Online AA Meetings Making Isolation Tolerable & Recovery Possible in Arizona

When you think about the life and existence of an alcoholic, you probably wouldn’t consider them to be reliable and consistent people. You’d be wrong – so wrong.

The one thing you really can say about an alcoholic is their full-blown, full-on desire to be reliable, and consistently so – day-in, day-out. Come what may, hell and high water, they will get their hands on drink – in a glass, in a jug or in a bottle, in a bar, in a park or on the street. It’s always the standard, required outcome for a day in their life.

How’s that for outstanding reliability and 100% consistency?

Yes, a simple, everyday consumer transaction for most, and sometimes begging, pleading, stealing, mugging, violence, and so on, may be involved, but never back against the fact they’ll get what they want – or, more importantly, what they believe they need to get through another day.

It makes you wonder just how they’ve fared during the coronavirus outbreak, a time of social distancing and self-isolation. Pretty well, as you can imagine. There has yet to be TV news flashes about hoards of alcoholically-sick people, turning up at Arizona hospitals’ ER departments, and demanding a clean and sober life… Regardless, the world moves on.

So what about those who do want to live a clean and sober life, free from morning vomiting, hangovers from hell, and an early search for that hair of the dog? How have those people – those looking to find and maintain a successful addiction recovery – fared exactly during this crazy and challenging time? 

Recovering alcoholics need consistency too – the need for consistency in connecting and meeting with other AA members, and remaining sober. To be precise:

  • The consistency in making their favorite, often much needed AA meetings.
  • The consistency in seeing the same familiar faces, knowing full well that whatever you’re going through, they’re going through it too.
  • The same and consistent peer support that is at the very heart of the AA fellowship, strengthening your resolve to see this through, however hard it may get sometimes.
  • The consistency of staying in contact with an AA “sponsor” (someone who has made progress through AA, and is there to help a newer AA member).
  • And the consistency of sharing that final prayer, the shared blessing of serenity.

Exactly how have active AA members, who were regularly getting their peer support (and a healthy dose of accountability) face-to-face, managed to continue their recovery from alcohol addiction, with their local church halls and other familiar meeting places all locked up – a sign on the front door, saying “Sorry – We’re Closed Until Further Notice”?

One word. Telehealth.

In more than one word – going online to attend your AA meeting, connecting with your recovery peers, sitting in front of your computer screen, and drinking your own tea or coffee for a change.

What is Telehealth & (More Importantly) Does It Work?

Telehealth will now be forever imprinted on our mental dictionaries following the coronavirus pandemic, along with phrases like “social distancing,” “covidiot” and “doomscrolling.” Relating to health information services, health care education, and health care services, the term “telehealth” applies to anything done remotely (via digital technology) in order to keep you fit and healthy – wherever you are.

Examples of telehealth include: 

  • Health advisory notices
  • Monitoring of vital signs, blood pressure or ECG remotely, and 
  • Consultations with a doctor by a patient

The coronavirus has given the opportunity to all health care providers to expand their range of online services, in order to reach patients who cannot be seen or monitored face-to-face; impractical geographical distance is another example of where telehealth can play an important part in health care provision.

In the context of this article, attending your AA fellowship meeting online is an example of telehealth, because it’s keeping you fit and healthy (and sober) – wherever you are. And, yes, it works – they wouldn’t do it otherwise.

In fact, when you consider you can simply click-off your video camera, online AA meetings actually take the concept of anonymity to a whole new level.

Alcoholics Anonymous Online

Way back in 1935 (when being online was probably referring to the state of your laundry), and in a place called Akron, Ohio, two men – Bill W., a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S., a surgeon in the small Ohio town – met for the very first time. Bill was a recovering alcoholic, and Dr. Bob was still searching for his own sobriety.

Bill spoke of alcoholism as an actual disease of both mind and body – something even Dr. Bob had not heard before. In response to meeting and talking with Bill, Dr. Bob at last found his sobriety, and never drank again. The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was born.

It is impossible to validate any AA recovery outcome data, as there simply is none. However, it definitely works as a low-cost treatment alternative and support network for many alcoholics looking to find their own sobriety, and is undoubtedly responsible for saving many lives that would have been lost to addiction.

The Corona Effect on Alcohol Consumption

Since the inception of “the state lockdown,” alcohol sales have skyrocketed across the U.S. and Arizona is no exception. Alcohol – freely purchased online, from the isolation of your home, and delivered right to the front door. Experts fear this will result in a tidal wave of alcohol use disorders (AUDs – alcoholism, in another word) across the country. 

With Arizona bars and other drinking joints shut, drinking has been continuing unabated at home – only this time with no barriers to volume, no cops to arrest you for public intoxication, and no social barriers to getting plain blasted.

As John F. Kelly, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor in addiction medicine, explains, “There’s going to be a big need on the other side of this when people are out and about.” In contrast, and in relation to those who are already AA members, he says, “Existing members have this rich social network potentially at their fingertips” – something the new AUD sufferer does not.

AA: The Online Intergroup

If you’re looking to find an AA meeting that you can attend online, you’ll find all you need and more at the AA Intergroup webpage – obviously, you have no need whatsoever to concern yourself about location (from Arizona to Zeehan in Tasmania), as long as the language of the meeting is one you understand, you’re good.

Furthermore, these meetings are less time-restricted, meaning they are taking place around-the-clock, 24/7. Anyone is able to access an AA meeting in the middle of the night, if that’s what they need.

Find what you need, when you need it, by accessing the OIAA Directory, featuring over 1,000 meetings worldwide, directly emailing the OIAA 12th Step Committee, who will respond directly, or browse the AA’s wealth of online resources.

Attending an online meeting, though, isn’t for everyone. As one long-time AA member, Lewis, says, as he recalls the more traditional, face-to-face meetings, “I felt a wave of belonging. That whole thing is missing now. The true fruits of A.A. are combating loneliness of isolation.”
With that in mind, online AA meetings are combatting a recovering alcoholic’s loneliness as far as they physically can. You’ve just swapped a local church hall for your own living room, and your own coffee. What is more important is that recovering alcoholics and active AA members can remain consistently… sober.

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Jason Bordonaro

I am licensed by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners as an LPC and LISAC and am a National Certified Counselor with the NBCC. I am currently the clinical director at Springboard Recovery for outpatient treatment of substance use disorders. I am trained in EMDR therapy and hold a Master Level Certification in Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). I am registered with the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners to provide supervision for interns and associate level counselors.