AA Zoom Meetings

July 11, 2021

By Andy F

Categories: AA meetings

The New Normal

It is looking increasingly likely that Covid 19 is here to stay. The coronavirus has mutated several times already. It’s fairly certain that new variants will emerge. As a species, we must learn to adapt. On a global scale, living with Covid has become the new normal. Some scientists believe that the coronavirus will become as common as the flu.

How will Covid affect AA? How will the fellowship adjust to this new reality? Many of my buddies believe that the fellowship will never be the same again. Like with the rest of the human species, it will have to find ways to avoid contact with the virus. Alcoholics in recovery are fortunate indeed. We have the technology of online meetings. Zoom meetings are keeping millions of us sober and safe.

Face to face meetings

The new Delta variant is sweeping across the world. The rate of infection has doubled in many countries. Vaccination programs are now in full swing. Many people have already had two doses. This new confidence in the vaccines has lulled many alcoholics into a false sense of security.

Physical meetings are gradually reopening. We are by no means out of the woods yet. Sadly, many members refuse to wear masks at meetings. They are exposing older members to an increased risk of infection. Many have preexisting health conditions. One has to wonder how safe they will be going back to ordinary meetings.

It is of course every member’s individual choice at what kind of meetings they feel most comfortable. People that I have spoken to; miss the physical contact with other alcoholics. They feel that face to face contact is very important to their recovery. One old-timer recently shared that the feeling of unity and fellowship is lost on the zoom platform.

Initially, I felt the same way.  Somehow it felt preferable to be physically in the same room as other alcoholics. I thought that this was the only way for AA to work its magic. The harsh truth is that the world has now become a different place. The fellowship also has had to adapt.

Mask wearing and the AA group conscience

Recently, my local meeting had a group conscience.  One specific issue was discussed. Should the wearing of masks at meetings be mandatory? Some felt that a vote to make mask wearing a requirement is in violation of the third tradition:

 “The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking” 

The group voted that the wearing of masks at meetings should not be mandatory. Consequently, very few people wear masks. Being in my late 60’s I felt very uncomfortable with this. I have health issues that put me in the high-risk category. As an individual member, I have to respect the conscience of the group.

A personal and informed choice

I had to make a choice. My decision was to withdraw from my home group and go to zoom meetings. Initially, I was concerned that I would not be getting the support that comes from face to face meetings. Was my friend, the old-timer right? Can the healing power of meetings be diluted by attending virtual meetings? 

Was the difference of opinion about wearing masks at meetings affecting AA Unity? Of course, it has!  Sadly, mask-wearing has become a contentious issue the world over. It seems to be causing resentment and division. Let’s face it; the unity of the fellowship is vital to AA’s survival.

“We are not cured of alcoholism” (BB Page 85 4th Edition)

I have lived with alcoholism for long enough to know a very important fact about my illness. The plain truth is, that I cannot afford the luxury of separating myself from other alcoholics. I have to treat the mental and spiritual aspects of my illness on a daily basis.

Left to my own devices and isolated from AA, my ego-driven thinking will soon start becoming the dominant voice in my head. When this happens, I know that I am “heading for trouble.” (BB page 85 4th Edition) Invariably, I begin to deteriorate mentally and spiritually. This always happens when I revert back to my well-practised role of “the lone ranger.”

The truth about AA zoom meetings

With a heavy heart, I went back to zoom meetings. The Delta variant was running wild. It felt like I had no other choice. Then a miracle happened. I was contacted by an old friend in the fellowship. My AA buddy is Polish and I’m a second-generation Pole. I have never forgotten the language of my parents. Like me, Marek has been sober for many years. He told me about three Polish-speaking zoom meetings that I may want to try.

I went to all three. I was very pleasantly surprised. Despite being online, they were the strongest and healthiest meetings I had been to for a long time. Everyone at these meetings had sponsors and was actively engaged in doing the work of the steps. The commitment to recovery and spiritual growth was inspirational.

Newcomers were pulled into the centre of the AA bed and lovingly looked after. What was also very encouraging was that there was no trace of hardcore AA fundamentalism. I immediately turned all three of them into my new home groups.

A powerful virtual AA message on Zoom

I then realized that although attendance at physical meetings is a wonderful thing, at the moment, it’s a luxury I can’t afford. The other important question is, do physical meetings treat the illness more effectively than online meetings? It would seem that this is not necessarily the case.

It’s the power of example and remaining teachable to the suggestions of the program that has inspired me. I have to be in meetings where members are living in the solution. This is the attitude that treats my illness on a daily basis.  

It doesn’t matter if the meetings are face to face or online.  I learnt a long time ago in AA; it’s a strong message of recovery that keeps me well. Following Good Orderly Direction (Acronym for GOD) is what keeps me in “fit spiritual condition” (BB page 85 4th Edition)

I won’t be going back to face to face meetings anytime soon. When I was a practising drunk, I took risks that threatened my life every day. This is the self-destructive nature of my alcoholism. Today, I love life too much. I have no wish to end up on a ventilator with Covid 19.

What are your thoughts about Zoom meetings? Are they here to stay? With the new normal, will face to face meetings gradually become a thing of the past?

In fellowship,

Andy F

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