NOTE – THIS WAS WRITTEN JUST BEFORE CHANGES IN PUBLIC GATHERING WERE ENACTED.
We are all alarmed with COVID – 19.
Alarming to AAs specifically is that many AA meetings have a disproportionate number of older, higher risk, members – often highly valued old-timers – in attendance.
With meeting attendance being a key ingredient for the maintenance of any length of sobriety, what are the right things to do to keep AA meetings going and relatively safe?
- Should we cancel meetings and all go virtual?
- Should we begin hosting much smaller home meetings?
- Or, should we just use the phone for one-on-one chats and stop going to meetings altogether?
Here is a list of four considerations an alcoholic might make with respect to ongoing AA meeting attendance during this crisis. Obviously this is a complex issue and likely to be dynamically changing for the future.
This is pure fuel for thought and nothing else. I am not an authority on emergency protocols. BTW – with respect to COVID – 19, no one is. This “pandemic” and the world response to it is unlike anything I have seen before. Truly unprecedented.
Denial is Real – Alcoholics are often know-it-alls on topics they have no experience with. COVAD – 19 will be no exception. Expect to hear AA members tell you it is “overblown” a “hoax” or some other ill-informed opinion. It is neither. It’s real and killing people. Don’t let the current numbers fool you. Up to date numbers here from WHO.
Also, remember that part of the reason China has made progress on COVID-19s spread is largely due to the enforcement a police state enables. Similar fast success might be hard to mirror in the USA. Read about it here.
The point is, and we all know this to be true, denial runs deep in the alcoholic. Best to err on the overly-conservative side when the stakes are a potential life-threating virus. You need to be thoughtful and make up your own mind.
This is not the time to hug, join hands, or lock arms in prayer simply because someone wants to. Do what is right for you.
Most importantly, coming to a meeting with any hint of sickness either in yourself (or with your sick children) because “you really need a meeting” is off-the-charts unacceptable.
Take Personal Responsibility – We all need to stay informed and up-to-date on the dangers to our region and out specific age group and then, act accordingly. The current best practice is to currently to wash hands and maintain a “social distance” of at least 5 feet. So, if you’re old-timer going to a meeting where that cannot happen – it might be best to either find another one where that can happen. Or, maybe suspend going entirely until things change. Regardless, it’s up to you to insist on doing what’s best for you and your family.
Communicate Hope – If you’re been able to make it to a meeting, and you feel safe there, please don’t use the time to drone on about COVAD – 19. Remember, this is Alcoholics Annonymous, not cable news. Instead of communicating fear from the day’s events, why not share your joy of being sober for another day, week, month, or year. Share gratitude. Smile. And, listen deeply to shares by giving yourself a 60/90 minute media/cellphone break during the meeting.
Adopt a Loving Approach – A member communicated to me, “Because I love you, I will take every precaution I can to ensure I don’t give you anything that may harm you!” Simple idea, but for some, this is very hard to put into practice. If you’re not currently thinking that way, bring it into your mediation. Then, change your behaviors in a way that impacts those around you in the best possible way.
Most certainly, “more will be revealed” in the coming weeks, months, or years. No one knows how this will play out. This is uncharted territory for the world, let alone AA.
What I get from meetings, I can’t get anywhere else. Meetings are an indispensable part of my program. Virtual meetings aren’t the same for me, at least today. This may change if it is all we have.
So, to ensure meetings continue for all of us, I will be overly mindful and cautious. So, if I don’t hug you, kiss you on the cheek, or hold your hand at the end of the meeting, don’t take it wrong. I’m doing it because I care for what is important to me, AA. And AA doesn’t work for all of us without you.
Stay safe and healthy.