done for my life. I just took an 18 month chip and don't ever want to go back to my old life.
I live in a very rural area. There are only two aa in person meetings a week that are 15 miles away. The public bus doesn't run during the same time as the meetings. As a result, aa online has been my life line. It is a very valuable service to those of us who don't have convenient access to meetings. Plus, they are available whenever I need one.
I was introduced to _____ by a woman he had sponsored, while I was in a treatment center here in Tulsa, OK. My first, only, and majority of my experience with AA has been online or over the phone. I'm currently in my 26 month of sobriety. I still have my original sponsor, _____. I have been to maybe 10 maybe less in person meetings and one conference in Claremore. I have currently not relapsed. I feel very well sponsored and I feel extremely close to my fellows in AA that I see sometimes 4 times a week via zoom. As I've not been involved with many in person events, groups, or meetings I can't say for certain how much more or less that they can provide to an alcoholic seeking recovery. I can however attest to my experience in that it's been nothing short of a miracle in my life and I owe everything to my higher power and the program of recovery provided by AA through strong Big Book living members that I know mostly virtually.
Hi, my name is ___ and I'm an alcoholic. It was during Covid that I had to do something about my drinking. I had always considered myself a problem drinker and had come to the conclusion that I had some sort of mental illness and deeply rooted childhood trauma that was the cause of my inability to 'drink responsibly.’ On September 30th 2020 I had finally had enough of myself and the havoc alcohol was causing. A friend who seemed to have solved their drinking problem suggested the online rooms of AA.
I had tried the physical rooms (which were no longer available because of Covid) and I so much as told him, AA wouldn't work for me. After 8 years free from the deathly grip of addiction he gave me advice that forever changed my battle with my drinking. "Go online and listen to the similarities, not the differences. I only know how to stop drinking the AA way, nothing else worked."
So I traveled the rooms online until I found my now online homegroup. I found a sponsor, went to meetings as many times a day as I could. It was the only thing I had to keep from picking up that first drink. In those rooms I finally came to terms with my alcoholism. I learned I had a disease and I learned that I never had to drink again and I haven't since.
Eventually I landed in face to face meetings. Being from ___, Bahamas the meetings are small and the depth of sobriety is still shallow as to what I found online. So I still go to online meetings mostly and show up twice a week to see what I can bring to the face to face meetings. I always direct newcomers online until God decides to grow our current local meetings. I know from the bottom of my soul that if I had not started my recovery in those online meetings I would have never found it on the island I call home. If I had to move forward without the depth of recovery which I still find strengthens me online, my program would suffer.
I did not get sober on Zoom but it has helped me to stay sober.
I work nights, my kids are in sports which takes my time, and there are few meetings after 10pm CST unless I can venture into the city. Instead, I explored meetings online in Santa Fe, San Francisco, and my favorite, Seattle. People are always there to share and to listen, and that has helped me immensely.
My best meetings are here in Chicago. This weekend we had women call in from Oslo, Sweden, and Tennessee on vacation, and yet we all knew each other. We can create community from wherever we are, and whatever time of day it happens to be. The problem for me in staying sober is that at 3pm or 3am I might be doing laundry, which can make it hard to be present in the moment. That is the beauty of technology. It connects me to people who can understand me, whenever I need it.
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to start. After more thought, I decided to start at the end:
“Who is Responsible?
I am responsible
When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help,
I want the hand of A.A. to always be there.”
Now, onto my short story. My last drink was 9/30/2020. After hitting an empty parked car, thanks to the God of my understanding, no one was hurt. This was my second DUI. The first was 2011, and again, thanks to the God of my understanding, no one was hurt.
I did my probation with no repercussions from DMV as the blood work was 20 minutes out of the parameter. I will tell you, my blood alcohol level was .1962%, more than double the allowed amount in our state. I was dealing with the death of my father, and not very well.
Fast forward to 2012 and my mom was diagnosed with Altzheimers. I became her sole caregiver. Both my parents were amazing people. I also have a background in bartending and have seen all the horrors you can see from alcoholism. I was usually a moderate drinker until my parents became sick. I became sober on Zoom, A.A.! I was under house arrest for 60 days. I was advised by my lawyer to start A.A. as it would look good for the judge. As for 90 meetings in 90 days, I was in 90 meetings over about 45 days. I was going to three to five meetings via Zoom a day.
I was HALT. And for me HALT was Hopeless, Angry, Lost and Terrified. I was looking for something, but what? House arrest ended and a year without being able to drive started. So I continued my search for an answer through Zoom due to Covid. I started two specific meetings a day - Beginners Book Study and Portland Eye Opener. Also, I was very angry with God, but continued one morning meeting and one evening meeting still searching for an answer.
Then, a glimmer of hope in the Portland Eye Opener at a Sunday speaker meeting. I was on the verge of giving up when I heard this speaker. I found a glimmer of hope and strength because of that meeting and speaker. I came back, and kept coming back. Six month in, still very lost in frustration, I asked, “How do I get a sponsor or how do you know that person is the right person?” At the end of the meeting I received a private message about a sponsor. I said yes. I still have the same sponsor one and half years later. I am coming up on two years as happy, joyous and free from alcohol. I take it one day at a time. For me, Zoom saved my life. There are situations that stop an individual from attending in-person meetings. I won’t go into all the specifics, but I will end with the beginning,
“Who is Responsible?
I am responsible
When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help,
I want the hand of A.A. to always be there.”
What have online AA meetings meant to me? In a nutshell……."My sobriety”. In this pandemic where most meetings in my area were not online but outside and then all meetings in my area went back to face-to-face inside after only a year, if not for online meetings I would have had no AA platform.
After moving away from where I got sober seven years earlier, I was reunited online with all the people I got sober with and who got sober and stayed sober with me. When we appeared on the screen, we would squeal with delight at seeing an old AA friend, and the memories of early sobriety and the walks home after the diner came flooding back.
Then the service commitments began and I chaired meetings and got speakers and attended meetings in other areas of the country and found new AA homes. This continues to this day and I hope it never stops. My meetings have tripled because of online access and therefore my serenity has tripled. Inner peace is a click away.
I will always be grateful to the online venue because it allowed me the opportunity to attend meetings with my sponsor again who lived in another city. I say “allowed” as in past tense because she passed away suddenly from Covid in January of 2022. But I had almost two wonderful years with her at online AA meetings and I was able to attend an online AA memorial for her. None of that would have happened if not for the online access.
Online AA has allowed me to connect with members at any time and has allowed me to have a safety net ready and waiting for me when I needed it…. and has allowed me to be that safety net for others. Just a click away…..AA!
So grateful and so blessed.
My experience with AA has almost exclusively been as a foreigner living in China. Outside the two biggest cities meetings are small and often occur in coffee shops and restaurants. In my town I ran the meeting for a long time with few people turning up regularly. As a result I looked online as a way to have a recovery community. I found an excellent meeting with I have regularly attended for around five years now and there’s a real sense if community with a hardcore of five or six members who are of service to the group and many others who attend the meetings. I have found online AA meetings invaluable especially after the birth of my daughter, which gave me, limited time to attend face-to-face meetings but I still made the online meetings. Online meetings are a great way for me to stay connected to the fellowship, have an active recovery community, to be of service and help keep the message alive.
I have had many reasons to support online meetings. In the last 3 years I have had medical procedures which required hospital visits and long recovery times. Physically difficult to attend live meetings, the Zoom platform for AA meetings is a Miracle of technology in my life!
My name is ___ and I have been fortunate enough to be sober for more than 4 and a half years now. In that time I have been to less than a dozen in person meetings but have been able to attend meetings every day. I have gone to meetings from the comfort of my home, walking down the street and even in the hospital waiting room waiting for my son to be delivered.
Since getting sober I have had the opportunity to join and be active in a number of groups that have been meeting regularly. I have gone through the steps with a sponsor and have taken others through the steps as well. I have never been in the same room as the men that I have sponsored but we are in weekly contact. Using different forms of communication all online I have been able to connect with hundreds of other alcoholics and share my strength and hope.
I first got into AA in Toronto and spent more than a decade attending meetings and doing all the things that are suggested. When I moved to China I stayed sober for more than 2 yrs with virtually no contact with other members or meetings as there were only a small handful of expats living here. I ended up drinking and spent a decade doing research. When I was ready to come back to AA I had an incredibly difficult time getting connected. I used the Facebook groups to connect with other alcoholics but was disappointed in the lack of response to my pleas for help. I was told to go to meetings or start a meeting and it seemed like my situation was largely ignored. A longtime member finally reached out to me and directed me to a webex meeting and from there the ball got rolling. From that meeting I met my sponsor, was given contact info by a variety of people and was connected to the fellowship.
I have a home group that I am active in on a regular basis, I know many of the members of that group and they know me. We were able to carry the message and offer a safe haven when the Covid-19 situation first began. Many people arrived fearful for their sobriety and not believing that online could be just as vibrant as in person meetings and many were pleasantly surprised. Now many of those same people are regular members and attend online meetings even when they have in person meetings to go to.
Online AA has been a lifesaver for me and others I personally know, who have gotten sober without ever stepping into a physical location. I can see myself remaining a member of this wonderful fellowship, connecting with other alcoholics from around the world and sharing the solution all from the comfort of my sofa.
When the pandemic began I instantly found a solution to staying connected to my AA meetings. I have been computer literate for many years. I explored how to provide Zoom meetings for my regular meetings. I provided service to those groups by teaching many in how to use zoom. The transition took some time and effort was rewarding.
What occurred for me personally was astonishing. I am profoundly hard of hearing. Online meetings catapulted my personal recovery. I had previously been sitting in meetings and struggling to hear people share their ESH. All of a sudden I could hear everyone who spoke at a meeting. I could also turn on closed captioning. Over the months and now years, I’ve started and participated in 4 new meetings. I’m blessed.
Having been very active in the fellowship during the past 35 years, I was quite puzzled as to what to do when in March 2020 our government introduced new laws to combat the global Covid-19 pandemic. The AA meeting rooms closed as part of the preventive measures. But as always, there was a solution if we looked for one. For many of us it came in the form of online meetings.As my own home group had to stop our "live shows" we set up a Zoom meeting. It is still going strong.
Now my health has deteriorated to the extent that I cannot get to the "live shows" any more, I am not isolated because of the many many online groups that are universally available.
I host our home meetings 3 times a week and several of our regular people are in a similar health condition to myself. And for those, it is a life saver.
We also have become quite versatile in making our meetings interesting to the newcomers and old timers alike. Our group website allows a one click link into the waiting room.
My name is ___ and I am an alcoholic. My sobriety date is 8/13/1998. My earliest experience with internet AA was back in 2000. I started going to aol.com AA chat meetings because I was in graduate school. Today's Zoom meetings are a far cry of interconnection with others in AA from all over the planet.
Overall, I am grateful that I can attend AA meetings every day without driving anywhere. Reducing emissions by any means is a major Godsend result of AA meetings happening on Zoom 24/7 worldwide. I started going to more meetings at the beginning of the pandemic. I transferred a Women's Beginner Step Study meeting to Zoom in March of 2020. It has grown. The original went back to being a physical meeting. But the Zoom version remained open because many women started showing up from all over the country. Recently I have returned to online meetings in my hometown, and I love meeting people in AA from all over the world. Online meetings are here to stay. I am willing and actively working toward keeping their future blooming.
I had never been to an on-line AA meeting before the Covid-19 pandemic. I was living in a small Arizona town with one recovery club house that had meetings everyday and a church which had meetings on Sundays. Those meetings ended as group gatherings were prohibited. In the middle of this mess I moved to a new town and through e-mail I found that the AA club in Chicago that I had regularly attended had started doing on-line meetings. So I jumped onboard. Since then on-line meetings have become a regular daily part of my life. I have a new home group, which is based on-line out of Florida with members attending regularly from multiple states and as far away as South Africa. We meet 3 times a week. I also attend 2 meeting out of New York, 2 out of South Africa, 1 out of Chicago and 1 out of the U.K., all on a weekly basis. I have yet to be to a face to face meeting as I have underlying medical issues ( autoimmune disease ) to which I'm afraid to be in groups of people during this period of time. On-line meetings have become a blessing that has expanded my AA life as far as being of service to my fellows. I can't express how thankful I am as this form of fellowship has become a way of life for me. I hope it will always continue.
I could write an entire essay on this topic alone but will keep this short. I came to AA during the pandemic. In person meetings weren’t available. I was also crippled with anxiety and agoraphobia which didn’t allow me to leave my house. If it weren’t for online meetings I would have never been willing or able to attend AA or become sober.
Virtual meetings have also allowed me to attend meetings in other states and countries which has given God the ability to connect us with more people that he wants us to be in touch with without being restricted by time, travel and money constraints. I have been tremendously fortunate to have been able to find my sponsor all the way in Bali, I live in Pennsylvania. Finding her has brought me into a sponsorship family that practices AA the way it’s supposed to be practiced.
Virtual meetings have also allowed me to build valuable relationships with people all over the country and world, many of which are old timers. As we all know old timers are the heart beat of this program and am eternally grateful to have been able to befriend several. I will leave you with this. Without all of these relationships I have made with AAs all over the world carrying the message of AA, I quite possibly would have died a drunk.
In March of 2022 I was frightened by the pandemic, when our country went into lockdown. I was sent home from work @ 4pm. I lived alone, I wondered, "what am I going to do now" by 8pm that night I saw a meeting posted on Facebook. I joined the meeting, more than 200 people from all over the world were signed on. People were sharing; the program, the steps, their stories and great sobriety. Some people were even sleeping on couches and it was dark, others were nodding with rapt attention. It was so amazing. I have never been more comforted, connected, and at one with AA everywhere. I am so grateful to AA and Zoom.
Since the pandemic, I have been attending a small online meeting in Maine (Where I got sober-I'm in GA) that meets four times/ week. In the beginning the attendees were there because of the pandemic but it has continued since one person has COPD and another lives on a remote island. I continue to attend because I consider supporting small meetings an important form of service that has replaced making coffee, etc. (Note: I was on vacation in Maine a couple of weeks ago and got to meet a couple of good friends I've gotten close to over the last two years but had never met in person.)
The first AA meetings I went to were in-person, and I found them intimidating. At one, strangers surrounded me and hugged me (this was December 2020, before Covid vaccines, and none of them were wearing masks). I knew they meant well, but I didn’t like it. I got easily overwhelmed in early sobriety, especially by other people, and often responded by lashing out with a raised voice or sharp words I immediately regretted and had to apologize for. Being with other people meant I had to be vigilant about controlling my emotional reactions and responding appropriately to social cues.
At online meetings, I could relax and focus on the message. I didn’t have to deal with traffic or parking, didn’t have to worry about what I was wearing, didn’t have to wonder if I was going to offend someone when I failed at small talk—there was no excuse not to go. Honestly, I don’t remember much about a lot of those early Zoom meetings, but attending was easy enough that I just kept going. I tried lots of different meetings. Eventually I heard people saying things that really resonated with me and made sense, and I saw people who had what I wanted.
I’ve been sober for over a year and a half now. I attend a mix of online and in-person meetings. Interacting with people is much less overwhelming than in my first sober months, and I feel comfortable at in-person meetings even if I don’t know anyone. Some of my favorite meetings are still online, though, including my home group, because the community they’ve developed over the past years includes people all over the US (and in some cases beyond). Many of these people have become my dear friends and are integral to my recovery.
There are practical reasons I attend virtual meetings, too. My workplace is at least a half-hour drive from the nearest in-person meetings, and sometimes my work hours are long or unpredictable. Being able to get on my laptop for a meeting without physically leaving or spending an hour-plus traveling means I don’t have to sacrifice my work performance for AA. When I’ve had to travel for work and been without a car, I’ve known a meeting was only a click away if I needed it.
I love in-person meetings, but online meetings allowed me to become an AA member and keep my program strong.
During the covid pandemic in 2020, the only meeting I could get to was online. The only meetings I could serve were online. I chaired online meetings for a year straight 2-3 times a week and helped set up AA Home Group - a 24/7 online meeting platform. My sobriety date is February 10, 2013.
I do believe we need to find a way to create an area for AA online groups for people who only participate in AA through online groups. I am happy to help in any way.
My name is ____. My sobriety date is July 23, 1995 and I just celebrated 27 years of continuous sobriety. I got sober in Suffolk County, NY, Area 49 and served in General Service and the local Intergroup for many years. In January 2013, I moved back to my hometown of Reno, Nevada (Area 42). My transition to Reno AA was extremely difficult. Meetings were run differently than I was accustomed to. Service was also very different, both in General Service and the local Intergroup Central Office. Although I continued to attend meetings and do service, I didn't have that "I'm home" feeling that I'd had in Suffolk County.
When Covid hit, our meetings and clubhouses closed down and we went online. This new platform challenged my long-held beliefs that AA had to be in person if you were going to have quality sobriety. However, there was little option but to attend online, especially if I wanted to maintain my long-term sobriety. I attended meetings in my area as well as participating in the Intergroup meetings that were held online. Slowly, I began to recognize that there was little difference between AA in person and AA online. Being in the solution occurs across both platforms equally.
I then realized that meetings were being held in Suffolk County online as well. I began to attend a secular group that was online, having become a practicing Buddhist a decade ago. Once again I had that feeling of being at home again in AA. This group has become a hybrid meeting and I have become their first out-of-state member. It is so comforting to be a member of a home group once again! I offer service at the group level, taking group speaking commitments. I feel a part of AA again. I have friendships and fellowship again. Additionally, I am again a part of SENY, Area 49 and am becoming a participant in service below the group level again. For me, this means all three legs of my triangle are balanced between Recovery, Unity and Service. I am once again an active member in good standing in Alcoholics Anonymous! My sobriety is stronger than it has been in many years.
It is my firm belief that online groups are a vital part of Alcoholics Anonymous that needs to be recognized and supported. It is essential that online groups become part of the norm, not the exception and that online groups become a part of the General Service structure. If AA intends to continue to be available for all those who are sick and suffering as well as those of us who have long-term sobriety, then the organization needs to move into the 21st century and utilize all forms of technology, while maintaining our in-person fellowship.
I am grateful to Alcoholics Anonymous for my life as it is today. I am extremely grateful to my home group for having the progressive understanding that providing a hybrid meeting is the best of both worlds that meets the needs of all alcoholics by carrying out the 5th Tradition and carrying AA's message so well.
My name is _____. Sobriety date is 6/7/76 and I live in Oregon. I am so incredibly grateful for Zoom. Before Zoom, I had fallen into the habit of going to 2 in person meetings per week. I actively sponsored up to 5 women at a time. But my meeting attendance was spotty, because of my health. Also before Zoom, I had been unable to attend meetings since 12/19 because of my health. When COVID became our reality, and Zoom came into focus, I was honestly thrilled. For the first time in many years, I saw a way to be able to attend meetings on a regular basis, no matter what the current state of my health. I now attend over 9 meetings a week. 7 that are internationally attended, and 2 that are based here in Oregon. The absolute BONUS has been that I can also sponsor women through Zoom even when they live across the country.
I have been blessed with Sponsoring women in New York and California that I have never physically met. I have been able to twelve step women through Zoom, and I have been blessed to be allowed to continue my sober walk through service to my fellow women through hosting meetings, through being a current secretary of a meeting, and through just being a sober woman in AA.
Online AA has made my sobriety so much bigger. I was 8 years sober when I started doing online meetings and now go to a meeting almost everyday. I was not doing that before. I am able to sit in multiple meetings a week with sponsees from all over the country and my sponsor and her sponsor. I work with women who have gotten sober on zoom. Several were hesitant to go to in-person meetings and found online meetings an easier entry. Some have stayed only online, some do online and f2f and a few are doing mostly in person. I love that we are able to be of service anywhere someone is reaching out for help.
I have taken several women through the steps on zoom, including multiple 5th steps. I am part of a Traditions and Concepts study group that meets every week and has been going strong for two years now. It's an informal group where we can ask questions and share experiences. We are currently reading the AA Group pamphlet. Previously we've gone through the 12 Traditions Illustrated, the 12 Concepts Illustrated and AA Comes of Age.
I found my home group on zoom and have taken several service positions, my latest is alt GSR. My home group experience is so supportive and full of twelve step work. The group has held me and supported me through some difficulties this past year and I have learned how to do that for others. I have found such a rich and fulfilling AA experience online and I’m excited to see it expand.
Being a retired police officer in a small town has its rewards and its setbacks. One of those setbacks is knowing everyone.. "Where everybody knows your name." Therefore, attending a brick and mortar AA meeting was out of the question. Although I wasn't even convinced that I needed AA since I was already sober 4 months or so, I kept hearing about it, seeing it advertised on Facebook and that's when I realized, if there isn't anything online, I'm not attending. So I Googled "online AA meetings'' and clicked on the first one I found. It was welcoming from the day I walked in that virtual door and it has been a miracle in itself. Not only do I get the message and fellowship of AA, but I also found my sponsor there. (The sponsor that I didn't think I needed..lol) I was trying to do the steps on my own..lol... I now do service on the AA platform and enjoy helping, understanding and being understood. I think I'll stick around. :)
In mid 1994, I was sober for almost four years and got my first PC. I was already active in general service, serving as DCM in Area 49, Southeast New York, and searched "Alcoholics Anonymous" on AltaVista or Babelfish (before Google existed) and discovered the Lamplighters group online. I was skeptical that an AA group could function as they described on their website so I joined. I became very active in the group over the next seven years. I met people all around the world with a common interest in service and came to understand the usefulness of AA in cyberspace for helping those less fortunate than many of us who have so many face-to-face (f2f) meetings. I also met quite a few trusted servants who, like me, were interested in learning more about online AA and how it might function and help the sick and suffering alcoholics who f2f AA wasn't reaching adequately.
My service in Lamplighters allowed me to help strengthen the group conscience, start Traditions and Concepts meetings and expanded from the group into the beginning of the OIAA in 1995. I joined the Unity Committee and was asked to be GSO Liaison with the New York City General Service Office. _____ served as General Manager of GSO at that time. _____ was from Hawaii and I had also befriended _____ the Pacific Regional Trustee on the General Svc Board. These and other relationships led me to discussions about how we might improve relations for AA Online with both the Conference but especially after the Conference agreed to list online meetings as International Correspondence Meetings. We found ways to update AA literature to mention the usefulness of online meetings to people who were frequently the subjects of improving accessibility to the AA fellowship; i.e. the homebound, geographically isolated, hearing impaired, elderly, temporarily disabled, etc. I was privileged to speak at the International Convention in 2000 in Minneapolis on the topic of "AA in Cyberspace - the Future". As a result of that exposure, I was given the opportunity to publish a couple of articles in the AA Grapevine about our experience with AA online and the value to our fellowship to view ALL of AA both f2f and Online as a single fellowship that is worldwide.
Due to changes in my life I returned to post graduate school and had to reduce my service online. I supported the OIAA Unity Committee until we had no one to chair it. I stopped receiving emails and simply remained active and sober in my f2f home group and did service locally until retirement in 2014. I sponsor people in general service in our local area and I have served as Public Information Chair of our County and helped with CPC and Treatment Facilities committee activity.
During the pandemic my home group went onto Zoom and I was able to share my experience and inform our New York Intergroup about the OIAA its value to help those members whose home group could or would not move onto the internet by joining existing groups. I also touched bases with some past friends (_____ is one) who were doing incredible work helping groups that were forming and joining the OIAA in 2020 and 21.
This Committee interests me and I enjoyed the Town Hall to catch up on activities to further the understanding and current structural developments going on in the U.S. & Canada. But I am also interested in the World view. I tried in 1999 to obtain guest status at the World Service Meeting. I was friends with several Trustees and was kept up to date on the reluctance and discomfort of some trustees as well as others in other GSO's around the world. My hope is that the pandemic has now forced a reevaluation of that reluctance and a new hope that we might create a vision for how AA can truly become a united worldwide fellowship with the possibility of changes at the WSM to show how AA is FINALLY "Coming of Age"!
Being a medical professional, I could not imagine handling my stressful professional life without a drink. I came from a long line of “functional” alcoholics who worked hard and were rewarded to a few drinks at the end of the day. Alcohol was the solution and not the problem so what was wrong with my drinking? No one knew I had a problem; I hid it very well. I never drank during the day, never drank when working, never drank and drove and only rarely drank outside of my home. If I went to a party or an event, I might drink before and drink after, but no one would see me drink more than 2 at the function. I was a daily nightly drinker. After my family went to bed, I would go to the basement and play on the computer and drink until I fell asleep or passed out. Every morning I would wake up and think, I will never drink again but then by 6PM, I was racing home from work for that first drink as my last drink seemed an eternity away. My life was like ground hog day, every day, but my saving grace was I worked 80+ hours a week and did not drink at work and I had a wonderful husband who took care of me and our child so I could hide the effects of my drinking fairly well.
When my work went from 80 hours a week to 50 hours a week, I had more time to drink, and I became very depressed and anxious. I thought all medical professionals felt that way. If you had my job and my stress and cared for the sick and dying like I did, surely, you would drink too. I went to a therapist who asked me how much I drank. I told her I only drink 1-2 a day and she said, “oh my god, that is a lot, you must have a problem with alcohol”. I was insulted because if she thought I was an alcoholic only drinking 1-2 a day, I wonder what she would think of me if she knew the truth. She told me to stop drinking and get on anti-depressants and I would feel better. I did just that and I felt worse. The anti-depressants didn’t help and stopping alcohol made me miserable. My shrink suggested I go to 2 AA meetings/week. I thought that was impossible, I was a high standing medical professional, what if I saw someone I knew? This was in 2000 and the only AA meetings that I knew of that were not in person, were on internet relay chat, or mIRC so I started to attend these chat room meetings anonymously. These meetings were similar to in-person meetings, but people had nicknames and they would chat into a window. The meeting chair would type the AA preamble, steps and traditions and we would have the various meeting types as we had today. You just could not see, hear or really know the person sharing (or typing) except for what they would share in the meeting. I attended the mIRC chatroom #alcoholicsanonymous and every day I would see the same people. They would reach out to me in private chat, and we would talk more deeply. They would tell me their name, their location and their AA story. They would answer questions. One of the guys I met, got sober around the same time I did. He was a higher up political official and was also terrified to attend in person meetings but we kept coming back to the internet chat meetings.
One month later, it was a holiday, and my family was drinking champagne. I couldn’t be rude and not drink so I had just one glass. Boy it tasted good and I felt ok so I had another and another and soon I was back to the vodka, rum and scotch to which I much preferred. Only a month of abstinence and my drinking had gotten worse. In a short time, I was sneaking out of the house to drink, driving home in a black out and doing things that I promised I would never do. I still would attend the mIRC meetings and they were supportive and told me to keep coming back. Because they were online and anonymous, I felt I could be 100% honest with them. They kept telling me that I needed to go to f2f (face to face) meetings and find a sponsor, home group and do the steps. They told me that mIRC was not enough.
On the morning after my last drink, I woke up on the couch to my husband’s disgust for me once again being too hungover and sick to take our daughter to school. He walked out the door telling me I needed to get help. Later I found out he was looking up divorce lawyers in the phone book, I called my therapist and told her what happened, she said “you know what to do” and she hung up. That evening I was too sick to go to work or a meeting but I knew I had to go to a meeting the next day. I thought that there was an AA meeting at a church every night of the week at the same time. So I tried to go to a Wednesday meeting on a Thursday night and no one was there. I was desperate, crying in my car and angry at God because here I was and there was no meeting. I didn’t know how to stay sober without a meeting. I kept trying but my fear of seeing someone I knew cause me to drive by more meetings than I went into. Even when I went into the meetings, I was afraid to connect with others because I didn’t trust them. I made the mistake of telling one of the ladies in the meeting I attended that I was a health professional and she told me she monitored alcoholic professionals for the state. That was the last time I went to her meeting! What if I relapsed? Would she turn me in? Even with a daily meeting, the meetings in my hometown were only an hour long. I was a nightly 6P-12AM drinker. What was I going to do for the other 6 hours each night? I kept going to my meeting and the chatroom in mIRC. In the chatroom, there was always a gaggle of people there 24/7 from all over the country so I was not alone. I truly believe they were my lifeline until I felt comfortable going to in-person meetings routinely.
When I was 2 years sober, I met many of my online alcoholic friends in Akron on Founders Day. We had so much fun and I have never laughed so hard in my life. There were 20 of us staying in the same hotel, going out for meals and attending meetings together. When we weren’t in a meeting, we were hanging out together at the hotel. These people were exactly the same as I met online. They told me how special I was, how they were so glad I was there and how I helped them stay sober.
Over time, mIRC lost its vogue and my AA life was taken up by in person meetings and in person friends so I drifted away but I was eternally grateful they were there in my time of need. 7 years ago, I moved to a metropolitan area which takes an average of 40 minutes each way to get to a meeting due to traffic and our meetings last 1 ½ hours here. With my job, I was not able to devote 3 hours a day to go to one meeting so I returned online and found the ___ ___ which is an online AA meeting on Zoom. I can start my day online at 6AM every morning and see the same 40-50 people from all over the world. About a year later, the pandemic hit in March 2019, and our online meeting got flooded with displaced alcoholics. We would have over 100 people in the AM and eventually had 3 separate meetings going on at the same time. Our meeting includes people who are shut in a home, live in nursing facilities, live in China or other parts of the world where there are little or no AA meetings. We have people who are too scared to go to f2f as I was in the beginning but if they want sobriety and keep coming back, they get and stay sober. I have a sponsee and a grandsponsee that I have never met in person but we meet by zoom. I have another sponsee that we only talk on the phone. The internet, phone and zoom (like chat) gives people the option to truly be anonymous and to feel safe in their quest for sobriety. I do not think I would be sober today without my fellowship on-line.
I have been sober for 36 yrs and have been going to zoom meetings for the last 2 yrs. I have found many newcomers and sponsees on online meetings. Online works and has created a great platform to share what has been given to me.
I am now 37 years sober. My background in AA right from the beginning was to have a home group, a sponsor, work the steps, work with others and do service. I had about 20 years of that which included eight year in Area service. Then I moved to Florida and it was difficult to find a group that had or wanted a GSR, had any interest in the Traditions and were not interested in the Concepts. When I moved to Chicago, I had to beg for a job in my homegroup. It seemed that whatever service was done in the groups were done by the same people. We know, that is not how AA works. Then came COVID. I started a meeting immediately for my home group but found that most of the members, being older, were unfamiliar with how to use computers. Eventually after a year they all went back to face-to-face meetings. I have an immune system problem and asthma and COPD, I was not going back to face-to-face meetings yet. So I found other meetings, and what a wonderful joy I found. There were people like me that love Alcoholics Anonymous and want to work with others and want to be involved in service. I do three or four meetings a week with people from all over the country. I have been able to show the new women that I sponsor what AA is really like. My homegroup is a Registered Zoom meeting and we want to participate in an online area and district. We want a voice in the program that is saving our life. We are mostly 65 and above in age with a scattering of young newcomers. AA Zoom meetings make it possible for us old timers to travel the world online. I love AA again. Thank you Zoom!
I'm 34 years sober. My home group went online in March 2020. The group hadn't been very involved in service prior to our going virtual. But we've joined OIAA and a virtual district so that we can not only recover together, but also carry the message with others in the online space. I've gotten new sponsees who've started their AA journey during this time. They live in other places. I'd never have met them without virtual AA. Our home group has members in 4 time zones. We "travel" together to other meetings. We spend an enormous amount of time together before and after meetings in "the meeting after the meeting". I see the addition of virtual groups as a miraculous growth of AA. It's made my experience of AA and of life richer and fuller. I'm not ready to return to face to face meetings yet. Many of my sponsees and home group members do both virtual and face to face meetings. I'm very excited about this whole new world and I'm looking forward to a time when we can participate with a virtual Area in addition to Intergroup and Districts.
In October, 2021, my Friday Night Home Group, a Big Book study in Middlesex, NJ, fell apart when trying to reopen as a hybrid meeting after going online when the pandemic first hit and access to our church was lost. I looked around for another Home Group and decided to make an online group, the ___ ___ ___ my new Home Group. The Group meets every day at noon Eastern time (US) and is listed with the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (OIAA).
I was attracted to this group for several reasons. First, and foremost, I felt at home there. The group is very welcoming and has a lively meeting-before-the-meeting and one after as well. The group focuses on newcomers and celebrates attendees in early sobriety. The group is also a 3 Legacy group which has a Traditions speaker on Tuesdays, a Step speaker on Wednesdays and a Concepts speaker on Fridays. Monday is a Grapevine meeting and Thursday a discussion meeting. Also, the group has a number of service positions which rotate among the group members.
When I declared this as my Home Group, I asked several questions that I normally ask when joining a new Home Group. Do you have a prudent reserve? How much is it and what do you do with monies beyond the prudent reserve? Does the Group have representation including a GSR (General Service Rep), a GvR (Grapevine Rep) and an IGR (Intergroup Rep)? Do we belong to a District and an Area?
This last question is particularly important to me because if the group does not belong to a District and have a GSR, the group is not connected to AA as a whole and cannot fulfill their Concept I responsibility of providing the group conscience for our Delegate to bring to the General Service Conference to vote on matters like changes to the Preamble, the development of a plain language Big Book and additional ways for AAs to reach us online and through social media. When I found out that we did not have a GSR and did not belong to a District, I brought a recommendation to our quarterly business meeting that we do so.
My initial recommendation was that our Group join a geographic District, District 1 and 2 in Area 15 Southern Florida. The group was started by several individuals from the Tampa, Florida area so it seemed like a good fit. The group rejected that idea and felt that as an online group, we should join an online District. At the time, there were only 2 online Districts in the US/Canada service structure, and after some research, the group voted with a 2/3 majority to join District 25 in Western Washington. We then proceeded to elect a GSR and an alternate GSR, which made me very happy as my Home Group was now connected with the rest of AA.
I was very grateful and a little emotional when our newly elected GSR, ___., presented his first report to the group at our next quarterly business meeting. His report consisted mainly of what happened at this year's 72nd General Service Conference after attending a post-conference report held by our Delegate, ___., the current Delegate from Area 72 Western Washington. I look forward to next year's Conference when my home group will be able to take place in the pre-conference process to provide our group conscience on the items which will have been selected for the Final agenda at the Conference. There may even be items relevant to online groups like the creation of virtual Districts and maybe even online Area. We'll just have to wait and see what items for AA's future are selected next year.
My name is _____ and I am an alcoholic.
I am also the GSR for the ___ ___ ___, originally started in St. Augustine, Florida as a brick-and-mortar meeting. Times have changed. We are now a permanent online Group and our membership spans four time zones.
Following is Advisory Action 32 from the 71st General Service Conference:
“The U.S./Canada General Service Structure recognizes online groups and encourages their participation, listing those groups who ask to be listed within the group’s preferred district and area, with the default option being the location of the group’s primary contact. This supersedes the 1997 Advisory Action that designated online groups as ‘International Correspondence Meetings.’”
Although I live in Chattanooga, TN, I participate in Area 14 Assemblies and District 6 meetings (In Northeast Florida) due to the above Advisory Action. Being tied to a geographic District and Area is the only option to participate in the General Service Structure at this time.
At the last Area Assembly, the hybrid portion was severely limited… We were only granted access to the Delegate’s post-conference report and the Sunday morning Business Meeting. Although I had a keen interest in the Committee meetings (especially the Growth Committee, who has been discussing the future of online groups), I was unable to attend their workshops. This vastly limited the information I was able to share with my Group.
A handful of Group members still live in Northeast Florida, but the majority does not. The fact that the Workshop Committee in District 6 is holding a Sharing Session on August 6th is of little value to most members. The same can be said for the motions presented at our last Area Assembly… our member in Arizona, for example, has little or no interest in the 2023 proposed budget for Area 14.
What we need is a solution: District Meetings and Area Assemblies that span all time zones and are pertinent to every member of our Group. In order to accomplish this goal, I am in full support of the creation of online Districts and Areas as a much-needed addition to the General Service Structure.
Hi my name is _____ My homegroup is the ___ ___ ___ Group. We are an online only weekly speaker meeting on Zoom. I have served as GSR for my homegroup the past 2 years in District 30 Area 57 in Oklahoma. When I started our group in July 2020, I talked to a past trustee ___., our current SW Regional Trustee ___., a GSO Staffer named ___., and a man in North Carolina that had been involved with the Online Intergroup for many years. According to those guys, our homegroup was the first online only homegroup to participate in the service structure in the history of AA in North America. Now I don’t know if that is true or not, but we haven’t missed representation at any District or Area meetings in the past 2 years, and we had a vote at our area assembly to select our delegate. The way we went about doing this was that we really wanted to participate and despite everyone that I talked to saying we couldn’t, I asked our District Chair if we could participate. She said yes and I told her the truth that this hasn’t been done before. She said there are several groups in our district that don’t participate at all. I then contacted the area 57 policy and procedures chair and told him I was willing to write out a motion and fight for our right to participate. He said that wouldn’t be necessary because there isn’t anything in our p & p that says you can’t participate. We also have an Alt GSR who also lives here in Oklahoma. Our secretary lives in Cedar Rapids Iowa. Our treasurer lives in New Orleans and we have a few homegroup members scattered around. I’m not sure if this experience is something you are interested in, but I will put my contact info in this email. For our group as long as we have local servants on the ground in the area we claim, it works. If we ever wanted to move our group, we would simply withdraw our membership in Area 57 and set roots down in another state where the next rotation of servants would be on the ground. Officially our first group participation in the service structure was in August 2020. I attended the district 30/40 joint service meeting and the District 30 business meeting. In September 2020 I attended the Area business meeting and our Area Assembly as GSR of the Gaunt Prospector Speaker Group. I have also served as DCM and Alt District 30 Chair during that time. As well as several other service positions. We found something that works for us and I hope other online groups can find a path to participation in the service structure.
When quarantine happened in 2021 I was a practicing acupuncture physician who got really busy because of the shut down of many doctors and hospitals for primary care. I stayed open and ready to help those falling through the cracks. This gave me long days, some weekends too. As an alcoholic whose sobriety date is in 2003, I still regularly attended meetings. The second day of quarantine I decided to start a zoom meeting for my home group. My sponsor also felt that starting an online meeting was of the essence to provide a place for a newcomer and a not so newcomer to land.
I got the word out to everyone I knew and now due to a non-geographic specific location I could invite many people who were snow- birds during the winter months. Then I told sponsees and their sponsees. As time went by we picked up word of mouth members and several neighboring townsfolk who decided to stay. Many of these folks had long term sobriety and were at risk in any social situation. One fellow who attends says he goes to more meetings with Zoom than in all his 28 years or so before!
I now have a big book study, a traditions and concepts meeting, several times a week I am at another meeting that other members I know attend. Sponsees and newcomers come and go in these meetings just like they did before. My sponsor and I are in meetings together for the first time in years since she moved home to be with her granddaughter. I am home. This is some of the best I have felt in sobriety. I have not been lonely or felt isolated once during our long journey with COVID19. My group contributes to AAWS every quarter.
I have one need and that is to join AA as a whole. My home group is without a vote.
I am my Districts current practice chair and we kept our meetings going by zoom when I was the chairperson. We haven’t missed one. Neither did my Area 15 in Florida. We did our business, contributed to AAWS and our local district area and intergroups. Our committees met via zoom except for corrections which was a total shutdown here. But we tried.
Back to meetings. My little homegroup would get a GSR if we could have a vote in AAWS matters. We want our voice. It is our guarantee in our concepts. I think we need an area so that we can begin to district ourselves. It won’t be geographically. But there are many good ideas in AA. It won’t take much. Just the responsibility statement really…
WHEN ANYONE ANYWHERE REACHES OUT FOR THE HAND OF AA I WANT IT TO ALWAYS BE THERE AND FOR THAT I AM RESPONSIBLE.
Let’s Put Our Fears Aside
Like so many of us in Alcoholics Anonymous, my life and my program has not been the same since March of 2020. As a second-year Delegate, I have delivered three Pre-conference reports in-person with 3 more scheduled, including one for our Spanish Districts. When the pandemic hit, we quickly re-grouped, obtained a Zoom account for the Area, and completed our Pre-conference reports online. Next, we figured out how to hold our first Mini-conference Assembly virtually so that I could attend the first virtual Conference fully informed.
Similarly, my home group at a church in a town close by shut down and my beginner’s Big Book study group moved online and met successfully for the next year. As the pandemic waned, my Group attempted to return to the church in a hybrid fashion. They were unsuccessful and the group eventually closed, one of many casualties of the pandemic.
The experiences of my Area and my Home Group are not uncommon and have been repeated throughout our Fellowship. There have been many struggles during this “flying blind” period. What amazes me is the resiliency of our Fellowship and how we come through these periods mostly stronger and united. However, there are those two bogeymen that often raise their heads during these periods: fear and doubt. We have an opportunity to move our Fellowship significantly forward if we are willing to embrace the gifts of these struggles.
We will be better able to reach remote communities that have been excluded. We can introduce members to new ways of doing service in our Fellowship to help solve some of our problems with participation. We can ensure that more members of the Fellowship get involved with the items planned for the next General Service Conference so that we don’t hear the refrain: “You never asked us about that!” The online Districts available in a few Areas have begun to embrace these and other opportunities for participation. But they are only a beginning.
To truly ensure that the voices and the needs of online groups are truly heard, there needs to be someone to bring their concerns and their group conscience to the General Service Conference. I believe that this requires us to put our fears and doubts aside and embrace the unity which could come from the creation of an online Area. In Tradition Eight, Bill W. talks about how fear can affect us: "...we were taking the counsel of fear, fear which today has been largely dispelled in the light of experience." While there are still many details to be worked out, we need to put our fears aside and move forward into this brave, new online world.
My Thoughts on a Virtual Area
As a member of a permanently virtual group, I have very strong feelings about the creation of a Virtual Area which would be part of the US/Canada General Service Structure. My group is in a unique position because we were an in-person group for 32 years before we made the decision to change to a virtual format and eventually made the decision to remain permanently virtual. We had been participating in the General Service Structure in Area 15 and currently we continue to have a GSR who attends in-person District and Area meetings. Both our Area and our District met virtually for 2 years and then returned to in-person meetings. Neither our Area or our District have utilized the hybrid format because of cost and the other challenges associated with hybrid meetings. The challenge, of course, will occur when our present GSR rotates out of the position. We are a small group and several of our members do not live locally. This would prevent them from serving as GSRs as long as our District and Area continue to reject the hybrid format.
I see several challenges with a hybrid format. I have attended several hybrid meetings and only find them effective when the equipment used is sophisticated, allowing for high-quality video and sound. There need to be large screens in the meeting room which enable the in-person attendees to see the virtual participants, and every one of the in-person participants who speaks needs to be in front of the computer so that they can be seen and heard easily by the virtual attendees. In addition, the Wi-Fi required for the in-person venue needs to be reliable. I have attended hybrid events where the Wi-Fi quit in the middle of the meeting.
The other challenge with hybrid meetings is that the equipment required for this kind of event needs to be set-up and tested in advance to make sure it is working. This sometimes requires volunteers who are, at best, sometimes more reliable than other times. And the body hosting the event must also find individuals to transport the equipment to the venue and store it between meetings. At other times the facility where the in-person event is being held requires that paid employees handle equipment which is often very expensive. Some facilities permit the entity to use its own equipment but charge a fee for this privilege. Other times the facility insists on providing its own equipment. The cost of utilizing the Wi-Fi at some facilities is also often costly as well.
Most or all the above challenges would be eliminated if a virtual area were created. There are already virtual Districts being created in several Areas of the US and Canada. Other Areas are resistant to creating these virtual Districts, because of fear of change, which seems pervasive in Alcoholics Anonymous today, or because they foresee the future need for creating hybrid venues with its associated challenges.
Creating a Virtual Area(s) would allow the creation of virtual Districts which would be able to meet the needs of many virtual Groups who would like to participate in the General Service Structure. There could be one or more virtual Districts in each time-zone in the US and Canada. This would not impact the General Service Conference since all the Delegates need to travel to the site of the Conference and the Delegate(s) representing Virtual Area(s) would be traveling to the Conference just as Delegates from Area which meet in-person must travel to the Conference.
With all the above in mind, I am hopeful that the General Service Board and the General Service Conference will consider and ultimately approve the creation of an Additional Delegate Area or Areas (1 in the US and one in Canada would be a good starting point) which would be entirely virtual. I believe that eventually this will happen. Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about it happening soon.
To whom it may concern,
As a sober member of the Strangely Insane Group of Alcoholics Anonymous (FNV Group Service #726840, Netsuite Group Service #000241293), I would like to register my support for the proposal to create an Online Area as part of the General Service Conference structure of the United States and Canada. While I concede that the proposed action may not remedy all the issues facing A.A. in the current international environment, I am strongly in favor of taking immediate action to counteract one of the most pressing needs that has developed within the A.A. Fellowship over the past two and a half years. Due to the continuing global COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, many members have turned to “online” (virtual electronic meeting formats) or “hybrid” (combined online and in-person meeting formats) options for the meetings they attend as a staple of their personal recovery practices. Since very few local areas have taken positive action to create virtual districts for their local online and hybrid A.A. groups, and a disturbing number of such groups have not taken action to affiliate with any local general service district, many members who call online meetings their home groups effectively have been left without a voice and a vote in matters affecting A.A. as a whole. Leaving the Right of Decision to those at the group and local service level might be a high ideal, but it clearly is not working to bring suitable involvement by and for every A.A. member. Without the actual Right of Participation for every member of A.A., our inspirational ideal of democracy in A.A. becomes little more than a fantasy.
Creating an Online Area through a Conference Advisory Action would provide an opportunity for such disenfranchised members to regain their voice and vote in Alcoholics Anonymous. Admittedly, this proposal does not solve the dilemma of how to incorporate truly “international” groups (not affiliated with any specific national or zonal general service structure) into the existing A.A. general service framework, but it is a far superior option than continuing to take no action. The General Service Conference, in its actual practice, is doing a severe disservice to our membership by continuing to do nothing. Talk is cheap, and the ideal of one member, one voice, and one vote in Alcoholics Anonymous is becoming worthless while our Conference continues to waffle over this fundamental issue while an immediate remedy such as this proposal is readily available to us. The worst thing we can do is to continue to do nothing. I urge the Trustees’ Nominating Committee and the Conference Coordinator to place this proposal on the Final Agenda for the 73rd General Service Conference so expeditious action might finally be considered and, hopefully, taken at the bottom of our A.A. service triangle, by the General Service Conference and the General Service Board.
Yours in love and service
In Consideration of Virtual Districts/Areas
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was my perception that A.A. as a whole was somewhat resistant to the use of technology in helping to carry the message. The pandemic, however, forced us to look to technology in order to remain in contact with one another through online meetings, events, and even the General Service Conference itself. Many of us wondered what would happen to A.A.’s use of Zoom and other platforms once the pandemic was over. The pandemic has since diminished, but it is my perception that we have gotten past our collective technophobia, and many seem to feel that the “Zoom Age” might be here to stay.
If it is indeed the case that online and hybrid meetings are now a seemingly permanent part of our culture, should not the next question be, “What will be their role in our service structure?” Surely – in keeping with Concept Four and our Right of Participation - we would want those members who choose to participate virtually to have a voice in A.A. as a whole. It seems, therefore, that a thorough exploration of the prevalence and persistence of online groups, a detailed consideration of guidelines for the formation of virtual Districts and/or Areas, and an in-depth exploration of how such entities could be integrated into our service structure are all called for.
In anticipation of the inevitable objections that “we’ve never done that before” and “this will surely ruin A.A.”, I remind us of the words of our co-founder, Bill W. who, in his 1970 address to the New York Intergroup Association (read by Lois due to Bill’s failing health), “A.A. must and will continue to change with the passing years.”