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New Century, Same Old AA

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., July 2000

An article in a recent Grapevine referred to the advent of something relatively new: online AA. This is something I know a bit about. Several years ago, the Grapevine published an article I wrote on the plight of alcoholics with hearing loss, particularly on how hard it is for us to hear the message so ably carried by this Fellowship.

I am still sober, but my sobriety was in grave danger a few years ago. As my hearing decreased, I found less and less value in meetings. Finally, when I could no longer hear the speaker at all, I left. For two years, I did without meetings, trying to stay sober on literature alone. At last I realized that it wasn't working all that well. True, I had not picked up a drink, but I was starting again to feel and think like a active alkie. It was only a matter of time until the booze itself reappeared. I had to do something. But what?

Enter online AA. In an E-mail group, one of the more than 100 online groups around the world, I found the AA I'd been missing. In fact, it is even better than the meetings in church basements I used to attend! All of the love, help, advice, pertinent comments, and sense of humor as well were available to me each day. In the old days, I used to go to one, maybe two, meetings a week. Now I make seven to fourteen, right from the desk in my office! I love these people! They, in turn, love me. I've stayed sober the last three of my seventeen years of sobriety because of their help.

I found that the online groups have an intergroup, The Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (OIAA). Next thing I knew, I was Group Rep. and eventually Chair. AA online has its own service structure as well. The groups deal with the issues of anonymity that are relevant to online AA, among other things. Although it seems to be a persistent concern, there is no real reason to worry about anonymity beyond the group level in cyberspace. It is just as secure as it is in the f2f world. (Oops - "f2f" means "face to face".)

The Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous can be found easily with a search engine, but each group is anonymous, just like any other. Nobody can accidentally "wander in." At the same time, alkies who search us out, in increasing numbers, find us easily.

Although there is an online group for deaf and hard-of-hearing alcoholics, Sounds of Sobriety, most online members are not people with disabilities. Some are sailors at sea, AA's in isolated locations, older AA's who don't like to venture out, and so on. The majority, however, are simple AA's. They may attend meetings at the church down the street, but they also treasure their online connections. They are not "strings of words on a monitor" to one another. They are living, breathing human beings, connected in space and time by computers, carrying the message the way its always been done.

So the uproar over online AA does not disturb me in the least. Think about the controversy over the writing of the Big Book, over admitting women, and over the influx of dually addicted people. This is the same thing. Online AA will survive, prosper, and grow, come what may. In fact, it's already grown to nearly 5,000 members since the 1995 International Convention, and it will have a cybersite at the Convention in Minneapolis this year. If online attendance doubles in the next four years, I would not be surprised. Why? Because church basement or computer keyboard, it's the same AA we have always known - one alcoholic, talking to another, so they both stay sober.

Rick S., Ottawa, Ontario

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., July 2000

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