Online AA Meetings: How They Compare to In-Person Meetings

It’s well known that Alcoholics Anonymous is centered around attending meetings. Indeed, the get-togethers are considered one of the most crucial aspects of the program, but did you know you can attend AA meetings online?

It’s a different experience than what you may expect or be used to, but it makes for a great alternative option, whether you’re concerned with convenience, anonymity, or your health during the COVID-19 outbreak.

What Is AA Online

Another way to think about this is, who is AA online.

The phrase actually describes a community of AA members overseen by an organization called the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (OIAA).

A nonprofit established at the dawn of the Internet itself, the OIAA works to collect information on, promote and regulate all the various Alcoholics Anonymous meetings taking place in cyberspace.

The mission of the group, which works hand-in-hand with Alcoholics Anonymous, is to provide a centralized source of information on these meetings, as well as guidance on general AA philosophies and other resources for those who wish to stop drinking. Among them is the organization’s own OIAA 12th Step Committee, a group of volunteers offering help and advice, available through email 24/7.

The OIAA is run for and by AA members. The organization holds meetings throughout the year, attended by an Assembly, which any member of AA is welcome to join. Voting members of the nonprofit (including registered AA group representatives and officers) then make joint decisions about various OIAA business.

Still, the number one responsibility of the organization is connecting people to online AA meeting options.

How Do I Sign Up for An AA Online Meeting?

The best way to track down the right online AA meeting for you is online.

The OIAA runs an extensive online directory with access to over 1,000 AA online meetings taking place all over the world.

The list is diligently refreshed, with the OIAA making regular rounds of check-ups to ensure all information is up-to-date. And the directory, as a whole, can be browsed by any number of factors, including meeting type, meeting date, time, and language.

Once you find the meeting that works best for you, you’ll have to sign up separately for the service. Registering with the groups on an individual basis is one of the ways the OIAA can ensure that the meetings are run privately, and, therefore, anonymously. (It prevents the casual Internet browser from stumbling upon a meeting.)

The OIAA’s directory includes all the information to get you started on signing up for the service, including links to group websites or any contact information you’ll need.

After signing up, you should receive further information about how to join future meetings from the specific group you’ve chosen.

Types of Online AA Meetings

There are nearly as many different options for online AA meetings as there are people hoping to utilize them.

Online AA meetings have actually been around since the early ‘90s, starting as group email exchanges. But today, technology has allowed for any number of different modes of communication to carry the gatherings.

Email listservs are still a popular and widely available option, though AA meetings online can also take the form of phone conferencing, video conferencing, chatrooms, or even message boards.

The size of the groups can range anywhere from two or three people to hundreds of subscribers. And the substance of the meetings can also vary widely, with group discussions taking on the form of anything from meditations on the lessons of the Big Book—the official guidebook for AA members—to thoughts on general topics to more informal chats.

All told, there are more than 1,000 online AA meetings taking place around the world, on every day, in every time zone, in any number of languages. But if you still can’t find the right fit for you, you can always create your own AA online meeting.

Pros and Cons of Attending AA Meetings Online

Of course, none of this means much if you don’t come to the meetings as prepared to learn, listen, and grow as you would for an in-person AA meeting.

AA meetings online can be tricky in that way—it’s easier to ignore a digital screen, zone out altogether, or get distracted by what’s going on in your home.

In fact, both the OIAA and AA recommend that AA members, especially newcomers, try to go to in-person AA meetings as much as possible, with online AA meetings reserved as a supplemental resource.

But there are several reasons why online meetings may be beneficial.

The OIAA mentions that the format is especially helpful for those with disabilities, or anyone who has difficulty accessing reliable transportation. And generally, the same can be said for anyone who has a demanding—or “off hours”—schedule.

Plus, with the coronavirus still spreading worldwide, many in-person AA meetings have been postponed indefinitely, due to requests of the group itself or the closing of venues that may have hosted meetings.

Still, as with anything, the meetings are only as much as you make of them, whether attending online or in-person. But with the right kind of attitude and attention, an online AA meeting can be a wonderful option on the road to recovery.

If you want to learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous, you can find the closest in-person meeting to you online.

And if you think you may need more help with your recovery, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak to a qualified treatment specialist today and take the first step on your road to recovery.

Who Can Run An AA Online Meeting?

The OIAA allows for any AA member to fill out a meeting submission form, to have their online meeting added to the master list of available options.

You’ll have to disclose some personal contact information as well as detailed information about:

  • The type of meeting you run (or want to run)
  • Where and how your meeting can be accessed online
  • Which language you primarily use
  • The dates you typically meet.

The OIAA will then review the application and determine whether or not to host the information on their online directory.

While the nonprofit strives for inclusivity and many, if not most, submissions are accepted, there are still some rules the organization has put together to help regulate the online AA meeting space.

Running Your Own Online AA Meeting: Eligibility Requirements

First and foremost, those wishing to host online AA meetings must actually be members of Alcoholics Anonymous. And group members must promise not to discriminate against any attendees, based on “profession, gender, or other distinction.”

Money and funding are additional concerns. Like Alcoholics Anonymous itself, any AA online meetings must be free of outside affiliations. Neither the meetings nor the groups running them should receive money from ad placement or funding from any outside organizations other than AA itself.

The group can also not endorse any philosophies, ideologies, issues, or enterprises outside the realm of AA. And, though a wide definition is given to AA meetings online, the gatherings in question must actually involve people interacting and can’t just be digital recordings of daily affirmations or links to other social networks.

To qualify, meeting organizers will also have to ensure their groups are anonymous, with all member names, photos, and other identifying information kept away from public pages or shared files.

It may seem like a lot of rules, but they’re meant to foster the same type of caring, close-knit—and, especially, anonymous—community online that attendees of in-person Alcoholics Anonymous meetings benefit from.

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