Benefits of Online AA Meetings

There are many reasons you may turn to AA online meetings, whether it’s for more convenience, greater anonymity, or trying to stay as safe as possible during a global pandemic.

Yet while the online world offers a great alternative to in-person AA meetings, the experience is a little different than what you might be used to or expect.

What Is AA Online?

Online AA meetings have actually been around almost as long as the Internet itself! The practice first began in the early ‘90s, with email being used as the main form of communication.

Technology has certainly come a long way since then, and AA online has also adapted to keep pace with the times. Nowadays, you can attend an AA meeting not only in person but via conference call, chatroom, Zoom, Google Hangout, or several other options—but more on that later.

The entire process is actually conducted through an organization called the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (OIAA)—a nonprofit that works hand-in-hand with AA.

The mission of the Intergroup is to work as an umbrella organization for all the various AA meetings that have made their way online, providing a centralized source of guidance, information, and resources for the different groups and their attendees.

Along with available AA meetings online, you’ll be able to find general information on Alcoholics Anonymous through the OIAA, as well as access the OIAA 12th Step Committee, a group of volunteers, available through email 24/7, who can help direct you toward help or other resources.

How To Attend Online AA Meetings

The primary function of the OIAA is to relay information, specifically about online AA meeting options.

The OIAA online directory lists over 1,000 meetings happening worldwide every day, as well as a number of 24/7 options, including email and chat groups. This directory can be filtered in several helpful ways, including by time zone, date, language, and meeting format, so you can find the best option for you.

All online AA meetings are “closed”—meaning privately run, and unavailable to the public—so once you settle on which meeting you’d like to attend, you’ll have to register for the service. This is how the OIAA ensures that anonymity, a central tenant of the AA philosophy, can be upheld in the virtual world. (Closed meetings make it impossible for a casual Internet surfer to stumble upon AA meetings online.)

The Intergroup’s directory includes a berth of information on each meeting, including any relevant website, email or contact information you’ll need to sign up.

After registering for the service, you should receive further instructions on how to proceed from the specific group you’ve chosen.

The final, and most important, step, as always, is showing up. It may seem less “personal” to attend online AA meetings, but the exercise can be equally fulfilling, and certainly just as helpful on the road to recovery.

If online AA meetings aren’t for you or if you’re unsure if AA is the right choice, call 800-926-8143Who Answers? to speak to a treatment specialist and talk about your options for rehab.

Different Types of AA Meetings Online

To make that process even easier, there are a number of different types of online AA meetings to choose from, such as:

  • Video conferencing
  • Phone conferencing
  • Message boards
  • Email listservs
  • Chatrooms

The size of the groups can also vary widely, from a small, intimate clutch of friends to a very big group of otherwise strangers.

And in the virtual world, “meeting” takes on a much looser definition than the gatherings that take place face-to-face (or f2f, as it’s sometimes referred to at AA online). Formats can range from Big Book meetings, where the official AA guidebook is used to set the course of the gathering, to broader discussion groups to informal chats.

Create Your Own Online AA Meetings

If you don’t find any online AA meetings that strike your fancy amongst those thousands of options, you can always create your own.

You’ll have to fill out a meeting submission form with the OIAA, detailing information such as the type of meeting you’re running (or want to run), which language you use, and where users can find you online, along with some personal contact information. The Intergroup will then review your submission, and, if the meeting is approved, it will appear on their online directory.

Essentially, as long as you have two or more people interested in a service, you should be able to officially join the OIAA. Just be aware: the group has a number of rules about the types of meetings it will promote and who can create new meetings.

Who Can Run Online AA Meetings?

The OIAA takes its role as gatekeeper seriously and has a number of rules regarding who may or may not be included in their directory.

First, if you want to host your online AA meetings there, you must actually be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and you must be willing to “open the door to all alcoholics who seek help, regardless of profession, gender or other distinction.” Basically, you can’t exclude or discriminate against anyone who wants to join your group—as long as they have the desire to quit drinking, they should be welcome.

Online AA groups must also be self-supporting, meaning they don’t accept contributions from outside sources, participate in affiliate programs, or receive money from ad placement or any source other than AA itself.

The group must have no affiliation outside Alcoholics Anonymous, and likewise not endorse any other issues, philosophies or enterprises. The meetings themselves, meanwhile, must be actual meetings, and not a digital recording of daily readings or link to a social network.

Finally, the group must uphold to maintain the anonymity of its members, meaning full names and photos are kept out of public view.

Even though it sounds like a lot, these guardrails are put in place for good reasons, and still, allow for thousands of meetings to be listed with more added every day.

AA Online Vs. AA In-Person

Is it actually effective to attend online AA meetings compared to in-person meetings?

That, like so many other things in this world, depends entirely on the individual.

Every person and personal situation is different, though AA online may be especially helpful for certain people.

The OIAA notes that the service is particularly well-tailored for those with disabilities or poor access to transportation. But the service can also be helpful for anyone with a demanding schedule and, increasingly in today’s world, anyone worried about their health in light of the still-spreading coronavirus.

In fact, some in-person AA meetings may have already been put on hold indefinitely during the pandemic, due to group recommendations or the closing of venues where meetings might be held.

Despite the greater health risks currently at play, the OIAA and, indeed, Alcoholics Anonymous, both say that in-person meetings are extremely important, and both groups especially recommend for newcomers to attend in-person meetings if and when possible, while keeping AA online as a supplemental resource.

But like anything, the experience is what you make of it. Online AA meetings have the potential to be every bit as helpful as the face-to-face version, if you attend with an open heart, an open mind, and the best of intentions.

If you’re interested in attending online AA meetings or learning more about AA in general, you can find your closest in-person meeting online.

And if you think you may need help beyond Alcoholics Anonymous, you can call 800-926-8143Who Answers? to explore further rehab options.

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