How Do Online Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Meetings Work?

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People who are working towards recovery from alcohol use disorder can attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. Going to these meetings can allow people to meet others with similar experiences.

You can attend AA meetings in person if you prefer face-to-face interaction or you can join the meetings online.

This article provides an overview of AA, describes what to expect at an online AA meeting, the types of AA meetings, and the effectiveness of online AA meetings. You'll also find information about how to prepare for an AA meeting and how to find one.

What Is Alcoholic Anonymous?

Alcoholic Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous, more casually known as AA, is a program for people who are working towards recovery from alcohol use dependency. In AA meetings, people can share their experiences and encourage each other.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a condition that causes a person to crave and consume alcohol no matter the consequences.

All people are welcome to join AA regardless of age, gender, or background. The aim of joining an AA meeting is to achieve sobriety. Research shows that AA groups have been associated with successful recoveries.

The advent of COVID-19 changed a lot about the way in which people interact with one another. Social distancing mandates mean a lot of in-person meetings have gone virtual.

What to Expect From an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting

During an AA meeting, you’ll be allowed to share what it's been like living with AUD and how your recovery journey has been going. The meeting is typically moderated by a person known as the "chairperson" or "leader." Most online meetings make use of video conferencing tools such as Zoom.

AA Meeting Format

While each AA group is unique and might have its methods, in general, AA meetings follow this order of program: 

  • A brief introduction by the meeting’s chairperson of the day.
  • A call is made for people who are new to the meeting to introduce themselves. However, it isn’t compulsory to do so if you don’t feel comfortable enough. 
  • The chairperson reads from the big book. The big book is the program for recovery for AA groups. 
  • The group members are allowed to share anything on their minds. 
  • A closing prayer might be said at the end of the meeting. 

Does It Differ From In-Person Meetings?

There isn’t much of a difference regarding how online AA meetings work versus in-person meetings beyond a lack of physical contact with the people in your group. 

Types of Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings 

Whether online or in-person, there are different types of AA meetings, and each session is likely to follow one of the following formats: 

  • Big book study: These meetings typically feature the chairperson reading parts of the big bookand discussing what was read with the group after. 
  • Discussion meetings: These meetings open up with one person, typically the chairperson of the day, sharing their struggle with alcohol use disorder. Then the chairperson allows others to share their stories.
  • Step meetings: AA groups use the 12-step model to aid your recovery journey. The 12-step model is a set of ideals aimed at helping people recover from alcohol abuse. These meetings focus on discussing one of those 12 steps and how each member is faring with it. 
  • Closed meetings: Closed meetings are only open to people who are living with alcohol use disorder. 
  • Open meetings: With open meetings, family and loved ones of people living with the disorder are welcome to join the sessions. 
  • Speaker meetings: Here, only one speaker will be given the floor to share their experience living with the condition. They might talk about their struggles and how they have overcome them. Other members will typically not speak at these meetings. 

How Effective Are Online Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings? 

A 2020 review of AA groups and 12-step programs aimed at treating alcohol use dependency found that it was more effective than other forms of intervention such as cognitive-behaviorial therapy or no intervention at all.

One thing someone might fear with online AA meetings is feeling like you are not connecting with the people around you. However, the quality and effectiveness of AA meetings aren’t qualified by whether they are online or in-person. Most AA meetings are organized to meet at least once a week, and this might be too taxing for some people to pull off in person. 

Benefits of Online AA Meetings

Online meetings are great for people whose line of work demands that they are constantly on the move. Having the consistency of attending meetings with a group of people you are already familiar with no matter where you are in the world is a massive advantage of online AA meetings.

They also make it easier for people who might have found it challenging to come to meetings in person due to physical limitations or other reasons.

Online meetings are an excellent idea for people who fall into any of the below categories: 

  • If someone has a co-occurring condition like social anxiety disorder attending an in-person may be nerve-wracking.
  • People who are immunocompromised and are worried about contracting COVID-19. Even with the vaccines, COVID-19 remains a very real and sometimes fatal virus that requires people to take necessary measures to avoid contracting it.
  • People who live in remote locations. For people who live in remote areas, the nearest location of an in-person meeting could be several miles away. A lot of time and money will be saved by opting to take the meetings online. 

How to Prepare for an Online Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting

If you are considering joining an online AA meeting, here is a list of things you will need to get started:

  • A computer or mobile device with video conferencing capabilities. If you already have a device that doesn’t have a camera, replacing the whole device with a newer model can be expensive. Instead, you can opt to buy a webcam that can be attached to your device. Also, not all online meetings require you to use video. Many people prefer video for the connection of seeing the person that you are talking to. But that can be replicated with a combination of audio and texts.
  • Conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Skype. The specific type of platform used will be determined by the online group you choose to join. 
  • Steady internet connection. It’s crucial to have a stable internet connection throughout your meeting. Trying to connect with others while your internet is spotty can quickly become frustrating. 

Where to Find an Online AA Meeting 

If you are looking to join an online AA meeting, you can browse through the directory provided by the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (OIAA).

The OIAA provides access to online AA meetings for people across the globe. You can use either video, phone conferencing, or chatting mediums to connect with other people with alcohol use disorder.

You can also contact your local AA office and inquire about online meetings in your area. TheAlcoholics Anonymous website is an excellent resource for finding regional AA offices in North America. 

A Word From Verywell

Online AA meetings are typically not a person’s first choice when considering joining an AA group during their recovery journey. However, joining an online AA meeting is far more advisable than waiting for an opportunity to join an in-person one. Some online AA meetings make an effort to meet in person once a month or once a quarter, and this can provide you with the human connection you might be missing from online meetings. 

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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