While some institutions have decided to put their activities on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, other organizations have work that is just too important to delay.
One of those groups is Alcoholics Anonymous.
Thanks to video chat, meetings in Kamloops and around the world have continued.
Kamloops This Week spoke with AA members about how the transition was made.
The names of those who spoke to KTW have been changed to protect their anonymity.
Melanie is new to AA and didn’t join until April, well after the pandemic had taken hold in B.C. She has never been to an in-person AA meeting, but found comfort in the ladies’ meeting held in a virtual setting.
“I was super afraid to even join. I didn’t know if people would be able to see me and I didn’t know if I was going to recognize someone,” she said.
But Melanie said that once she signed on, she didn’t feel pressured to share. When she did share, she said it was a scary and emotional experience — until a flood of support came her way.
“Everybody was reaching out to me and telling me I was the most important person in the room,” she said. “One lady told me that she was going to love me until I loved myself, and that got me.”
Melanie has kept going back to the meetings and said she is glad her introduction to the group was by video chat, rather than in person — although she plans to attend in person, too, once those meetings return, and is looking forward to making contact.
“I’m a hugger. I really am,” she said.
The meetings quickly became a necessity for Melanie, who normally works in an office, but like most, has shifted to a work-from-home situation. One of her first thoughts when transitioning to work-from-home was how great it would be to be able to drink any time.
“I think there’s a lot more drinking going on just because people can,” she said. “Whether it’s accepted or not, you can. It’s easy. You’re at home. I was getting shit-faced and sending client emails at 4 p.m.”
While Melanie has known no other kind of AA meeting, others have had to adjust to the new format.
Anne recently moved to Kamloops and began attending meetings as she did before. She was able to attend a few weeks’ worth of in-person meetings before they were shut down due to COVID-19.
Anne took it upon herself to set up virtual meetings for the district as part of her service work, using Zoom video-conferencing software as a platform to get everyone together. Although she misses the in-person contact face-to-face meetings allowed, Anne said she has been able to connect to more people and attend a meeting almost any time because of video-chat technology.
In Kamloops’ District 62, various meetings are held daily and at least two weekly meetings are also held each day of the week. Groups include women’s region-specific and more.
But if the need should arise for someone to attend a meeting at any hour of the day, Anne said that’s an option thanks to video chat.
“I can go to meetings any time of the day or night. There are meetings online somewhere, all day long, all night long,” she said. “If I’m struggling, I know I can go to a meeting.”
Anne said AA saved her life and her gratitude for the program has continued through its transition to the virtual realm.
“I will never be able to give back what I received,” she said. “I like who I am today. I hated myself prior to coming in.”
Another AA member, Jane, said she thinks in-person meetings will return once the pandemic further eases, but she believes it will depend on the venue as to how many will be able to attend.
“If you can only have 10 people in a room and another person shows up who happens to be somebody who really needs to come in, what is the game plan? What’s the strategy for that?” she said. “There’s a lot we’ll have to consider, as well as COVID.”
More information about online AA meetings can be found at district62aa.org/meetings.html.