For many individuals in recovery, staying in touch with each other and attending meetings through support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous is a key step in their process.
But once the COVID-19 pandemic shut down support group gatherings, it left many in limbo. Fortunately, much like many businesses and universities, people in recovery are turning to Zoom and other video chat services to conduct meetings.
At these Support meetings and programs, people in recovery develop relationships and talk through their past struggles and ways to cope with everyday life. It’s a crucial part of their recovery, said Albert, who frequents about five different meetings per week. It’s why, given the circumstances, he called the Zoom meetings “ideal.”
While Albert said the Zoom meetings work as a temporary solution, there are still aspects of normal gatherings that he misses. He said whenever new people join a specific group, the regulars will often surround them and give them hugs as a show of support.
Jake, another person in recovery, advised that physical contact is a key aspect he misses with the Zoom meetings. He added the bonds with fellow support group members often occur when not interacting as a group, but in one-on-one settings outside of meetings.
“You get close to people in these meetings, you open yourself up to them,” he said. “They see that you’re not acting like you normally would, they can, however you need it, and ask, ‘What’s going on?’ You see a lot of that in the body language.”
Another aspect Jake pointed to is the “accountability.” He said that as addicts and alcoholics, “we tend to shut down and shut people out.”
With the in-person meetings, Jake said, it’s easier to point out when something is off. But over the Zoom calls, he said it’s difficult to hold people accountable unless you’re maintaining other forms of communication like texts or calls.
“The hugs were extremely uncomfortable at first,” Albert said. “But it didn’t take very long (to get used to them). Those hugs helped me realize that I’m not alone. I no longer have to be alone and I have people who want to be there for me.”
“For the most part, it is extremely different,” Albert said. “The Zoom meetings are great. We get to talk when we need to and talk about what we need to do. But it just feels like there’s a piece missing. What that piece is, is person-to-person contact. Holding hands, hugging somebody, or having a cup of coffee after the meeting. That’s a huge part.”
While Zoom meetings have been helpful, many people in recovery hope to see a return to normalcy sometime soon.
“I’m grateful that we have them,” Jake said. “Who knows how long this thing is going to last. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go that long without a meeting.”