Virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings provide those in recovery a reprieve

May 26, 2020


About 29 years ago, Chris went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It’s anonymous, so: first name only. 

Since the New York state PAUSE order went into effect in March, AA meetings and other support groups have had to transition to virtual meetings.

Chris, now in his 70s, said that it was odd and off-putting at first when AA meetings shifted to Zoom and phone conference calls, but it’s become something of a habit now. In some ways, he said, the AA community has broadened.

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“You end up with people coming on from Albuquerque, all over the country,” he said. “Some people go to meetings in Ireland. It’s really pretty cool.”

Chris, who is also a sponsor, said that as people cope with isolation and despair during the pandemic, it can be especially hard for those who struggle with alcoholism and mental illness.

“The pandemic-related issues here in recovery are isolation and just loneliness,” he said. 

“(The meetings are) a power in numbers that takes us away from the loneliness of sitting in your home drinking,waiting for the booze delivery to come, the liquor store to send out the bottles,” he said. “It’s a lonely business, this alcoholism.”

He said that before the pandemic, there were about 500 meetings held each week around Rochester. Now there are around 300 to 400 virtual meetings a week. 

In the groups he attends, he says turnout has been steady, with between 60 and 80 people attending. For some new members, he said that it’s been easier for them to join.

“It’s much less fearful than going to a church and standing outside the door and wondering if you have enough courage to go in.”