A major appeal of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it makes recovery accessible. As of 2021, a report conducted by the organization found that there were nearly two million members worldwide, with over 120,000 groups in over 175 countries. In addition to their impressive global presence, online AA meetings are just as plentiful as the physical ones.
Today, online AA meetings can be found and accessed 24/7 without even having to leave your home. This offering has become more important than ever amid the lockdowns of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (though AA had online meetings well before the outbreak began) as the feelings of panic led to decreases in mental health and sharp upticks in alcohol consumption.
Where to Find Online AA Meetings
Despite being a nearly century-old organization (AA was founded in 1935), Alcoholics Anonymous was quick to embrace the new technology of the times. During the fledgling days of the internet, in the late 80s and early 90s, the first online AA meetings used email groups and virtual bulletin boards to connect.
As the internet developed into an integral part of our everyday lives, online meetings expanded rapidly in conjunction. Utilizing video and phone conferencing, message boards, newsletters, and chat rooms, virtual AA members have an online community that leaves them no less connected than their physical meetings counterparts.
There is now an entire subset of Alcoholics Anonymous dedicated to 100% virtual group membership called the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous or OIAA (the first-ever fully-online AA group, the Lamp-lighters, which formed in the early 1990s, is still operational and active to this day). You can find online meetings by accessing their portal (registration and login required). However, there are plenty of AA directories that include virtual meetings in their listings.
Why Choose Online AA Meetings: The Benefits of Virtual Support
There’s certainly much value to be had in face-to-face interaction, especially when dealing with a disease such as addiction that can feel cripplingly isolating. Just as there’s no one “right” way to overcome alcoholism, no one form of support will be the best fit for everyone. Virtual support groups offer an alternative means to the same support, community, and accountability as in-person AA meetings, but are beneficial for a host of reasons.
1. No transportation required
Depending on how destructive a person’s relationship with alcohol was, they may find themselves without the legal right to drive, financial means for transportation, or the physical or mental capacity to leave their home and maneuver the outside world. A lack of transportation or mobility is just one of the many harsh realities of some of the consequences of addiction.
2. More accessible to those in rural areas
Outside of densely populated metropolitan areas, more sparsely populated rural locations may find themselves with too few people to have a group serve their area or may find the distance to travel to one of these groups too far to be feasible. Further, those on active military duty in foreign countries or even on base may find themselves without easy or regular access to in-person support.
3. Easier for those with disabilities
Disabilities such as mobility impairment or hearing loss can make attending in-person meetings not only challenging but less effective. Virtual meetings offer a number of accessibility accommodations that face-to-face meetings don’t offer.
4. Supplement in-person meetings
Whereas some individuals choose online AA meetings out of necessity or convenience, others choose to do so out of a desire for extra support. When crises hit, when cravings seem unmanageable, having to wait a week for the next group meeting can mean a dangerous relapse. Virtual meetings, on the other hand, can be accessed any time, anywhere, with 24/7 chat rooms or round-the-clock video conferencing to offer on-the-spot support.
5. Meet AA members from around the world
Many participants of the online AA community are regular attendees of f2f (face to face) meetings–in fact, OIAA actually recommends that newcomers attend an in-person AA meeting whenever possible. Turning to an online community means entering one with no geographic barriers, making it possible to listen and learn from people halfway around the world that you likely never would have met otherwise.
How Do Online AA Meetings Work?
Online Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are run in much the same fashion as in-person meetings. There are service positions, meetings can be open or closed, and have rules in place to protect anonymity. They practice the same AA principles and speak on the same official AA literature. Online AA meetings can also meet the requirements for mandated participation. If you need to provide proof of AA attendance, just be sure to verify beforehand whether the source of virtual meetups does so, it’s not a guarantee that all online meetings will offer it.