Episode 157: Sober Distancing

Covid 19 has changed everything, and as government entities institute stay at home orders, AA groups have had to move their meetings online. It’s been a difficult time full of uncertainty and change, and unfortunately this will be the new normal for the foreseeable future. 

In this episode, John, Angela, and Benn share their thoughts and experiences about the crisis and discuss the tools available to help people attend AA meetings online through video conferencing. This was a live stream on YouTube with listeners participating in the chatroom, and calling the AA Beyond Belief phone line. 

While so many people are seeking support online, AA Beyond Belief will host a live stream on YouTube every Friday night at 8:00 pm Eastern. It’s a great way to support each other and to share information. 

Links to resources mentioned in the podcast. 


00:00 John: AA Beyond Belief is a podcast by, for and about people who have found a secular path to sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous.


00:21 John: Hello, everybody. This is John, and I am here with Angela and Benn today. How are you all doing?

00:29 Angela: Great, thanks.

00:31 Benn: Pretty darn good. Good to be with you guys.

00:34 John: We’re here to talk about how we’re staying sober, what our groups are doing with the situation with COVID-19. It’s been really interesting to see so many AA groups go online. Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting to talk about. And also, maybe we can give you some ideas of what you might want to do during this time, or maybe you can call in with some suggestions of what you’re already doing. You can call us at 844-899-8278.

01:03 John: Our group met online yesterday, and I was going to read something from yesterday’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life because it was March 19th, and yesterday was March 19th, and it was appropriate. And I didn’t get a chance to read it, so I thought I’d read it now because it’s short and sweet, and kind of appropriate, I think, to what we’re dealing with today.

01:24 John: So, this is from March 19th, Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. I’m afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail… No, I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship. Louisa May Alcott, 1832 to 1888. Recovery arms us with the tools to adapt and improvise along the way. We gain hope and expect that we can figure out the new and more complex hardships and troubles that are bound to be part of our lives. Recovery isn’t a better life, it’s a better way to deal with life. We once avoided and denied it. We emotionally fled or we over-compensated. In recovery, we cultivate serenity, courage, and wisdom in facing each day. We do the best we can no matter what the weather.

02:20 John: Storms in life, if we’re fortunate to live long enough, are likely to get more threatening, but we won’t go through them alone if we don’t want to, nor will we go through storms ill-equipped. Still, if we are afraid, that’s only natural. With open minds and open hearts, it is likely we will get through each storm and grow new coping muscles in doing so. A storm is brewing. Will I be ready? Will I know where to go for help when I need it? Isn’t it true that the greatest struggles in life sometimes become my defining moments?

02:56 John: I thought that was pretty appropriate for what we’re dealing with. I don’t even know where to begin this conversation. I thought that this podcast would be good to talk about options for staying sober when you can’t get to a face-to-face meeting and dealing with just the unprecedented events that we’re dealing with today. And you know what? I’m going to start by opening the floor up to Angela. Angela, you can comment on the reading. Maybe just get us going, if you would. And there are 12 people in the room watching us. Hi, everybody.

03:33 Angela: Nice. Yeah, so I guess I’ll start by sharing how I’m doing with things. I thought that I was doing okay with it. I’m pretty good at accepting reality. I haven’t always been, but I know how to do that and what I need to do. But today, somebody got me. I was frustrated reading over the last couple of days people who are still attending face-to-face meetings. So, in our area, particularly the Unitarian Fellowship, where my home group, Atheist Agnostics, and all others meet, closed fairly quickly with this. And so, we went online. And I had participated in the Sober She-Devils online meeting, secular AA meeting, so I had a bit of an idea of how to do that.

04:35 Angela: So, I was able to set up a Zoom meeting for our group, which was nice, and I appreciate them for being there so I could learn how to do it. But there were a lot of people that weren’t. And so, I have been noticing lately, even as places like California have the shelter in place thing going on right now, there are still people that are doing meetings, face-to-face meetings. And saying that they have to do it because if they don’t, that their addiction will get them. So, it’s basically, I think, John, you said earlier, which way do you want to die? By addiction or COVID-19? And so, yeah, so it just really… I couldn’t take it anymore. And so, in my defense, I did do some of the stuff that’s suggested. I talked to a friend, and that wasn’t helpful because they were as annoyed as I was. And then I did some angry vacuuming.

05:36 John: Angry vacuuming.

05:38 Angela: And yeah, and so sometimes it does help. It gets the frustration out and my floors are clean. So, after that, I still felt like somebody needed to say something because I hadn’t heard anybody saying anything. And so, I posted something on Facebook, and we all know better most of the time. I usually don’t post anything emotional or political or controversial on my Facebook feed. I keep it very neutral, very clean, but I was at the breaking point. And so, I wrote… Calling myself out here, people.

06:21 Angela: For my sober-minded Facebook friends. Right now, going to any length to stay sober means staying the fuck home. Well, I understand some of you feel if you don’t have a meeting your addiction will kill you. There are now hundreds of online meetings. You can call and talk to people, or read recovery books, continuing to meet face-to-face is irresponsible. If you’re doing it because you’re concerned about someone who doesn’t have a phone, maybe you could start a fund to buy prepaid phones for those people. There are lots of creative options to live a sober life of integrity in physical isolation. Not doing so is selfish. Your sobriety isn’t worth hundreds of lives, it’s just not. If you need help finding online meetings or calling a meeting or mental health services, feel free to message me. I’m happy to help with that, but if you’re out physically touching shit regardless of the distance just because you don’t want to change how you access recovery… [laughter]

07:20 Angela: And I changed this part after a while, but originally, I said, “Then I hope you drink and die so that it saves lives.” Then I thought that was a bit harsh, I kept it up for about four hours, I think. And so, I did take it down and say, “Just please, unfriend me.” And yeah, so I was pissed. And part of writing that is that again, I don’t usually do that. I’m generally, I can go with the flow and if I’m upset, I write things out, I use all the tools. But part of me was hoping that people would be so shocked that they might consider what they were doing. Because I don’t normally talk like that or react like that on Facebook.

08:07 John: And it’s a false choice anyway too, you’re going to either die drinking or you’re going to die from COVID or whatever. I mean, the thing is that we’re not sober because of AA or AA meetings, that’s not what keeps us sober, in my opinion. I’m sober because I am not drinking, and I’m doing that. The meetings that I go to support me so I don’t drink. They don’t keep me from drinking, they support me. And that support is good even when I’m not at the meeting physically or if I can’t get to the meeting for whatever reason. And I’m sustained through the good times and the bad times. I don’t always have to be in a room just to stay sober. And besides, as you said, we have cell phones, we have the internet. There are so many different ways to connect with other people today that it’s not necessary to get in the rooms. So yeah, I’ve been practicing social distancing, yeah.

09:00 Angela: Yes.

09:01 John: It’s not been too difficult. I’m fortunate, I can work from home. I still feel connected to people through these meetings. So how are you doing, Benn?

09:08 Benn: Well, Angela, I loved what you said on your Facebook post, except that last line was [laughter] the only thing over the line, but, I mean, good Lord. But I love it, love it. Man, I’m out to do stuff like that sometimes too, so you’re not the only one, for sure. Along the lines of that with the reading, what a great reading by Joe C for that day and how prescient. And it’s right on because along with what you just said, John, we gain these tools and we learn that we can make it through things. Maybe in the past, our brain would tell us like, “You’re never going to be able to quit drinking, so why do you even try?” Or “There’s no way you’re going to stay sober, so what the hell are you doing?”

09:46 Benn: Well, the truth is, I think when we’re a part of a community, any community, let’s say AA, we do, we get that support, we learn how to ask for support. That’s part of what I learned so much. And then that I related to other parts of my life, whereas at work, I didn’t have to act like I knew exactly what I was doing all the time. I could ask for help and let somebody else know that I didn’t know exactly what I was doing all the time and get the help I needed. So, one of those recovery tools is learning how to reach out when we’re feeling isolated. And right now, a lot of us are isolated through choices that we’re making, but it’s not our own doing necessarily. So those are important skills. And I know some people will want to throw the caveat out there. “Well, the meeting’s got to be there for the newcomer that’s wandering in off the street and blah, blah, blah.”

10:31 John: Benn, I was thinking about that too. I was thinking, okay, so I’ve been sober for a long time. My life is stable. I’ve got access to all this different stuff.

10:43 Benn: Check your privilege, John. [laughter]

4 John: I know, but what if it was 1988? And I’m in my 20s and I’m broke, and I’ve only been sober for a couple of days or a week. And I’m scared and all of a sudden there’s a pandemic. And the government is advising me to isolate myself in order to avoid a huge catastrophe. What would I do? Would I be okay? You know what I think I would have; I hope I would have done? I think that I would say, “Well, it’s 1988, I can pick up my phone and call somebody. I can talk on the phone or I might just have to tough it out and just hang tight.” I think that those would be my options. But most of us today, that’s not the deal. I know that there are some people out there who don’t have the funds or a job or whatever to be able to afford a cell phone where they can connect to the internet or internet service or something like that. But there are other ways that we can connect with people. So, it’s not necessary to gather face-to-face. I’m sorry for interrupting you, but I was just thinking about that. If I were a newcomer, what would I do?

11:50 Angela: Well, most of the newcomers that we get find us via the internet. And so yeah, they’re looking up secular or atheist meetings. And so particularly young people. So, all of our people in their 20s found us via the internet and not by calling up our local intergroup or anything like that.

12:09 Benn: Well, I would imagine most the people actively out there drinking too or using this as an excuse to continue to do so, not exactly looking like an excuse to get sober right before the end or whatever the heck everybody’s thinking is going on.

12:20 John: The bars in Kansas City are closed down pretty much, you can’t have a gathering more than, I don’t know, what, 10 people or something like that?

12:28 Benn: Yeah, same thing here. A friend of mine is a distributor for Budweiser, and he said he has sold more alcohol around this time than they do even around the 4th of July. So, people are stocking up in case they run out. I guess, priorities, right?

12:43 Angela: Wow, yeah.

12:44 Benn: So, I don’t know, it’s insanity. And Angela, I’m going to tell on myself too, you stuck your neck out there. I’m going to too. You know, it’s easy. I think John and I were talking the other day about how this is a chance to get closer to my little kids and have together time. And it has been nice too, but my son was just being frustrated at supper, and he was frustrating me, I should say, blame him. And I said, “Fucking shit.” And he perfectly repeated exactly what I said and not even two years old. [laughter] So, I’m not exactly practicing what I preach very well.

13:20 Benn: But again, this is… There were so many times where I didn’t think I could do things when I was first getting sober, let alone four or five years sober, where it was like going the first date with somebody sober and I didn’t know I even wanted to do that or could do that. And you get through it and you grow through it and you get on the other side of it, you realize it’s not so bad. So, if you’re scared, if you’re sitting there and you’re scared and you’re at home and you don’t know if you can make it through the night sober without talking to somebody and you can’t get ahold of somebody, know that just keep putting off that drink and you might just wake up tomorrow and realize that you made it through and you didn’t think you could. So that’s one of the great things about AA for me, is it showed me that I can do things that my old perception or my old thinking wouldn’t let me think that I could do.

14:06 John: We have 15 people watching the live stream, and Joshua D has written something kind of interesting. He’s writing… He wrote, “I’ve only got four months and the lack of in-person meetings is getting to me. I already worked from home and lived online, so AA meetings were my first real social outlet, a reason to get dressed and go outside. I guess, I’m… Partly I’m feeling like I might as well relapse and wait until this is over to rejoin, since almost everyone has a relapse anyway, really want a drink.” Wow, hang in there, Joshua. What do you guys have to say to Josh?

14:45 Benn: Well, I guess I’ll go first. I would say hang in there too as John said. And I would say it’s also… This isn’t to beat up on you, Joshua, but it’s an example of that brain looking for any rationalization and justification for why to take that next drink. I mean, given the way our brain is in that state, it makes sense. But where this whole thing starts and where the ball gets rolling is challenging that thought, pushing back against that thought. You’re sitting here listening to three people who’ve been sober a while, so we’re a little bit away from that last drink. And it does get easier, but I understand where you’re at, and it’s tough. So, now is a great opportunity to keep pushing back on that thought because if it’s not now if it’s not this, it could be something else.

15:29 Benn: And if you make it through this big thing, and you keep doing it one day at a time, I mean, holy cow, you’ve built up a lot of endurance and a lot of grit that you can take forward with you. So, there are options out there. But man, I feel you, I get it, I get that thinking and you are not alone and don’t feel bad for feeling that way, either.

15:49 Angela: Yeah. And what I think of is that you said you have four and a half months of sobriety, and you work at home. So, you kind of already know this lifestyle, you can help a lot of people, you’re uniquely qualified to be able to help newer people in recovery because some of us who have some time, some people can’t relate to that, people who are in their first 30 days or first 60 days, they’re going to relate more to you and what you’re doing to stay sober than they might to us.

16:21 Angela: And so, I would suggest that if you’re not part of any of the online Facebook groups, secular AA Facebook groups or AA Beyond Belief, that you get involved with that. Because there are people that need you to stay sober, and in doing that kind of service, it’ll help you stay sober as well. So, I appreciate you being honest and sharing that with us.

16:47 John: Yeah, me too. We had somebody call in and they hung up. So, call back in if you want to, you can call us at 844-899-8278. It might take me a little while to get to you when on the phone, but we’ll answer, and you can still listen to the podcast while you’re on hold.

17:03 Benn: And along the lines of what Angela said, if you’ve got some phone numbers or some other people that you’ve met in AA or even just a close friend who maybe just understands you a little bit, don’t hesitate to reach out, because just what Angela said, everybody needs that connection and I think you never know the other person on the other end of that phone might appreciate you calling more than you need to call them.

17:23 Benn: So, some of these early skills are getting over some of those fears and not wanting to be a burden on anyone and learning how to reach out and just tell someone, hey, I’m not doing so okay right now. Would you mind talking with me for a while? That is a great relationship skill to learn, and it’s certainly a great sobriety thing to learn. It’s tough to do, but man, as Angela said, the person on the other end of that call might need you more than you need them.

17:50 John: Gail L has a nice comment too, she says, “I think change, in general, is really difficult and that’s why some meetings are slow to close. But my brick and mortar meeting closed, and we created a Zoom meeting to replace it and it went quite well.” I think a lot of groups are experiencing that. Angela, your group is doing Zoom meetings now, isn’t it?

18:09 Angela: Yeah, we started, our first Zoom meeting was on Tuesday and it went well. And yeah, it wasn’t too difficult for people to learn, I think the platform is pretty user-friendly. There’s just a couple of things to figure out, the mute and the video part and the video part’s optional. So, yeah, we usually only meet once a week and we decided to up that to twice a week, so we’re doing Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 7:00 PM, now. And yeah, I enjoy Zoom meetings. I find that while some people think it’s impersonal, I find it more personal to see people in their natural habitat.

18:53 Angela: And I just feel a little more closely, I guess, to the secular community as a whole, because I’m seeing people from all over the world that are coming in and that are sharing and talking, and all different sobriety links and different kinds of sobriety and people who pray and people who don’t pray and meditation and not meditation, and people who are used to working at home and people who are struggling with it. And so, I’m enjoying the Zoom experience for getting to know people, and I feel like it’s enhancing my sobriety. But I understand that it’s a chance for a lot of people, and that change can be difficult, but the meeting I attended this morning was on adaptation and I think alcoholics are good at adaptation.

19:44 Angela: They don’t like it, but we’ve already had to adapt to a different way of life from what we were doing to get sober. Many of us had to change our people, places and things, and all of that to get sober and start living a sober life. Now, I’m much more responsible than I was when I was drinking and so I’m grateful to be sober so that I can get through this in a responsible way other than the emotional acting out on Facebook but, yeah.

20:17 John: Angela, we’ve got a caller in. Can I take that call?

20:20 Angela: Cool, yeah.

20:21 Benn: Yeah.

20:22 John: Let’s see how this works. Hello, how are you?

20:25 Bobby: Hello, John.

20:25 John: Who is this?

20:26 Bobby: This is Bobby C over here in Huntington Beach.

20:29 John: Hey, Bobby. How are you? So, Benn and Angela, can you hear Bobby?

20:32 Benn: Oh, yeah.

20:32 Angela: We can.

20:33 John: Okay, it’s working.

20:34 Bobby: Angela, Benn, John, it’s just great being able to do this. This is unbelievable, so go ahead. Ask away or I could just talk. Do you want me to just say some things?

20:45 John: Well, how are you coping with this deal? You’re not going to face-to-face meetings, what are you doing?

20:50 Bobby: Okay. So, remember the meetings I was talking about over step past recovery. I called up and kind of put a pause on it, a hiatus, and called everybody, tried to email as many people as I can and discontinued the face-to-face meeting because of the social distancing. I’m a little older, maybe more susceptible, so I did that for me, but we’re creating… I was just talking to Patrick, one of the SMART facilitators that I link up with and host within one of the SMART meetings and we’re going to get on to Zoom, we’re going to start doing some Zoom conferencing, some Zoom meeting, we’re going to…

21:35 Bobby: You two inspired me. This is the chance for me to be inspired to change. I’m looking at it as an opportunity. What do they say, adversity, there’s an equal seed of equivalent benefit, so I’m using that? I’m taking this time to do something productive in my house. I’m studying and becoming a certified SMART facilitator along with being in Alcoholics Anonymous which is a… It works both ways. And my secular recovery, my secular sobriety, and AA Beyond Belief has expanded my horizon. But I tell you what, it brought purpose back into my life and I’m grateful for that, for you guys doing it.

22:28 John: Bobby, thank you so much for calling. I appreciate that and you brought up an interesting point there about how something good is going to come out of this for you, and I think that something good or something different anyway is going to come out for all of us. I was talking to Angela and I think that when this thing is all done, that some things are going to be different.

22:53 John: Number one, a lot of people and a lot of companies are going to learn that we can work from home. [chuckle] And then, secondly, a lot of people in AA are going to learn that you can have meetings online. What do you think about that, Angela? Do you think that… What do you think… And, Bobby, I’m going to let you go so another person can call in, but thank you, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

23:10 Bobby: Yes, yes.

23:11 John: Take care.

23:12 Bobby: Angela, Benn, John, thank you. I’m going to hang up and continue listening.

23:15 John: Alright, be well, my friend.

23:16 Benn: Take care, Bobby.

23:17 John: So, what do you think, Angela? Do you think you’re going to see some permanent change or more online meetings when this is all said and done?

23:21 Angela: Oh. I think that online meetings are here to stay. I think we’ll still meet in person as well, but I’m also one of those yes and, so do SMART Recovery, do Secular AA, do Refuge Recovery, whatever. The more, the better, I think, or the more people who can get some help. I hope that what happens with AA is that more people will start reading the history of it [chuckle] now that they have time and they’re not constantly in meetings and just influenced by the rhetoric in the meetings. Maybe read some of the history of AA and they’ll start to understand how things went down and that it might change some of the rigidity in AA. It has to already.

24:11 John: Do you think that studying the history of the program will help people be more progressive in their thoughts about how we should conduct ourselves?

24:21 Angela: Yeah. One of the things I saw was people have been inviting me to all sorts of online and Facebook recovery groups and in one of them, a bunch of people were upset because TMZ had done a segment on AA meetings utilizing Zoom and that people were upset, saying that it violates the 11th tradition and that it’s advertising and all of this stuff. [chuckle] And I was just like, “Oh, man, would you guys please just read some of the history of AA and understand?” But, yeah, anyway. So, that’s my hope, is that maybe they’ll start reading some additional literature and understand a little more the workings. And so then, even when we go back to brick-and-mortar, as some will, it’ll be a less rigid program.

25:14 John: Cool. We’ve got another caller. I will take that call now. Hello, how are you?

25:18 Jaren: Hey, John, this is Jaren from Madison. How are you doing?

25:21 John: Oh, hi, another good friend calling. How are you doing today?

25:24 Jaren: Oh, just working, sanitizing the school. I’m on my break right now. I’m glad to hear your podcast, so I figured I’d give a call.

25:31 John: So, how are you faring through all of this?

25:35 Jaren: I was going to ask, are you more scared of the virus? I’m more scared… It seems like most people I talk to are just… The panic and the pandemonium of our society as a whole. And when I would see the posts of people just going through and rioting essentially in these grocery stores and the hysteria, that’s when I got anxious, and now I’m starting to calm down. So, it’s just like… It’s kind of disappointing seeing this self-centeredness and just that, just the ugliness of our society just being amplified by this whole situation. I mean, has that kind of been your guys’ feelings?

26:15 John: It’s interesting when you mentioned fear because I haven’t really… I haven’t thought that I was afraid, but from Monday through Thursday, while I was working, I would have the news on all day long, and it made me very anxious, I mean, I just felt like I was so uptight. I was so uptight. I wouldn’t know how to describe it, but just anxiety, I guess. So today, when I worked, I didn’t have the news on and I had more positive thoughts, I didn’t have that anxious feeling, so I just kind of realized I need to every once in a while, turn it off. I want to know what’s going on, for sure, but there are sometimes times when I need to turn it off. I am also a little bit bothered by some of the panic. It upsets me that there’s no toilet paper in the stores. Benn, what are your thoughts on this subject of fear and just the human reaction of panic?

27:10 Benn: Oh, for sure, it’s like as much as I want to use logic, I find myself falling into it once in a while too. It’s difficult, but most of my fear and I’m sure a lot of us feel the same way, it’s not so much if I get the virus, but if I got the virus, and gave it to my 83-year-old mother who has COPD, you know, and then this is probably going back to, I guess, a character defect. I’ll use that word, but my judgmentalism kicks in kind of along the lines of what Angela was talking about that, but I just want to tell everybody stay the fuck home. What the fuck are you doing?

27:40 Benn: And as you said, John, it just shows me just how self-centered we can be, and I get it. I get the biology of it, and I get the way the brain reacts when you perceive that there’s scarcity. I was talking to my brother and he lives in rural Nebraska and so he was kind of… He’s very conservative, and I tend to be a little bit more liberal. And he was talking about how his neighbor was telling him, about back in the Dust Bowl days, his neighbors passed on since then. But in how up here in this small country, everybody helped each other, and we all banded together and I’m like, well, yeah, it’s easy to say that, but if you’re in New York City, they’ve done this with rat studies. When there are more people around you and you have a logical sense of scarcity going on, people are going to behave a little bit worse.

28:28 Benn: So, I guess maybe this… Maybe this whole connection that we all have digitally makes, almost amps up the perceived scarcity. And I know when I went to Costco a few days back, we needed something, and I went out and they were limiting. Don’t buy more than one case of eggs or this or that. And it’s nice to see that kind of stuff going on, but it is… The thing that annoys me about, getting back to the question. I’m sorry, I talk too much and ramble on too much. When I see just how quickly we shift into such self-centered thinking and that the things that we worry about aren’t necessarily the things we should be worried about, like toilet paper.

29:08 John: I mean, geez, grab a rag and wipe your butt and wash your rags if you have to. I mean, it’s like it gets so self-centered that we worry about certain things, but yet we don’t think twice about the fact that it’s not about me getting it, it’s about grandma getting it or whoever else getting it. That’s where I get… And then, but yeah, it’s easy to pick up that anxiety, like you’re talking about, John, watching TV and be like, Woah, it’s up over this number now, and to have your certain thoughts confirmed and then it’s like, Woah.

29:40 John: Angela, what are your thoughts?

29:42 Angela: Yeah, I’m much more of the concern about passing the virus on to people who are either medically vulnerable. My mom too has COPD. And so, during this, I’ve moved in with her to be a caregiver, for her so that we have a little bit of a buffer between her and the outside world, and that’s different, so a whole different adjustment with that. And my partner is bringing us groceries and things like that, so that, yeah, we can try to make a little bit of a buffer for her. But it’s not just her, part of my home group, about, I don’t know, between 7 and 10 people are working in the health profession, and so they’re nurses and things like that.

30:31 Angela: And so as this stuff is going to ramp up, I’m concerned about them, because those people are getting it and some of them are young and not making it, and so I’m not trying to be pessimistic, I’m being realistic and my partner is, he’s kind of like Sheldon, only less charming, and he’s been monitoring this since January, so we bought some toilet paper in January and some extra things, but they were things we were using anyway, so we didn’t like stock up or hoard, but we’ve been watching that and he made a chart of how it compared to MERS and SARS in January, and so yeah, I’ve been aware of this kind of stuff, of what could happen since then. So, there is a part of me that I think is a little bit calmer as far as supplies and things like that, because I knew kind of what was coming from my partner.

31:29 John: Do you guys still have school going on up in Wisconsin?

31:34 Jaren: No, we’re just disinfecting stuff right now and doing our best, our part and we’re by ourselves, so we got a social dissenting thing set up here. So… But our kids aren’t in school, and that’s another frustrating thing is I got to be a full-time teacher during the day, then I got to work at night, and then it’s just a mess with the kids academically. And so, there’s a lot of stress going on. I’m happy for the podcast so that I can get a few meetings or fellowship. I was wondering, I’ve never done Zoom, I don’t know anything about it. So, for us, tech-challenged people, can you kind of explain what it is and how we can go about using that platform?

32:15 John: Sure, that’s a good question, and we’re using it now for the stream, but Zoom, you will find it at Zoom.us, that’s Z-O-O-M.us, and it’s very easy to use. Most of the groups that are having online meetings, they’re using the paid version, the pro version, which costs like $15 a month, maybe $16 a month, and that allows you to have any number of people in the meeting and you can go for an hour. And basically, you can access the meeting from a PC or a Mac or a phone, a tablet, any kind of device whatsoever. You can even call in by phone, not necessary to use the internet, I guess and have the meeting that way.

32:55 John: And generally, you’re just on a… Oh, if you’ve ever had a conference call or something that’s you’re on a screen and it’s audio-video; you don’t have to have the camera on, you can see people. It’s kind of nice… It’s a very easy way to have a meeting and it’s nice because you can see the people you’re interacting with. Angela belongs to a group, the Sober She-Devils, and it’s really interesting. These online meetings are seeing a huge spike right now, of course, in the number of attendees. And Angela might be able to tell you a little bit more about what it’s like in an online meeting because she goes to more of them than I do.

33:29 Angela: Yeah, sure. So, with Zoom, like you said that it’s pretty easy to use and if you’re concerned about logging on with a computer or a device, again, you can call in, there’s a phone number. And then if you’re using your telephone like that then… If you’re using your phone app as a phone, you do *6 to mute yourself and *6 to unmute yourself. And that’s the main thing for calling in on a phone is being able to do that, because if you don’t mute yourself then we can hear things in the background and it can create some static but otherwise, anybody can set these up.

34:10 Angela: John mentioned that there are different pro accounts and that’s what actual meetings or groups are doing. But for the individual, it’s free. And so, you just… Yeah, you just can sign up and do your email and a password and it’s free and so you don’t have to pay anything for it. And when you log in, my experience in these meetings is that people usually take a little bit to figure out where they are and what’s going on. And then when you want to talk, you unmute yourself, either again on your phone with the *6 or on the mute button on your screen, and you talk for a little bit and then you press mute and then people say thank you or depending on how big the meeting is, they don’t, and move on to another person.

34:57 Angela: In some meetings, as you said, several of the… Well, I think all of the secular AA Zoom meetings right now are getting 100 people, and that’s the max that we can get on these meetings. Yeah, because as soon as meetings started to close down, people went online to find out what they could do, and our meetings have been going for a while. We’ve been doing this for several years and so we come up and so we’re getting a lot of people, a lot of people who aren’t secular, who don’t know what secular is. But it’s been really good for everybody, I think, to practice patience and tolerance, yeah.

35:37 John: I noticed that. I was at the Sunday meeting. And normally, it’s a smaller meeting. I don’t go out that often but it’s normally a smaller meeting and all people are part of the secular AA community. The last one I went to, there were like 70 people there and they were people from all kinds of different AA groups, not necessarily secular. And I found that so cool because we all got along just fine.

35:57 Angela: Yeah, and they’re extremely grateful. That was one of the things that I’ve noticed is that they’re extremely grateful to have this outlet. So many people need it and so, yeah, we’re having to adapt too in our secular Zoom meetings because of the numbers, so we’re trying to figure out how we can either split the meetings. There are different things that Zoom offers for us to be able to do. We’ve just never had to do them before so we’re having to learn how to do it. And then the specific meetings, like the women’s meetings and the men’s meeting, closed meetings. Generally, for the women’s meeting, anybody who calls in by phone, we need to have them identified so that we know it’s a woman or someone who identifies as a woman.

36:46 Angela: And that meeting has had problems with trolls coming in and being inappropriate and I think even one guy pretending to be a woman just to do inappropriate things. And so, with all of these people coming in, they can’t or it’s hard to do that. It takes up quite a bit of meeting time to have each of these people identify, so they’re trying to figure out how to be able to do that. So, if anybody is listening to this who is an expert in Zoom and might have some ideas on how we might be able to do that better so that it doesn’t take up as much meeting time; so basically how can we qualify people who are calling in to make sure that they are people who identify as female and have a desire to stop drinking. So, if you have any ideas on that, yeah, call. You can call in now or you can email me at angelabboise@gmail.com, and we’d appreciate that.

37:52 Jaren: So, one more quick question and then I’m going to hang up and get back to work, where do we find the schedules for the meetings that we can listen to, and if we can’t listen to them, do they get recorded and posted so we can listen to the meeting as a whole, like a speaker type thing? So, with that, I’m going to let you go and I will listen to the answer.

38:08 John: Thank you, Jaren.

38:09 Jaren: Alright, guys, thanks.

38:10 John: The answer is no, not the online AA meetings. They aren’t recorded, they’re private and they’re not posted out there to listen to later.

38:20 Angela: Yeah, they’re encrypted and yeah, so they’re not. And you can go to secularaa.org to… And then there’s a link for all the online meetings that we support, so those will be on there. And then you just have to click on the meeting link and that will take you to Zoom and Zoom will guide you to the registration process so that you can become a part of that meeting.

38:49 John: There are other sources too…

38:50 Benn: Yeah, otherwise…

38:50 John: Oh, go ahead, Benn, I’m sorry.

38:53 Benn: Well, otherwise you probably just need to get on a list from some people you maybe know from a homegroup around your local area too that’s… It’s not always easy to find them, I suppose, but on the Facebook groups and secularaa.org, yeah, you can find them there.

39:06 John: And other resources, you got the secularaa.org, you have the online Intergroup, just Google that and they have all kinds of different AA meetings. You have another website called In The Rooms which has been going on for a long time that has online meetings. You can go to your area or district website and I bet you anything, they’re starting to list online meetings. I know our area, Area 39, is starting to do that. You can call your intergroup or central office. They probably are gathering different online meetings that are popping up in those areas, so yeah, there’s… Just Google online AA meetings, and I’m sure that you’re going to find something.

39:39 John: And now, let’s see what else we’ve got going on here. There was someone who commented. Pat commented that he likes the podcast episodes that feature either Benn or Angela, that they make the podcast so much better. You’re right about that, Pat.

39:52 Benn: Oh, that’s nice to hear.


39:54 Angela: Aww, thanks.

39:55 John: It’s nice to have… It’s nice to have Angela and Benn on and it’s great to have this opportunity to do these live streams. This is something that I just kind of learned about this year, and I thought that during this period of time, which might be going on for several months, that every Friday, we’ll do this live stream, it’s an opportunity for us all to get together and talk about whatever the hell is going on. Maybe the COVID thing won’t be the topic of the day, hopefully, all the time, but it’s kind of nice to have this, and I’m so pleased to see right now, we have 18 people watching this stream live, and that’s the most we’ve ever had and people calling. It just warms my heart.

40:31 Benn: It’s nice to have a little recovery AA talk that doesn’t center around something, you know what I mean? Like it’s just people chatting.

40:39 John: Yeah, that is kind of cool. It’s this technology that we have is pretty amazing.

40:43 Angela: Yeah, and it is nice to hear that it’s helpful to people because they’re, I don’t know about Benn, but I know times when John and I were doing a podcast that we’re like, I don’t know if anybody’s going to get anything out of this, but we enjoyed ourselves [chuckle] and it was like a meeting for us, but I was in a meeting, one of the large ones, I think on Thursday that had 100 people, and so I got called on to introduce myself and I started talking and then somebody typed in the chat that, “I recognized your voice as soon as you started talking from the AA Beyond Belief podcast.” And so yeah, I thought that was fun.

41:23 Benn: Yeah.

41:24 John: That is amazing. Well, gosh, I think I’m kind of running out of things to say. Does anybody want to call in? Do you have any questions or comments?

41:30 Benn: I have a little comment too. Angela, you’re talking about how it’s a good chance to challenge your idea of rigidity and just get out of the rut of doing the same thing over and over again. It makes me think of times I’d go back to my old homegroup. And if you sat down in somebody’s chair who I sat in the same chair, it was like you just ruined the vibe for the whole meeting or something. So I mean this is a good thing, I think for, again, I don’t like everything happens for a reason, obviously, but as John said, something good can come out of these, really, really crap situations and get your house cleaned out, get the tasks done that you’ve been putting off forever, that kind of stuff. I think getting out of that rut and that rigidity is a real key for people who struggle with addictions and alcoholism.

42:14 Angela: And I think learning either new routines or starting to develop routines, one of the things in recovery for me has been to… And I don’t like the language of it, but really, it’s to be more disciplined. And so I make my bed every morning, and that’s something that I’m continuing to do through this, because it gives me a sense of, I don’t know, balance, I guess, that, okay, I’ve made my bed this morning, I accomplished at least one thing. And it’s part of keeping things even-keeled for me. So, developing some routines I think is helpful. Something for my mom is she, kind of like some people do, meditation, she is a church person, so she does a little Bible study and journaling and stuff and that’s helping her stay in sync with what her values are and the person that she wants to be.

43:07 Angela: And we can continue to do that through this. It’s just a kind of an adjustment period right now of understanding and coming to accept that we have to change.

43:17 Benn: It’s making a little bit of order for ourselves and controlling what we can, and control issues aren’t always great, but it’s good to have them on some level, where we can keep a little bit of order around ourselves too, so we don’t go too off the deep end about anything.

43:32 John: And you know, as Jaren pointed out, of course, there’s always negative human behavior, but there are also some positive things that come out of people too. I know myself; I’m personally trying not to let this change me in a bad way, I’m trying to appreciate all the people in my life that make life worth living. And I notice when I go around my neighborhood walking my dog, there are more people out and about now because of the… At a social distance, at a distance. There are more people out because they’re home and everybody makes a point of saying hello and smiling, and more so, and maybe I’m just noticing it more than I did before, but I kind of like that.

44:06 Benn: And there are a few people when I’m out taking a walk around the lake who think you can get COVID by looking at each other, I believe.


44:13 Benn: They… No, people won’t look up at all, yeah.

44:16 Angela: Yeah.

44:17 John: So, this has been wonderful. We’re going to do this every Friday and thank you so much for listening, thank you so much for watching or listening to the live streaming and for your comments and your phone calls. It is such an honor to do this. This has just been the thrill of a lifetime. I just love doing this and I’m so grateful for all of you for giving me this opportunity. And thank you, Benn and Angela, it’s just wonderful talking to you every single time. So, we’ll just make this a regular Friday routine. If we all can make it that’s wonderful.

44:45 Benn: Sure, yeah, thank you, nice to talk with you too, Angela.

44:47 Angela: Yeah, you too, Benn.

44:48 John: And that does it. That’s another episode of AA Beyond Belief, the podcast. Thank you, everybody, for listening. I want you all to take care. Get to meetings online. There’s plenty of them out there, and there’s plenty of podcasts too, by the way. Okay, signing out, take care.