BOONE — Having the “door open” for those struggling with addiction is critical now more than ever, and some support groups are finding ways to replace in-person meetings with virtual gatherings.
“Addiction to any substance or any thing … they’re lifelong habits generally,” said Roger, the district committee member for Alcoholics Anonymous, representing seven NC counties, including Watauga. “When we’re in the midst of a pandemic as we are now and we spend so much time within our own heads and within our fears, turning to those addictions is a very easy thing to do.”
Roger said physical meetings offer a place for those struggling with addiction to visit with other alcoholics and witness the happiness and growth in others that they want for themselves.
“We feel it’s very important for people to know there’s a place they can go, a place they can call,” Roger said. “Alcoholics are really the best people to help other alcoholics. There’s an understanding within the fellowship; if you call me and say you have a problem with alcohol, I will say to you ‘I can relate, let’s talk about it.’”
AA is not only for those currently struggling with addiction, but for those who may have been in the program for 40 years that still struggle with alcoholic thoughts. Right now, though, Roger said AA is trying to reach out to those who are at home who may be spending a lot of time drinking alcohol and who realize they have a problem and want to reach out for help. If a person wants to connect with an AA group during the pandemic, Roger said they can attend a video chat group meeting. Virtual meeting times that take place daily can be found by visiting booneaa.org.
Club 12 — a Boone nonprofit that provides a venue for 12-step recovery programs — explained that video chat meetings are helping to keep people together while they remain apart physically. Eric, the office manager of Club 12, explained that the organization’s board of directors made the decision to temporarily close for meetings and gatherings as of March 16.
During its temporary closure, Eric said Club 12 is allowing the Hunger and Health Coalition to use its space.
Club 12 typically hosts around 25 groups each week, according to Eric. Club 12 allows groups such as AA, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholic and Dysfunctional Families, Over-Eaters Anonymous and other 12-step programs to meet at its location in Boone. All of the aforementioned groups are meeting online, besides Over-Eaters Anonymous. Eric said he’s not aware of a current Over-Eaters Anonymous group that meets locally.
Groups may also choose to meet in other locations such as churches. Eric noted that all physical, walk-in AA meetings in Watauga County — not just those at Club 12 — are suspended and occur on Zoom. Any small gatherings that may meet on their own do not represent official AA policy or Club 12 policy, he said.
Roger explained that since each AA group is autonomous, trusted servants of AA can advise that groups not meet in person but cannot control if they comply. He knew that as of a couple of weeks ago that groups within the district were still meeting, and he would advise that they follow social distancing guidelines by communicating with space between them.
Roger felt that AA meetings should continue, just virtually for the time being. To connect with an AA program in Watauga or Avery, call the hotline at (828) 264-1212.
Eric suggested the easiest way to get a pdf copy of the books “Alcoholics Anonymous” and the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous” is to search online for “aa pdf” or “12 and 12 pdf.” He said that those two books are the mainstays of AA literature.
Since meetings have moved to an online format, Chuck, a member of local Al-Anon and ACA groups, said the groups have noticed more attendees than they normally would have in person. Chuck said the Zoom meetings may be easier for some to access instead of traveling for a physical meeting.
According to Al-Anon, the group provides support for loved ones of someone who is an alcoholic — this may be a parent, friend, child, spouse or sibling of an alcoholic. The ACA/Dysfunctional Families group is a program for those who grew up in dysfunctional homes, according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization.
Chuck explained that the Al-Anon and ACA groups continue to have conversations about the “the new normal or the current normal.” The virtual meetings allow attendees to discuss their current situations, especially those who may be living with a loved one struggling with addiction during the pandemic.
“Meetings for us are pretty much the same as meetings for alcoholics, Narcotics Anonymous or any of the other 12-step groups,” Chuck said. “Continuing to be there, interacting with other people and listening to other people’s experiences in the meetings, it’s what keeps us going. For us, having other people we can talk to that are going through the same type struggles we are on a daily basis … it opens up that community and fellowship.”