Will Zoom Be The Death Of A.A.?

Will Zoom Be The Death Of Alcoholics Anonymous?

By Michael Levin

Zoom meetings have been a lifesaver for recovering alcoholics as the pandemic shut down virtually all face-to-face meetings seemingly overnight. To be able to tap into one’s home group on one’s laptop or smartphone has been a gift of technology beyond the wildest imaginings of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.

And yet as the pandemic wears on, the question arises, will Zoom actually be the death of A.A.?

America’s habits are changing as we adapt to a world with distance learning, outdoor dining, sports in bubbles, and a bigger reliance than ever on home delivery. But the very things that make the pandemic bearable can actually have a destructive effect on the Fellowship that keeps as many as two million people sober worldwide.

For those with some sober time, Zoom, at once a benefit, becomes a trap. Zoom meetings turn A.A. into something it was never meant to be — just one more app on a smartphone, something that requires no more commitment or dedication than watching a TikTok video.

For those members that are physically unable to attend face-to-face meetings because of COVID concerns, Zoom is a fantastic gift. But for the able-bodied in recovery who are getting out of their homes to go to the supermarket, the gym, the post office, or other locations of daily living, why aren’t they attending, or even starting, face-to-face meetings? Because Zoom can make even diligent A.A.’s lazy.

Newcomers to recovery have never had it so hard. The paucity of face-to-face meetings makes it incredibly difficult for A.A.’s new friends to feel the sense of togetherness and common cause that are hallmarks of sobriety. There’s only so much you can do in a text box to interact with first time attendees and have them feel a sense of connection to A.A.

A word about the quality of sharing on Zoom calls. Sitting in one’s own home makes most of us feel a little more self-absorbed. The sharing is mostly “checking in about my day” or “claiming my seat (or couch).” Not that much about experience, strength, hope, the Steps, or how we find and do business with a Higher Power.

It’s also remarkable to see the things other A.A.s are doing while they are ostensibly “attending” Zoom meetings. They are often cooking, cleaning, on the exercise bike, or even laying in bed. What does multitasking have to do with paying careful attention to what other A.A.s are saying? They wouldn’t be ironing at a face-to-face meeting, would they? So why are they doing it online?

A.A. was never meant to be convenient. Dr. Bob, one of the Fellowship’s co-founders, describes A.A. this way: it’s a rainy night, you come home and sit down by the fire with the newspaper and something warm to drink, and the phone rings, and off you go to help another alcoholic. In other words, A.A. is about extending oneself out of one’s comfort zone, to be of service to others and grow into the person one’s Higher Power meant him or her to be.

To put it simply, recovery is not an app.

Sober members of A.A. should ask themselves if they could have gotten sober on Zoom meetings alone. Would they have found it easy to meet and trust a stranger who contacted you via a text box? If not, then it’s time to give up the convenience of the living room couch and find or start an A.A. meeting where you can meet newcomers face-to-face…and pass it on.

New York Times bestselling author, Michael has written, planned or edited more than 700 business books, business fables, and memoirs over the past 25 years.