As people are being asked to socially distance from others, support groups are finding new ways to continue connecting. In-person meetings have shifted to online platforms ensuring members are able to maintain connections to continue receiving support. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), one of the largest support networks, has shifted to online meetings in an effort to address the problem of isolation that can thwart recovery efforts.
While the feeling of an in-person meeting may not be the same as an online forum, many members have found this form of connection to be beneficial in maintaining sobriety. Online meetings help to address the mental health needs of clients and can allow members to connect with a larger community than ever before. Social support and networking are vital components of addiction treatment and continuing to connect with the sober community is important to recovery.
How Online AA Meetings Work
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be held virtually anywhere online. Members are able to start their own meeting or join an existing one anywhere in the world. While no specific platform is officially endorsed by AA, members can connect using apps like Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, and other conferencing programs. With the use of online apps, many people are concerned about maintaining anonymity. Many of these apps allow you to keep your identity private by changing your display name and turning off your camera or mic. With larger groups, many of these apps use features such as “raise hand” to allow you to indicate if you want to speak which helps keep a sense of organization and allows members to participate if they would like.
Although online groups mean there is a lack of physical connection with members, maintaining an emotional connection is vital to continued sobriety. Online meetings do introduce challenges when technical difficulties and the absence of body language as cues, but there are many indicators that suggest it is still effective. Many online groups offer meetings for specific groups such as men-only, women-only, LGBTQ, and others. This opens the door to connecting to more people who share similar experiences and can help participants work through unique challenges they face.
There are challenges for those who may not have access to the Internet or a computer, but phone calls are also being used as a means of connecting with members. Despite these challenges, in many cases, the introduction of video and phone-operated meetings has made connection more convenient and easier to access. Because these can take place from the comfort of your home, the need to arrange childcare or plan around a work schedule is minimized and can make it easier to attend than an in-person meeting.
Maintaining Connection During COVID-19
Social distancing has created a unique set of problems for those in recovery. Loneliness, isolation, boredom, and restlessness are triggers for relapse and there is much concern regarding how the current climate will impact those working to maintain sobriety. Although an online format reduces physical contact, the social and emotional impact of it is vital.
For those managing recovery at home, it is important to implement practices that reduce the impact of these changes. Some ways to cope may include:
- Staying busy: Many people are finding they have more free time on their hands and not enough activities to keep them distracted. Finding new activities and interests to explore can help minimize the impact of boredom and restlessness on sobriety. Household chores, exploring artistic expression, and exercising can help fill free time and keep your mind and body busy.
- Talk about how you are feeling: The coronavirus has caused anxiety, fear, and stress to grow and it is important to acknowledge how it is impacting you. Whether you choose to express this in a group meeting or in a one-on-one conversation, it is important to be honest about your mental health during this time. Reaching out to a trusted person can help you work through difficult feelings and gain new perspective on how to manage it.
- Address access to alcohol: Sales of alcohol have grown as more people are staying at home and the temptation to drink can be difficult to manage. It is important to not keep alcohol in the home when recovering from alcohol abuse and to communicate your concerns with anyone in your household who may be drinking. Observing alcohol consumption and ease of access can increase the likelihood of relapse so it is best to keep it out of your home.
- Join a support group: Even if you are not actively participating, being present for an online meeting can open you up to learning from others during this difficult time. Other people in recovery are a valuable resource and can provide you with insights into how to manage triggers more effectively.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.