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What are AA Meetings?
Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide support group for individuals struggling with drinking problems who are looking for community-based solutions and support on the road to sobriety. AA meetings are founded on the principles of accepting powerlessness in the face of addiction and our need for help from a higher power.
As the name suggests, AA meetings request anonymity from all members to create a safe place to share without fear of judgment. Key features that make Alcoholics Anonymous so popular include community support, anonymity, and sponsor relationships that help members stay strong on their path to recovery.
History of Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. The idea came from the mind of Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker and someone who struggled with alcoholism and was looking for help to curb his drinking habits. It was only after a friend invited him to a religious-based community meeting that the idea for AA was born, and Bill found his way to sobriety.
Soon after finding his sobriety, Bill met Bob Smith, a surgeon and also someone who struggled with drinking. After 30 days of working together, Bill had successfully helped his first informal AA member achieve sobriety that would last a lifetime.
The two formalized the teachings of Alcoholics Anonymous and by 1939, Bill and Bob had helped their first 100 members achieve sobriety. Together, these founding members created AA’s foundational book which includes AA’s methods, philosophies, case studies from 30 members, and the famous 12 Step program.
12 Step Program
AA’s 12 Step Program is perhaps the most well-known aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous, and many have applied it to other recovery programs. The 12 Steps have remained relatively unchanged since their initial formulation in 1939. They include steps such as admitting that one is powerless over alcohol, coming to believe in a Greater Power, making amends to people you have harmed, and more.1
Online AA Meetings
Online AA meetings have existed for years, but they began climbing in popularity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the AA community quickly adapted to the new structure. These meetings typically take place on Zoom.
Because AA does not have a hierarchical structure and is community-based, individual groups set up meetings and send out the link and passcode to their members. Alternatively, the information for online AA meetings is sent to the Central Office, which posts it online for the general public.
The Benefits of Online AA
Like with any program, there are numerous pros and cons to online AA meetings that might make them preferable to traditional in-person meetings and vice versa.
People who have attended online meetings have noticed several benefits, including:
- Flexible scheduling that saves time: for one, attending AA online meetings saves members time that would otherwise be spent in traffic or getting ready. With online AA, all members need is to flip open their laptop or phone, click the link, and they are surrounded by support.
- Makes AA meetings more accessible and inclusive: maybe you are a parent who cannot find a sitter or are dealing with medical issues and cannot leave the hospital. AA online meetings make it possible for people who can’t physically attend to still receive the support they seek. Whether you are in a remote area or don’t have transportation – AA online meetings are there for you.
- A great alternative for those with social anxiety: The path to sobriety is a difficult one and can often feel scary and anxiety-producing to talk about. At the end of the day, though, it is better to attend a virtual meeting than no meeting at all. Online AA offers a safe space for people struggling with social anxiety who might otherwise not attend and go without support.
The Drawbacks of Online AA
While AA online opens accessibility for a broader range of people, there are a few reasons it may not be the best option for everyone.
The drawbacks of online AA include:
- Less accountability: One of the most motivating features of AA is the community. There is an exchange of energy and support in person that helps cement a member’s commitment to their recovery. Over Zoom, that energy and personal investment does not always come across, and some members may feel a lower sense of accountability than in person.
- Concerns about security and anonymity: Anonymity is and has been the cornerstone of AA meetings since the beginning. With online AA meetings, many have concerns over the possibility of personal information being shared. Additionally, more than a few meetings have experienced the presence of “Zoom bombers,” or participants who are not interested in AA and interrupt meetings with distractions.
- Lack of emotional connection: When you are at an in-person AA meeting, there is a sense of personal investment and camaraderie that strengthens your commitment and bond with others. With online AA, many find there is less connection between members and subsequently less support.
How Effective are Online AA Meetings?
The case for online AA vs. in-person AA is a personal one and ultimately depends on what benefits you need to thrive in your journey to recovery. That being said, online AA is as effective as you choose to make it. A big part of Alcoholics Anonymous is about personal commitment, so it is up to you as to which type of AA meeting provides the best support for you.
How to Find AA Meetings Near You
With thousands of meetings held around the world and increased accessibility through virtual platforms, it has never been easier to find an AA group near you. For online AA meetings, head to AA’s intergroup website, which lists ongoing virtual AA meetings.2
You can also use the app, “Meeting Guide,” created by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. With over 100,000 weekly meetings refreshed daily, Meeting Guide is a convenient way to find AA meetings near you.3 Additionally, wellness clinics and rehabilitation centers will also be able to direct you to local AA meetings.4
Other Peer Support Groups
If you are looking for a support group but you are not sure AA is the right path for you, there are plenty of successful alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous.
- SMART Recovery: With an emphasis on research-backed cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, SMART Recovery was designed specifically as a secular alternative to AA’s spiritual foundation. SMART Recovery believes in the power of self-reliance and self-empowerment over AA’s emphasis on a “Higher Power” and giving up the facade of control over addiction.5
- Moderation Management: Do you want to change your drinking habits, but you do not feel you need to quit drinking entirely? Moderation Management was created with you in mind. Moderation Management helps “non-dependent problem drinkers” set personal drinking limits and learn goal-setting techniques to keep their habits in check.6
If you’re struggling to find your way back to yourself, know you’re not alone.
We at Brooks Healing Center are here for you and want to help you fall in love with everything life has to offer you. If you’re looking for some support on your road to recovery, reach out. We’re happy to discuss the pathway to recovery that works best for your lifestyle and goals.