Connection Is a Requirement
About 5 days ago, my new job allowed me to leave the office and work remotely from home.
I had just finished watching the Prime Minister of Canada inform the country that if we could work from home we should. I was the first in our office to make such a request. As of Friday, there were only 3 people left working in the office and I imagine within days our province, if not our country, will be on a forced lock down.
I have been sober with AA’s help for over 19 years, and have had no recent desire to drink; however I have not been to a face to face meeting in over a week and am starting to feel the impact.
My home group is a Saturday Morning Woman’s meeting where about a dozen or so women gather every Saturday to support each other in our recovery. I don’t go EVERY Saturday but for the last decade it has definitely been part of my self care routine and essential for my well being. We have less than half a dozen members, but many women attend. The connections in this room have saved many lives, I’ve seen it.
Earlier this week our members discussed whether we were going to find an alternative location for our meeting, as the church we use shut access to any outside groups. We were devastated but understood the importance of keeping everyone in our small rural town safe. A dedicated member searched and found an alternative location. Gratefully it was even a large enough space for us to spread out sufficiently to practice social distancing from each other. By Thursday however, the COVID 19 situation was becoming more serious and the Prime Minister’s daily messages were becoming more and more insistent that we do not leave our homes for anything more than necessities.
As I contemplated the level of necessity our AA meetings are for some, I connected with some other 12 steppers in larger areas to see how they were managing the self isolation requests. I discovered that some home groups had decided to hold online meetings.
Intherooms.com has been around for awhile, and holds over 130 weekly meetings. Their meetings use to have about 30 or 40 people in them at a time. However, with the increase in face to face meetings being cancelled the current average in those online meetings was breaking the hundreds.
Some of the women from my home group have never been to a meeting with more than a few dozen people and just the idea of an online meeting caused anxiety and nervousness in others. Many of us were missing the authentic connection we had developed with each other. As wonderful as intherooms.com is, it was missing the intimacy that our home groups offer.
With my work, I was introduced to zoom.com; I was required to attend a virtual online meeting with my coworkers daily form my kitchen table. I was surprised at how easy it was to connect and to set up on my lap top or my phone. Having discussed the option with some other members we decided to give it a shot with our woman’s meeting, as I had seen a weekly schedule of NA meetings already being circulated.
It took 20 bucks and less than 15 minutes for me to set up my own account and to schedule our woman’s circle to meet virtually at the same time as always on a Saturday.
I sent out texts and emails and facebook messages to the members and to other women in AA that I knew all over Ontario. I ran test runs with women who were unsure of the technology and sat in on an AA meeting with people from my home town so I could learn how to host and chair an online meeting.
Saturday morning came, and hours before the meeting I was sitting alone in the virtual room to continue to test it with some women who were anxious about the new media.
The meeting started on time with a dozen women, and quickly rose as the meeting progressed. There were women who had previously been to our meeting in real time when they visited the area, there were some friends of mine from the city who I haven’t seen in years and there were new faces.
We used our usual format, and opened with the serenity prayer. We worked out a few technical glitches but it ran as smoothly as any other new meeting.
There was significant talk about how we were coping with the COVID 19 and the self-isolation; how we were utilizing the 12 steps to help us manage and how some were really missing the face to face meetings we had come to rely on.
We closed the meeting with a disjointed Serenity Prayer and as host I offered my services to host other meetings throughout the week if there were any home groups in our area who felt the need or want.
This morning I have scheduled another meeting for the Sunday Morning Beginners group in our area.
I have no idea how long the COVID 19 will limit our ability to meet face to face. It frightens me that so many of us are in isolation when we know that the cure for addiction is connection. So I am doing what I can to make these connections possible.
I am so very grateful to have access to the technology and the money required to make these meetings happen.
There are many ways to connect using the current technology, including intherooms.com, zoom.com, skype, or even Facebook Messenger which also offers the call or video option if connected to the internet.
I implore you, if you’re in recovery please reach out and connect any way you can. It will be lifesaving.