Their meetings took place discreetly in the basements of churches, a friend’s room in the YMCA, at the back of a cafe. But when the pandemic struck last spring, members of Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovering drug addiction groups found those doors quickly closed.
What happened next is one of those creative stunts that the virus indirectly set off. Rehabilitation moved online, almost overnight, zealously. Not only are thousands of AA meetings taking place on Zoom and other digital hangouts, other major players in the rehabilitation industry have stepped up, transforming a daily ritual that many attribute to their rescue.
“The AA members I speak to go far beyond the initial fascination with the idea that they are looking at a screen of Hollywood squares,” said Dr. Lynn Hankes, 84, 43-year-old recovering and physician. retired in Florida. with three decades of experience in drug treatment. “They thank Zoom for their survival.”
People on the ground say online rehabilitation is likely to become a permanent part of drug treatment. Being able to find a meeting to connect 24/7 has welcome benefits for people who don’t have transportation, or who are sick or juggling parenting or work challenges. that make an in-person meeting difficult on any given day. Online meetings can also be a good stepping stone for people just starting out in rehab.
Some participants say that the online experience can have a surprisingly intimate feel.
“You feel strangers more, like when a cat jumps onto their lap or a child can run around in the background,” said a 58-year-old AA member in early recovery from Portland, Ore., Who refused. to give their name, citing the organization’s recommendations not to seek personal advertising.
At the same time, he and others say they crave the raw intensity of physical presence.
“I really miss the hugs,” he said. “The first time I can go back to the local church for a meeting, I will, but I will still do online meetings.”