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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the oldest and most relied upon mutual support fellowship in the world. For almost 100 years, men and women from all walks of life have turned to AA or 12 Step branch off support groups like Narcotics Anonymous to address their alcohol and substance use disorders and adopt programs of recovery.

While long-term recovery is never guaranteed – you get as much out of the program as you put in – it is possible for anyone who desires to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. Millions of people worldwide rely on 12 Step recovery groups and those in attendance to maintain a program of abstinence and make continued progress.

Naturally, one’s attendance at meetings is a crucial component to 12 Step recovery effectiveness. Up until a few months ago, taking an hour or so out of one’s day to hit a meeting was a part of countless people’s lives. However, a lot has changed in recent months for everyone—whether you are in recovery or not.

Even though programs like AA and NA are still happening across the world every day, attending meetings changed quite a bit. In places strictly adhering to social distancing and state stay at home orders, video conferencing platforms have become a new normal for many people in recovery.

Transitioning from in-person to digital meetings has been hard for everyone, but newcomers have probably faced the hardest challenges. Walking into a 12 Step Recovery meeting for the first time is not a small feat; it takes tremendous courage. However, joining a meeting for the first time – digitally – could be even harder and may prove less effective.

Finding 12 Step Recovery Meetings and Feeling Comfortable


Historically, people living with active alcohol or substance use disorders who desire recovery would look up a local meeting. There are indications that the coronavirus pandemic has created significant challenges to making an introduction to 12 Step recovery.

Getting one’s hands on a password to join a video conferencing meeting can be a scavenger hunt, The Washington Post reports. Members express fears that passwords for joining digital meetings could be a barrier preventing newcomers from finding the miracle.

There are other concerns as well, such as holding members accountable and making new members feel comfortable. Some of the fellowship worry that newcomers may not be comfortable joining a digital meeting where most participants already know each other.

Being seen by other people on a daily basis, volunteering to help out before and after a meeting, and personal interactions with others help people stay accountable in the early days of recovery. All of the above help people stay on course when the risk of relapse is high in early recovery. An online meeting does not allow new members to reap the benefits of in-person meetings. Sometimes the most helpful experiences for newcomers happen before and after meetings.

“There’s organic connection as you are spilling out of a room that cannot be replicated online,” says Tara Q., a member who studied online AA meetings as a graduate student at Georgetown University. 

Of course, any meeting is better than nothing at all. Still, the fellowship may benefit from taking steps to make it easier for newcomers to create a connection with the community during these challenging times. There is no way of knowing how much longer life will continue in isolation.

Southern California Addiction Treatment Center

At Hope By the Sea, we are standing by to answer any questions you may have about our program. We offer effective detox and treatment in Southern California and can help you or a loved one take steps toward lasting recovery.

Our credentialed staff provide evidence-based therapies in San Juan Capistrano. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the nearly four million Americans who have contracted COVID-19 and the families of the deceased 144,000 resulting from the pandemic.