Many things can prevent people in early recovery from attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings in person, from disability to lack of transportation to a sheer case of the nerves. Now, those unable to attend face-to-face AA meetings can do so virtually, thanks to computer technology and the Internet, the Canadian Press reported June 10.
Daily online chats and weekly discussion groups are part of the web of AA Internet services. “I can no longer cope with noise, people, pressure, stress, anxiety, fatigue, speaking to more than one person at a time,” said Carol O., a 53-year-old Ottawa resident now in recovery from alcoholism. “I don’t know how I would be coping if I didn’t have AA available online.”
AA organizer David T. said that many types of people are going online for support, including those who are housebound, bedridden, deaf, caregivers, shift-workers, rural residents, or have social anxieties. David himself recalled struggling to stay sober while overseas with the Canadian military. “I knew of other people over there who were on a vacation from AA, drinking while they were there, figuring they could stop when they went back home because no one would know,” he said.
It’s not just AA online: Vancouver social worker Pat Roles charges $20 per e-mail to counsel people. “I’m finding your average person who wouldn’t normally go for counselling … who is maybe a bit embarrassed, they’re a professional in a community,” he said.
“It’s perhaps a little easier on the Internet because you’re anonymous — totally anonymous — you don’t see the other person’s face,” said David, who added that while some people may contact AA online while still drinking, the extra layer of anonymity also may encourage people with addictions to seek help earlier than they might have otherwise.
Still, users like Carol say that the face-to-face meetings offer a warmth and human touch that virtual AA meetings can’t match. “Online people can just read a posting and not respond — you can’t see them and see if they are troubled — online you only know what people tell you in words. Some communicate better in writing than others,” she said.