How Effective are Online AA Meetings?

How Effective are Online AA Meetings?

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The past year and a half have been unprecedented for our society. Many find connection more difficult than ever, and as a result, addiction is on the rise. Online AA meetings are an opportunity for people to connect and support each other during a challenging time. Here is what you need to know about them.

What are AA Meetings?

AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s an affiliation of people on the road to recovery from a drinking disorder. Each group is self-supporting, which means the group can grow in the way that works best for everyone there. AA is open to all genders, ethnicities, and political associations. They also offer groups for specific genders, as well as the LGBTQ community.

Alcoholics Anonymous gives those with a substance use disorder a place to process their recovery in a nonprofessional setting. People can share their experiences, read literature regarding substance and alcohol addiction, and recite the Twelve Steps of AA.

Members are encouraged and supported on their journey to recovery, no matter how long it takes. Members also receive chips to mark milestones in their recovery. Sponsorship is a common practice where newer members have mentors experienced in the program that help them commit to sobriety.

AA began in 1935, and there are now there are AA meetings around the world. It has also spawned similar models for other substance use disorders, such as NA for narcotics, OA for overeaters, and Al-Anon for family members and loved ones of those with an alcohol use disorder.1

How Do Online AA Meetings Operate?

Online AA meetings operate similarly to in-person meetings. They are typically led by a chairperson that guides the meeting. The chairperson rotates among members, so no one carries the burden of leading alone. Members take turns sharing online, either by speaking or typing on a forum.

Online AA meetings usually last about an hour and include reading AA literature and reciting the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA.

Most online AA meetings function using a video conferencing platform, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or free conference calls. Group leaders provide other members and their local AA office with the necessary instruction to access the meeting.

In the Rooms is another popular platform that those in addiction recovery can use to meet and socialize virtually with other recovering individuals. The website has grown to over 800,000 members as a way to provide a connection for those who need virtual support.2

Why AA Meetings Switched to Online

Since its inception in the 1930s, leaders in AA and Al-Anon have recognized the need to reach out to those in recovery and their loved ones beyond regular meetings. That is why they developed books, videos, and audio around the world. Those who live in remote areas or cannot attend corresponded by letter, email, or phone. Today, modern technology has allowed many to attend AA online. For many around the world, online AA meetings are nothing new.

Safety Measures During COVID-19

When the pandemic struck, there was an increased need for AA online. Each AA meeting is operated independently and not under the rules or directives of the General Service Office of AA. However, many local laws and ordinances meant that all in-person AA meetings were forced to close. For those in AA, online meetings provided a way for people to continue their recovery even when in-person meetings were not safe or possible. There have always been reasons why an individual may miss a meeting from time to time. However, COVID changed everything and forced many to figure out online AA for entire groups. As more and more Americans are vaccinated (today, almost 60% of Americans have had at least their first shot), many members will soon be going back to in-person meetings. However, now the technology will still be available for those who cannot attend in person.3

The Benefits of Online AA Meetings

The concept of AA online is helpful for many people. Some of the benefits of online AA meetings include:4

Those who don’t have transportation can still attend. This aspect is especially useful for those who had their license revoked as a result of drinking. Attending in-person can become an undue burden on loved ones. Attending AA online would make it easier for them to attend.

People who live in remote areas can attend. While AA meetings are all over the world, they can’t be everywhere. However, distance no longer has to be a factor in whether someone has help with recovery.

Having AA online is more flexible. Many people struggle to commit to a rigid schedule, whether because of work or personal obligations. Meeting online is a great chance to overcome this obstacle.

It is helpful for those with social anxiety. Co-occurring disorders are common with alcohol addiction. Anxiety can make a meeting in person difficult, if not impossible. AA virtual meetings can be more inclusive for them.

Online Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have the potential to make meetings easier and more inclusive for everyone.

The Negatives of Online AA Meetings

While it can be beneficial for some, online AA meetings can have some serious drawbacks for others:

While online AA meetings were essential for members’ health and well-being during COVID, some members of the community struggled to adjust to the challenges of virtual meetings.

How Effective are Online AA Meetings?

Recovery is not a “one-size-fits-all” model that works for everyone. Likewise, how well someone responds to online meetings depends on several factors, including their personality, challenges, triggers, and their level of engagement.

However, there are ways to continue to keep a connection beyond virtual meetings. Some groups created contact lists so that those who want a greater level of engagement can keep in touch by phone, email, or social media.

You can find a local AA meeting online or in person through the official AA website.5



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