OPENING REMARKS Tom M, Coordinator, GIA
Welcome to “Making A.A. Available to Everyone” Town Hall. My name is Tom, and I’m an alcoholic. This is a magic part of an A.A. meeting for me, especially today with our little glitches. I like when the chatter dies down and everybody begins to settle into their seats, and there’s this sense that “something’s about to happen.”
(I’m going to pause for just a second because I’m on the French Channel. Is everybody else hearing French on the English Channel? Okay. I’m going to try one more me).
Les – I’m: hearing English.
Tom M, Coordinator, GIA
Okay, let’s try again. So, this is the magic part of an A.A. meeting for me. I like the calm here at the beginning of the meeting, and everybody settles in, I settle in, and there’s a sense of “something’s about to happen.” And you know, something does happen at an A.A. meeting is… after that start, after that moment of serenity at the beginning, we begin to share with each other. And we begin to talk about how we recover from alcoholism and solve our common problem. And that’s the purpose of today’s Town Hall… it’s to share with each other and to listen for the solutions to the problems that are confrotinng online A.A. groups.
That’s familiar territory for us – listening to the solutions. Because we know the solutions are out there among us, and today it’s “Listen to the solution and how to make it available to everybody.” And then there’s a magic part to a Town Hall for me, too. When I hear that special solution that makes me think in a new way about an old problem, it gives me that “Aha!” moment where I think, “Oh, yeah, that’ll work for my group, or that’ll work for me.” And I enjoy that about these events.
Our panel presentations today are made by A.A. volunteers. They’re from online groups across the U.S., Canada, and Internationally. We have presentations from U.S./Canada and International today. We believe, at the Get Into Action Committee… We believe that that’s how we can best help grow and strengthen A.A. groups. To us, it’s as simple as providing a forum for these types of groups to come together and tell us how they did it. A.A. experience shows us over and over that we’re smarter together than we are apart. And that’s not new.
But what is new, relatively speaking, is this enormous network of connected A.A.s that we have all over the world now, that can link up on a Saturday morning where I live, an afternoon where many of you live, and maybe night where some of you live and share with each other.
You know, A.A. history tells us that the Grapevine magazine was one of the platforms that helped A.A. spread across the U.S. and Canada in the early days. And that was a golden age of magazines. But today we’re in a golden age of communications. So, let’s use this golden age, let’s use all these platforms that we have to share what we’ve learned so far and help make available to everybody.
We’ve crossed the threshold in A.A. where International members… We’re now talking directly with International members. That’s something that we haven’t done before, and we’re doing it through forums like this forum and others. So, making A.A. available to everyone has become a reality, and we are truly learning from each other.
There’s another thing. I’ll let you in on a joyful little secret of mine, and that is: A.A. groups… whether it’s local, or U.S. and Canada, or Internationally… love to talk about their Home Group. So, what we’re going to do today, we’re going to let people talk about their successes that they’ve found in their home groups. I can’t wait to hear the presentations. There’s going to be… I’m sure there’s going to be a number of “Aha!” moments for me where I learned something that’ll help me or help my online group.
I have a few presentations to make… I’m sorry, I have a few announcements to make, and then we’ll get on with the meeting:
You’ll find the agenda for today posted in Chat. You’ll be able to download that and look at our whole program on a document that you’ll find in Chat.
The email addresses on that agenda are for our… There are email addresses on the agenda for our speakers today. You can use those email addresses to contact the speakers – maybe thank them. But please don’t post this agenda anywhere publicly, because those email addresses are on that agenda.
If you have a question for a presenter or would like to share a comment, please raise your Zoom hand during the sharing session and the tech team will unmute you.
During the meeting, Chat’s going to be disabled to anyone except for a co-host, with one exception. If you have a technical question today, or a question about the Get Into Action Committee, send your message to Bill S., who is our “Answer Man” for the day.
This meeting is being recorded so that we can create a written transcript of it for posting later on. The written transcript will be on the giacommittee.org website. You’ll find that information in Chat, so you don’t have to scramble to write it down right now. That transcript will be posted. A written transcript will be posted, but the recording will not be posted.
And if you haven’t already done so, please remember to select your language channel from the… your language audio channel… by clicking on the globe icon in the Zoom tray.
Alright, Terry N is our Panel Moderator today and I’m going to pass it to you, Terry.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. I’m Terry. I’m an alcoholic, and I’m a member of the Get Into Action Committee. It’s my honor to introduce Shelley R From the “Key West 12 Noon Group,” who’s going to be talking about obtaining and working with online sponsors and service or service sponsor.
Shelley R.-Marco Island
Thanks so much, Terry. So, I’ll have my presentation up on the screen, correct? There we go.
So, hey, everybody. I’m an alcoholic. My name is Shelley. I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee, and I currently live in Marco Island, Florida. I’ve been in recovery for 12 years, and my most current sobriety date is February 22, 2019. My Zoom Home group is the “Key West 12 Noon Group,” and my in-person Home Group is the “Primary Purpose Group” in Marco Island, Florida. And since I don’t have much me, we’ll just get right into this…
Here’s some history about the Key West meeting: It began March 17th, in 2020, and it was started by A.A. members in Key West, Florida during the pandemic. It’s now a worldwide A.A. Zoom meeting registered with GSO and OIAA, and we meet 7 days a week at 12 noon, Eastern me.
Attendance During the pandemic… we had about 200 to 300 participants daily. And now, on a regular basis, we have 150 to 200 daily. And during the past 3 years, or a little more, we have connected over 2,000 sponsees with sponsors. And what we’ve experienced is many of our members got sober on Zoom, they obtained a sponsor through our group, they’ve never attended an in-person meeting, and are home group members who do service and they are still sober.
And the ways we offer sponsorship: We have 2 forms that we use for sponsorship. One is the Temporary Sponsor Form, and the other is the Group Member Service Position Form. And when we scroll on down, here’s the Temporary Sponsor Form, and… you don’t see all of it.
(I think, Terry, if you click on that green where it says, “Temporary Sponsor Form,” it will probably drop down, give you a little… No, it’s not working? When I clicked on it, it dropped down to show you that complete form, but it looks like that’s not working).
So that “KW 12 Noon Group” Temporary Sponsor Form is the form that our people who are looking for a sponsor fill out. Unfortunately, you can’t see all the information we ask for, I’m going to try to remember out of my head. We ask for their first name and last initial, the date, their email address, where they live, whether they’re male or female, looking for a male or female sponsor.
And then the Group Member Service Position Form is the form that members that are interested in being a temporary sponsor fill out. They also fill that out if they’re wanting to do any sort of service work with our group. And they pretty much give the same information as on the Temporary Sponsor Form.
Other things that we do to promote our sponsorship… if you’ll scroll on down a little bit… there we go, thank you… we announce at the end of the meeting, “If you need a sponsor, fill out the Temporary Sponsor Form and we will match you up with someone who will contact you, usually within 24 to 48 hours.” “If you’re interested in being”…
(Oh, by the way, these links are dropped in chat 3 times. I thought I had that in there, but I must have deleted that. The co-host of our meeting will drop these links in Chat 3 to 4 times during our meeting.)
… and then, at the end of the meeting, we announce that, you know, we will connect you with someone. If you’re interested in being a temporary sponsor, group member, would like to be a greeter, co-host, or host fill out the Group Member Service Position Form. And we also post in chat, “Forms are also available on our website, kw12noongroup.org.” And also at the end of the meeting we announce: “If you’re new and struggling, please either speak up or share in chat, so that we can support you.” And in the parking lot “meeting after the meeting” we also encourage those looking for a sponsor to reach out directly to someone in chat and ask them. Many members, of course, also drop their phone number or email in chat with “Willing to Sponsor” next to their name. We only open chat up at the end of the meeting.
Of course, we need somebody that handles all of this, so we have a “Sponsorship Liaison”. For us, it’s a one-year commitment and one year sobriety. And approximately the me commitment is about 5 to 10 min daily. And what this Sponsorship Liaison does is they’re responsible for adding information from the Temporary Sponsor and Group Member Service Position Forms to the spreadsheet. Once they’ve done that, the first option is: They try to connect the sponsor and sponsee that are living in the same me zone. We found that that makes it a lot easier for them to connect.
option 2: If they can’t find someone that they’re both in the same me zone, they link the sponsee with the next sponsor available on the sponsor list. Then the liaison sends an email to the sponsor, connects the sponsee by email and/or phone (if they’ve provided their phone). Occasionally the sponsor, for whatever reason, doesn’t contact the sponsee. If this happens, usually the sponsee will sometimes resubmit their Temporary Sponsor Request Form, and the Sponsorship Liaison connects them with another sponsor.
About once a year, the Sponsorship Liaison sends out an email asking all sponsors if they are still available to sponsor, and that helps keep the list current. The last document here is the Sponsor/Sponsee spreadsheet. It’s very tiny, but, as you can see, it has a timestamp there, and the date, and then there would be the column that has the person’s, the sponsee person, looking for a sponsor’s first name and last initial, the date that they submitted it, their email, their phone number, their location. whether they’re male or female, what they’re looking for – male or female. And then that’s the date that the Sponsorship Liaison sent the request to the person wanting to be temporary sponsor.
Gosh! You know normally I can talk a lot, too. But you know, my husband says, “Quit driving around the block and just pull in the driveway and park.” So, I have 55 seconds. Here’s our email address and my email address is at the bottom. And thanks for letting me share. This is the first PowerPoint presentation I’ve ever done so I’m shaking like a leaf. Thanks so much.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Thank you very much, Shelly. That was a great presentation, and we’re going to go on to the next one. Does sponsorship depend on proximity and is in-person still the preferred method of sponsorship? I’m going to turn it over to one of our members, Geralyn, of A. A. S. G.
Hi, everybody! I am an alcoholic. My name is Geralyn, and I am extremely happy to be here today. Normally, in respect to Tradition One, I won’t go any further than to identify myself as an alcoholic. But for the purposes of this Town Hall meeting, and for the purposes of the topic that I will be presenting on today, I would like to say that I do have a sponsor who is located in New York. I am living in Myrtle Beach, which is pretty much going to be where I will be living. And my sponsor’s not leaving New York. I sponsor many people, both men and women. According to our Preamble, we are people. And that’s what I sponsor… people. I do not discriminate against anyone who needs help in Alcoholics Anonymous, based on what state, what country they happen to reside in. I would also like to say that, if somebody out of the country needs someone to help them, and it would be impossible for me to do so… I think that that helping find somebody a commitment… that we just heard from the person that just spoke… I think that’s an amazing, wonderful, incredible, idea… to hook somebody up with someone on their own me zone perhaps, or whatever… I love that.
So, I have not yet had the privilege of sponsoring someone in a totally different International me zone than I am, but I do have many Grand Sponsees that are. I have a home group. It is… I have one home group, one vote. I’m a GSR for that Home Group. It’s an online group. It’s my privilege to have been there almost since its inception. We are… We just turned 3 in November, and we are on our fourth generation of sponsorship. Now, that is not confined to the online platform, okay? Some of us that started sponsoring do have sponsees that sponsor people that they have met, obviously in brick-and-mortar meetings. But for a group that started online less than 3 years ago, we are on our fourth generation of sponsorship. And, at the me, there were only 2 or 3 of us that were sponsoring people, because many of our members got sober in 2020.
Sponsorship. Is in-person sponsorship still the preferred method and does sponsorship depend on proximity? Again, I certainly hope not! You know, we could go back and forth forever, here and now, on the virtual… on the benefits of the virtual platform versus the in-person. You know – drawbacks, benefits. But any 2 people gathered together for the purposes of sobriety, as long as they have no outside affiliation, may call themselves an A.A. group, and the same applies for sponsorship.
I’m going to take a moment now. I want to look back at our… I want to look back at our founder, Bill Wilson. He referred to Ebby Thatcher as the rest of his life as his sponsor. Also, his Spiritual Advisor and Spiritual Sponsor, Father Dowling. They certainly did not live in the same area. Father Dowling was in St. Louis; Bill was in New York. But they kept in touch through letters.
My sobriety does not depend upon my proximity to the liquor store. Nor does it depend on my proximity to the phone book. Nor does it depend on my proximity to a meeting. It doesn’t depend on my proximity to anything, and if somebody asks me for help, I’m going to help them, no mater what. If I don’t get to hang out with you afterwards at the Waffle House… Oh well, I guess I’m going to have to give that privilege up. But, I know that I can transmit the message that’s in our book.
What other advantages do I have? Well, I have to tell you, the advantages that we have is that I have got
tons and tons and tons of people, an unlimited amount of people, that we can choose from. So many people. I do not have any limitations on the amount of people that I can choose from. It’s not “have someone that I want.” I can pick a Three Legacy Sponsor: someone who is sponsoring out of the Book, someone who, once I kind of get to know the little lay of the land a bit better… I know what I want, and I can have it. This was always the vision. if you read the end… modem to modem. Reach as many alcoholics as possible. That was always the vision for this program. That was what our Founders envisioned for this. Reach as many alcoholics as possible… and that is what this online, not in-person Sponsorship is doing. Recently attended… and I’ll have 1 min left… a beautiful, beautiful weekend, an A.A. weekend. There was a gentleman there who was not very well, but he was asked to speak, and he did. The reason he did was because he said he finally had the chance at this to meet some of the people he had been sponsoring for over 10 years. That was long before we ended up with all of these virtual platforms and things like that. So this has been going on and on and on for so long, for so many years. Why? Because you’re getting the message pure and simple. That’s why. There’s no complications to this message. And we do know that the further away you move from the message, the more gray we get. This way we can keep that message fresh. And we know that what we’re getting…we know we’re getting the message from people that have a message to give (Page 18, right?) and have nothing to lose or to gain by it. Thank you.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Thank you, Geralyn. Very well done. Thank you very much. And for the last one for this part of the session is Esther O. From “Sisters in Steps,” Overcoming Barriers to One Drunk Donkey to Another… We are people who would normally not mix.”
Esther O (Kenya)
Hi, everyone! Thank you so much for this opportunity to share on this topic. My name is Esther and I’m a very grateful alcoholic. I’m from Kenya. My sobriety date is 24th June 2012. God willing, I’ll be 11 years sober next month. My home group is the “Sisters in the Steps”. It’s a Kenya women’s online meeting that we started doing in the pandemic. Overcoming Barriers to One Drunk Talking to Another. We are people who normally would not mix.
For me, that would be when I came out of rehab. There were all these physical meetings, and there were very few women in the meetings. My first meeting, there was only one lady. And obviously it was difficult, because we were about the same me of sobriety. So, my first barrier was actually I could not get a sponsor. Do I do women sponsors because we had in Kenya that me. And so, I joined an email meeting, and the email meeting had a temporary sponsor platform where you just put in your details, and someone is assigned to you. And we still have meetings every day and would share on the email. And my first sponsor was actually from Florida, and I have never met the lady. We exchanged pictures, and we used to do steps using email and phone calls. And yeah, there was no Zoom. It was just Skype and we’re not using Skype, so that was the first barrier I had to overcome. And thank God for technology. And I got to meet another whole world of A.A. around the world.
And then moving forward… Then I, a few years later in Kenya, just before Covid, what happened was our meeting tended to be… our physical meetings tended to be at lunch me (12:50 to 1:30). And when you start working sometimes goes so hard. And so, people requested that perhaps we should try and have a 7-day am meeting before people go to work. And I said, “Okay, maybe we should start an online meeting.” I had the experience in online because, having had an online sponsor, I started sponsoring a lady from Ivory Coast and I wondered how she went for meetings, because to a new meetings, and she introduced me to go out of A. A. in Skype. And I had to really start to go inside meetings and Zoom meetings. And so, we started online meetings in Kenya just before the pandemic. And it was actually a saving grace, because we didn’t know Covid was coming. And so, when Covid came, we all already set up, having all these online meetings.
It was very difficult for people to, first of all, accept that an online meeting was the same as a physical meeting. We had to read that part of the Big Book that says, “modem to modem,” A.A.s can meet everywhere just to reassure people
that it’s still a meeting. And anyway, we can’t have any physical meetings. And so then I got the opportunity. I said, “Why don’t I start a women’s meeting?” We’ve been trying to connect to women around Kenya to get to A.A. meetings, and so I started the ”Sisters” in this test in 2020. At first, we were very few, or like called 3-5 women coming in, and then we decided, “Why didn’t we invite other women from other countries to be speakers?” And they became speakers. But when they came, they decided to stay, and in a few months the meeting became International, and that meeting has really helped women in, especially in my country, to be able to connect to A.A, to be able to get sponsors, online sponsors. We have a WhatsApp group. We have a meeting after the meeting where we connect with the newcomers.
We have someone who is a Speaker Seeker, who tries to get speakers from all over, so that we have a variety, and people can experience A.A. from different countries. We still have the same story, and so I think, at the end of the day, what I’ve learned is that I went to any length to get the drink and I will; therefore, have to just go to any length to get to a meeting, or to get that sponsor like I did. I’ve never had a face-to-face. Once, I had had two sponsors. My current sponsor lives in Sweden. And so, I’ve been able to encourage women who come to the “Sisters in the Steps” meeting that it’s okay if you can’t find a face-to-face sponsor. Online sponsors also work… the idea is to work the program, come to meetings. And so, we had started with one meeting that was a Speaker meeting, and we introduced the second meeting. That’s a Step meeting, so that the women could also understand how the program works and what the steps are all about. So, I think for me technology has helped.
We even got to do a convention last year and I am the current A.A Kenya Intergroup Chair and decided that, alongside the physical convention, we had an online convention which had people from over 60 countries. And the people in Kenya was so excited to connect with… They couldn’t make it physically, but they could still connect to the convention online, And it was for 2 days, lots of speakers. And it’s really to continue carrying the message, no mater what barriers we face. So even if there is, we have the online meetings, you can get a sponsor. You can get to all types of meetings: Big Book, Speaker, and all that, and it has truly changed in Kenya. We have so many newcomers. Most of the meetings were always in Nairobi, but now we have people from all over the country connecting to A.A. through Zoom, and that has been really encouraging. And many people have never been to a physical meeting, even when the physical meetings opened up. There’s a whole group of people who just didn’t want to go back to the physical meetings. So indeed, we have been able to overcome barriers. And yeah, it’s one drunk talking to another, and we have people who ordinarily would not mix. I think I know A.A.s from every… so many countries. If I would see trouble anywhere, I would say definitely, I knew someone from there and can connect to them. So, I think my me is up. Thank you so much for allowing me to share on this topic, and it’s really a pleasure to be here.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Thank you so much, Esther. You know it’s just amazing how we can all share from all over the world. We are now going to open the sharing session for this Panel #1 and I’m going to turn it over to Geralyn.
Okay, Great, Can I get the full screen back.
Go to the right-hand corner and go from speaker to gallery.
Okay, I got it. I’m: Sorry.
Okay. So, hello everyone. We’re going to do this by show of hands. We’re not going to put it in the Chat. The only thing you would want to put in the chat, it says what was stated before, is an “Atention Bill.” And those would be technical questions, anything like that. But questions on the presentations for the presenters, you just want to raise your hand. So, we’re going to start with Susan Sch. Go right ahead, Susan.
Oh, hello! Thank you all. This is needed and good.
A couple of things. One, I work with Steppers, that’s the 12-Step arm of online A.A., and it’s actually only a handful of us that answer calls… that is written emails from suffering alcoholics from all over the world. And there are sometimes certain hours in the week that I know I’m the only person online. So, I’ll put a plug for anyone who wants to do some 12- Step service. We could sure use some volunteers, especially in different me zones. So, look up Steppers, the 12-step arm of OIAA.
And then, related to that, we get a lot of people asking about sponsorship, and there are many, many, many people. And I don’t think it’s obvious in a lot of Zoom, so everyone here can go to their groups and tell them to be aware of what they heard today, like the Key West meeting.
And the other thing I wanted to mention is that email meetings, which are very few. I’m a Rep for ESH on mylist.net and ESH – Experience, Strength and Hope is one of the first online meetings, email meetings. Most email meetings have a list of sponsors, so you can direct people who want to sponsor. If they’re having trouble, you look at an email meeting. And last, all of it related to what I just said is that keep sharing information? I love that we’re doing this because we need to share information in order to carry the message. So, thank you very much for showing up.
Thank you so much, Susan. We have Oto now.
Good morning, everyone. My name is Oto and I am an alcoholic.
I am amazed about technology. I am not that savvy, nor fluent in the English language. But I did… I got a sponsor; I got an English sponsor who helped me work the steps. Now I also got sober during the pandemic. Now I’m presently, currently working on my 9th Step, 10, 11, and 12. I reside in San Marno, California, the “City of Hills.” And for the first me, I am sponsoring a couple of people from 2 different parts of the world. And that’s amazing. I think A.A. groups, I think, are English-speaking sponsors, recovered sponsors. I think every single group… I do join groups many times, and I didn’t reach, and I’m willing to take what it takes to continue, not only growing up spiritually, but helping others. Thank you very much for that me.
Thank you so much, Oto. We now have Lil-lyn B from Jax, Florida. Jacksonville.
Lil-lyn, B JAX, FL
Thank you. Grateful alcoholic, named Lil-lyn. Oh, I love this meeting. My main question is to all 3 of the women I’ve heard share this morning is, “How do you recommend sponsoring? Using the Big Book, the Twelve and Twelve, something else, or a combination?” Because I just started sponsoring. Going on 7 years, but I never have sponsored, and I have 3 sponsees now, and my sponsor tells me, “You have to use the Big Book.” But I had originally got sober in New Orleans, and my sponsor started using the Big Book. I moved to Pennsylvania, and that sponsor wanted to use the Twelve and Twelve. So, what is your recommendation, please? I pass.
Who would like to go first of the 3 of us?
Shelley R.-Marco Island
Okay, I’ll go over that.
Oh, okay. Good, Shelley. You go first.
Shelley R.-Marco Island
Oh, sure. No, I’ll just share my experience with my sponsor. She took me through the 164 pages of the Big Book. And as we went through the Big Book, and we got to that point in the Big Book where it talked about whichever Step it was talking about, then we would stop. And the next meeting we would do Step One in the Twelve and Twelve, etc. So, we did 164, and along with that, at the same me as we went through, we did the Twelve and Twelve. We met every Saturday for two hours. It actually took us about a year and a half to do all of that. But that’s how I was taken through.
Thank you so much. My own personal experience, and the way I do it is I do it from the Big Book. I start with the blank page, I go through it straight through to the 164. When I’m done with that, we go through the Twelve Traditions, and then we go through the Twelve Concepts. And, as far as the Twelve and Twelve is concerned, I advise my sponsees to find… and it’s so easy now… an online group that uses the Twelve and Twelve… and go to those meetings and also with the Traditions and the Concepts. Obviously, we don’t have to do one-on-one with those, because it’s not like a real personal, you know, thing. And then we had one more presenter. If you want to, our beautiful lady from Kenya.
Esther O (Kenya)
Yeah. Hi. Also, for me this is pretty much the same using the Big Book, the first 164 pages, and the Twelve and Twelve. And my sponsor always had some worksheets to guide along the discussion. So, it’s pretty much the same. Thank you.
I hope that answered your question. Okay. Next, we have Nel H.
Nel H MT (they/he)
Hi. I am Nel. I’m an alcoholic. Thanks so much for this great session. My question relates to what the speaker from Florida was sharing about their growth, and forms that they have. I noted that they said they… the form asks if the person seeking a sponsor is male or female, and if they want a male or female sponsor and I just wanted to put out there that there are many people in A.A., like myself, who do not identify with the gender binary. And how do groups like the Florida group and other groups support people who are non-binary or gender-diverse and their quest for a sponsor. I feel that this actually is an issue that A.A. Global is going to have to grip up. It seems to me that there are pockets of appetite for that. But well, I’d like to…. I’d like to see more change take place. But sharing my own experience as a gender-diverse A.A… I was seeking a sponsor, I identified as a woman. It was quite straightforward. It was a woman. At the first meeting I went to, I asked her to sponsor me. Job done. If I was coming to A.A. now, as the non-binary person that I now identify as, I would find, A.A. a very, very difficult place to get sober. But thank you.
Thank you. I believe I had also mentioned that in my qualification… that we’re very blessed because we do have a lot more opportunities to open up for a lot more sponsorship in this form that we have going on here as well. And that is just a blessing. So now we have Nagini.
Nagini – Sweden
Hello, everybody. My name is Nagini, and I am an alcoholic. It’s really excing to be here. And talking about online Sponsorship is very close to my heart. I’ve been attending online meetings for the past 20 years and have benefited from online sponsorship. And also, I move countries and I did the right thing. I told my sponsees to go and get new sponsors, and that was not so easy. So, we started the work with letters… waiting for letters. And then emails, and so forth. And today the exciting thing I find myself… I sponsor women in different parts of the world in 4 different languages, and I function as a service sponsor. So we go for the Steps, Traditions, and Concepts and it’s doing just fine. And these women are very active in their own communities, and this is a recent development the past 5 years.
Thank you so much. Now we have Ed from Colorado.
Ed Chism Colorado Springs
Hi, everybody! My name is Ed and I am an alcoholic. Thanks, you guys for puting this on. My question is… I guess more of a statement. What a shocker. I started… before the pandemic… I have, unfortunately, terminal cancer, and I couldn’t make it to meetings. And so, before the pandemic, I had to have meetings brought to me, and it was called “Special Needs” then. The pandemic started, and those meetings became completely Zoom meetings. And now that the pandemic’s over here in Colorado Springs, that meeting is now a hybrid meeting which is now on Zoom and also in person. And so, my question is, too: “Are we going to do one of these workshops also? Maybe on that?” Because I still need Zoom. I think it’s fantastic that the pandemic happened for someone in my situation, because it’s really made things easier. Moving forward… I like that A.A. is moving with the idea of using technology to help people in my situation. But it also allows me to go to my local meeting that I can’t physically get to. In that whole regard, too, and do I think… Again, this is a statement, not much of a question. You know, are we going to talk about maybe the difficulties of now hybrid meetings, where on Zoom and also in person at the same me. And other than that, I’m great, fantastic, happy everyone’s here. Thanks for letting me share and ask a statement.
Thank you so much. And that is definitely an excellent topic for a future Town Hall. And I don’t know if there’s a space for that on the survey that Jane sent out, but if there is not, you can always put that in, and I think that’s a marvelous suggestion.
Tom M, Coordinator, GIA
Geralyn, I have to break in just for a second here. Our… We’ll only have enough me to take Dennis’s question, Mathew and Jenny. I’m sorry but we’ll have another sharing session later in the meeting, and you’ll be able to share. You’ll be able to ask your question or make your comments then. But Dennis will be the last question.
Okay. Thank you, Tom. Okay. So, Anne F.
Hi, I’m Anne F. from “Sober Sunrise” in Paha Sapa or Black Hills of South Dakota. Just a comment. One of the things that we routinely do is with our Zoom Sponsees who are far away, especially. We always have the expectation that I am the sponsee well go to Zoom meetings together because it adds a whole different dimension. I mean, I know that’s kind of a given, but it’s really made a difference in our relationships – a good way to break down barriers. But my question is… In my area we have “Correction Connections,” connections with prisons. And I was fortunate to get hooked into a Federal prison system that at that me, even had they had an email system. And so, I was able to sponsor a young lady through the steps on email while she was serving a prison term, and I just wondered if there are other ways like that to connect with institutions that that you know of in your area?
Anybody want to answer that from the presenters? Shelley?
Shelley R.-Marco Island
I’m so sorry. I was replying to someone’s text in Chat. So, I didn’t clearly hear the question. 9
Yeah, could you repeat the question? And I, I don’t really know the answer.
Okay. Are there ways in your area to be able to sponsor people who are in institutions, like federal prisons. That particular one is more long term. But is there a… do you know of ways to connect and become a sponsor in some of those?
Shelley R.-Marco Island
I’ll share just what I know so far. I just recently moved to Marco Island and got approved to take meetings to the Naples jail. I have not been there yet, but I know in the training that I had to go through, we are not to give our phone number or contact information to the people that are in the jail. So that’s all I know about that.
Yeah. And I also brought meetings into the jail. But that was all we were able to do. And finally, we have Dennis, Area 49 New York City.
Dennis M, Area 49, U.S., NYC:
Hi everybody! I’m Dennis. I’m an alcoholic. Area 49 is lower New York State in the U.S. and Canadian system. I want to apologize initially, because somebody tipped me off that this workshop was taking place, and I jumped on it. I had the opportunity. I’m delighted to see that the Online Intergroup is apparently hosting this. I was involved in the early 1990s in going online. My sobriety date is back in 1990, and my first computer resulted in me joining the Lamplighters Group. I’m a member of an in-person group for the last almost 33 years, 34 years. However, I joined the Lamplighters Group because I didn’t think A.A. could function. I ended up being involved in creating the OIAA, the Online Intergroup, in 1995. I chaired the Unity committee. Now I don’t know if this has anything to do with what the panel just discussed, but I do… I’m leading to a question. As a member of OIAA and an online group, what we realized was we were not recognized in the Alcoholics Anonymous Worldwide Structure. Although we practiced… many of our groups practiced certainly the Traditions and even the concepts. OIAA is driven by principles. I was a 12-Stepper and I helped a guy, and I spoke about it in the year 2000 at the International convention.
My topic was “A.A. in Cyberspace.” That’s a long me ago, and what I said was, “It’s not just A.A. versus online. Online is legitimate A.A.” The question I have is, “Is anybody involved in the world service meeting discussions to try to legitimize the creation of a Conference for A.A. in cyberspace?” Right now, the local areas seem to be taking over online groups and I believe there are many online groups that are sort of stepchildren to the A.A. structure. I’d like to be connected in some fashion with those kinds of people.
I think that if you… I think to send a message privately in the chat to… I think that… yeah, that probably would be the best thing to do. Right, Jane? Would that be… Yeah, I think Bill would probably be the person that you would want to send the chat message to in the chat for that. He would be the person that would be able to help you.
Bill. Yeah, he’s taking… he’s receiving the messages for that.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Okay, yeah, I see. Yeah. There he is. Oh, and we have someone that says they would be happy to discuss that with you. And we have that right there. So, in the chat, if you take a look… Okay, that is all we have for the sharing session right now. And right now, that is the end of this. I’m going to hand it right back to Jane, and we’re going to continue with our program.
Jane G, OIAA Chair
Thank you, everybody. I’m Jane. I’m an alcoholic, and I am honored to be a member of the planning committee for Get Into Action. I have put a link in the chat for the survey for this meeting. So please pay special attention to questions 2 and 4. There are several answer options to select from, and please check all that apply to you. Also, there is space to make suggestions for topics for future workshops. If you have any questions, Chat me. Thank you. I’ll put it in again.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Hi, everybody! I’m an alcoholic still. My name is Terry, and we’re going to move on to Panel 2, which is “Online A.A. Problems and solutions.” And our first speaker is Aim C. from “24 International Marathon meeting,” and he’s going to talk about, “How is your safety and anonymity protected at an online meeting?
Aim C. (Panel 2 Speaker)
Thank you very much, Terry. And thank you to the Committee. My name is Aim C. and I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic. My sobriety date is December 24, 2002. My virtual home group is the “24 Hour International meeting” and my physical home group is “Night Out” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
So, safety and anonymity… two very important things that, when we’re discussing the quality of an A.A. meeting in the online world, are extremely important. And it is better to go into it with one’s full permission, with confidentiality and anonymity, which are kind of twin cousins of a sort, without even realizing it. And I like to go into it with my full permission, because I don’t want to get a resentment. Because I know quite a few people that have shared their experiences with me, and they still have those intent resentments that they had at the beginning of it. I don’t want that on my spirit. So, this is why I go into it full forward. The online world is a much different place than the one I grew up with, and the one that exists today.
My first one was… my first computer was an Apple IIC. And we had very different… I don’t want to say rules and regulations… but different things that guided the virtual world back then than we do today. I tend to think that it was a much safer place, because we didn’t know much back then, so there wasn’t many things to totally off guide us and go into traffic accidents in the virtual world, if you wish.
It brings me to the subtopic here of “Spiritual Gatekeepers.” “Spiritual Gatekeepers” would become the guardians of the virtual rooms. And why did we need guardians in the first place? Well, I’m going to bring you back in me a little bit. It’s April 2020 and, on the twentieth day of April in 2020, my virtual home group was born. One alcoholic talking to another, saying they needed a meeting and ulizing Zoom to do it. When that first Zoom room was created, something was born into the virtual world that could not be retrieved back. That is your meeting ID. I remember joining them about 4 months later in August, because I held a resentment on to the virtual world for just the fact of the… that we needed the virtual existence to continue A.A. was disheartening to me. So, I never imagined a date that the Safety Card would have a high place, and it would be in the virtual meetings where it would gain the most contacts. When we originated with the Safety Card, that was because we had people that were not doing some not-so-sober behaviors. Not practicing emotional sobriety. And then, when technology intersected that, we still had people with not-so-great sober behaviors. But now they were coming into the virtual rooms. And we would give them a name – Zoom Bombers. Twitter helped spread some of the first meetings. It was an asset, and it was a liability. I remember seeing codes, Zoom numbers posted, and I said to myself, “Well, this is really bad.” And the #Zoomcode was listed at the bottom and #Zoombomb was listed along with “A.A.” next to it, in these posts. It was so bad that I actually thought I needed to get in touch with our Northeast Regional Trustee. And before this presentation I said, “Well, let me also see if those posts still exist today.” And they do. They’re still in that history. And they are still out there in the world. That is why I think it is important to be a Spiritual Gatekeeper, to be somebody that’s versed in tech to keep the well-being of the virtual group at its utmost. Because we do have things that threaten our existence. We don’t always see it. It’s sometimes under… it comes under disguise, because what ends up happening is that we have those great forms to be of service with. I love the first presentation in the first panel and all that confidential information that’s listed. Your home group, your name, sometimes your address, your phone number, your email. That’s an identity the waiting to happen. And that has… Sometimes it’s the numbers of past delegates, if you’re in the area. Sometimes it’s the numbers of your District Committee members, your GSRs, your online Intergroup representatives. Depends on which entity we’re talking about. But you know there’s a lot of information. God knows why anyone would want to hack that information, but there’s a lot of information out there that can be taken advantage of and used in the wrong format. There is no safe place on the internet. I’m sorry I have to tell you that, but there just isn’t. Things go out into the internet, and they can never be recalled back, never be taken back. Some people have taken the liberty of naming them “Zoom Bombers”. It’s one thing I want to impress upon you before I go off is that, “Please do not feed the pride and ego of the bombers.” What they are is hackers, and they have nothing better to do. Some, yes, maybe kids. For the most part, that’s not always the case, at least for my personal, tried and true experience. But be careful what you put out into the Internet because you can’t always take it back, and it’s not always a good thing. And that little link… It’s the most important thing because you click on it, and you let them in.
Thank you for letting me share. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this presentation and this great panel and experience of alcoholics.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Our next panelist is Dave W. from “Queer Anonymous” and he’s going to talk about, “Is listing my A.A. group with GSO and OIAA important?” Take it away, Dave.
Dave W VT (IGR Q&A)
Hi! My name is Dave, and I am an alcoholic. And can I get a thumbs up that we can see the slide? Thank you. So, is listing my online A.A. group with GSO and OIAA important?
Like I said, my name is Dave W and I’m the IGR for “Queer Anonymous.” It’s an online meeting. I’m a voting member of
the OIAA, based on that. And I’m the “Traditions and Concepts Chair” for the Vermont bid for NECYPAA 2024 (The New England Conference of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous).
There are 143 people in this room who will help me get to May 31st of this year, when… I am just astonished… I’ll be celebrating 6 years. It’s insane. And there are two disclaimers, which is that… What I’m saying is not an OIAA response, it’s not a GSO. It’s no service entity. It’s just me. And the second disclaimer is, “I am no longer glum a lot.”
So, first question is, “What’s important?” And I’m going to define importance, in this case, as what resources are available to help fulfill our primary purpose? And to do so based on spiritual principles. And at the end of this presentation, my goal is that you’ll be able to share why listing your online A.A. meeting with the OIAA is important and why listing your A.A. group with the General Service Office, and I say U.S. and Canada, because that’s my message, “It as important.”
First question is, “What does the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous offer to the online A.A. group and/or meetings?” And talk a little bit about what membership to OIAA is, what is the Assembly, and what resources are available.
So, the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous is incorporated in the State of New Jersey and our Assembly is the voting membership of OIAA. It’s made up of the Intergroup Representatives… I’ll talk a little bit about that in a second… and those are representatives of the groups that list their meetings in the OIAA searchable directory of online meetings. By the way, you do not have to be listed in that directory. You can remove yourself from that directory, and you do not lose your membership, as well as the standing committee Chairs and OIAA officers. I do have to give you a caveat: The OIAA is in the middle of guidelines, and so some of this may be out of date. I hope not.
There are two kinds of members at the OIAA. There are voting members, and they are entitled to all the resources of the OIAA and they have the duty to vote at our General Assembly meetings. We also have non-voting members. All of the resources of the OIAA are available to them, but they do not have the right to, at the General Assembly meetings… they have a voice, but not a vote. Become a voting member by either having one of those offices, or by submiting… being submitted as an IGR (Intergroup Representative) or Alternate IGR – only one can vote at a me. And to be a non-voting member, very much like a home group, you’re a non-voting member if you say you are, and you let… there’s an email form on the site, and you could say, “I want to be a non-voting member.”
So, what do they offer. I have a lot of hats here right now. The first we’ve heard about already, The Steppers. And the Steppers are a group where anyone, anywhere reaches for help via our “Get Help Now” button, which is on many intergroup sites, including International sites. Or there’s a form on our site. On average, I find this incredible… on an average of three Steppers respond to every email. And we have Steppers who’ve been doing this 12-Step work for many, many years. And they train the people coming in.
We also have Steppers that can respond in a number of languages. How about the Public information committee, often on this “PIC.” Anyone anywhere submits questions via our online form on the OIAA website. A team of volunteers usually gets back the same day, and we share our experience, and we share answers. And we also have a huge resource of other people in the OIAA to check those answers.
Tech Steppers is a fairly new group. And this is a group… Our groups, any groups – does not have to be a member group – can receive technical support from our team. The team specializes, I will say, in suggesting to the group conscience the Zoom settings and meeting practices that increase the safety of participants and reduce the incidence of disruption. If you look around you on the on the participants list, you will see some of the members of. the meeting support team offering support for online meetings, especially the larger ones. All volunteer.
So that’s what the OIAA offers. Membership is either by listing or a non-voting member can just ask. And those are just some of the resources. So, the question is, “Are any of those resources valuable for carrying the message, for increasing your ability and your safety, and carrying the message to those who still suffer.” I think that’s important.
Where is my… Where’s my mer slide?
So, the General Service Office of U.S. and Canada… What does that offer to A.A. groups? Is it important? And I’ll talk, just for a second, about the Pyramid. So, as someone said, the General Service Office is the “management group,” but it’s not the conscience. It’s not the one that makes decisions. That’s the General Service Conference. So, what happens? (I hope you can see this slide). You see I don’t think it’s a pyramid. I think it’s a circle. The reason I think that is because the upside-down pyramid says that our groups are the decision-makers. They are the conscience of A.A. and knows that happens through an informed group conscience. So, you go back one. That Informed Group Conscience is then shared on a District level by the General Service Representative, or GSR. That’s brought to the Area level and the Area committee members and then that has informed the Conference Delegate. The Conference Delegate represents that vote. However, they have the Right of Decision, and that if they have new information or a new context, or in their analysis, they vote their conscience, but must report back to the group what’s happened. And that all happens in the General Service Conference and Conference committees. But here’s, I think, the important part, which is that it’s a circle, because the Delegate then goes back to the group and informs them what happened at the Conference. And again, if there was any change in their vote based on new information. So, Pyramid’s good, because it shows us that the group is at the top of the pyramid. But I think if we see a of a circle now.
About out of time.
Dave W VT (IGR Q&A)
I got 17 seconds. Okay, what’s the importance? The importance is this is how you have a vote. This is how you, in a group, can influence the Conference through this structure. So, I think it’s important to list your group with the GSO.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Thank you very much, Dave, for your great presentation. And the next presentation is going to be “Protecting my online A.A. Group with Zoom safety procedures, chat cameras, mute, unmute, etc.” And it’s going to be David B. from “Basic A.A.” Tuscany. Take it away.
David B. | Basic A.A. – Tucson AZ
Yup, hey, everybody. I’m David, I’m an alcoholic. Thank you everybody whose of service to this Town Hall meeting, and Tom for reaching out and allowing me to be of service.
I will also be presenting with Mary T., another Home Group member today. Our Home Group is “Basic A.A.” based out of Tucson, Arizona. We are a hybrid group that meets Mondays at 7 pm. And our meeting information can be found on our website, which is basicaatucson.com.
I will go ahead right now and post some links in the Chat. One will be our website, as well as some helpful resources, including the Online Intergroup website, as well as Zoom support, things of that nature, for people to check out afterwards. And as always, I’m available to chat after the meeting, or my email is on the agenda as well.
We started as an in-person meeting about 10 years ago, a little over 10 years ago and transitioned to Zoom during the pandemic. I found the group in November of 2021, as a still drinking alcoholic, and was 12-Stepped into recovery again. I’ve been a sober Home Group member ever since. Security and safety is extremely important to our group being online. And now also in the in-person component. And it all comes down for us essentially to Tradition 5, our Primary Purpose of carrying the message. So, security ensures the safety of our members, and allows us to more effectively carry the message. Takes a lot of work and a lot of effort to become a group member. So, Mary and I will talk about some of the various Zoom features, as well as how to set up a secure meeting, and some of the practices that we use to keep things safe. So, on the slides here, I just kind of want to walk through some general setup stuff when you’re actually in the meeting that we will discuss. Chat, extremely important feature. We like to set it to Host and Co-host. We have to have somebody monitoring the chat and be the Go-To person to receive chats, and to send out information as well. That sort of divides that labor among the group and keeps a couple of people or one person accountable.
That Chat Chair can be elected, or it can also just be somebody that we assign. Generally, we assign somebody who’s a Home Group member to that role at the start of the meeting. The next slide, Mute and Unmute. So, to minimize distractions and noise and potential outbursts, unsafe interactions, we change those settings to not allow participants to unmute themselves. That setting tends to be very helpful. We have to ask people to unmute, so that nobody can just sort of chime in, and we change that at the start of our meeting. We allow people to chat openly before our meeting starts.
And then the next slide… Talking about cameras, participants, you know. We ask them to turn on their cameras for the respect of the group, and for the presenters and speakers that we have. It allows that face-to-face accountability. But we also implement, through the security features, turning off people’s cameras. If there is something going on… a Zoom bomb or flash and making rude gestures. So, our Host and Co-hosts have that information and understand how to utilize that. And it’s important for groups to communicate and know how to use those features.
Can we go to the next slide really quick, too?
This is the security panel, too. This is just the go-to place. I’ll turn it over to Mary in a second, but the thing that’s highlighted here “suspend participant activities.” Just as a quick overview, that’s the fastest way to stop something that’s going on. If a Zoom Bomber comes in “suspend for indecent activities.” The room gets locked, cameras turn off, everyone’s muted, and it allows our Host and Co-host to take the action that’s necessary to change and to remove somebody… to put somebody in a Breakout Room. So, I believe we don’t need the presentation anymore, and Mary will speak a little bit on some more of these safety features.
Mary T | Basic A.A. -Tucson
Hi! My name is Mary and I’m an alcoholic. I am a Home Group member of the “Basic A.A. Group,” which is a hybrid group from Tucson, Arizona. Thank you for those responsible for today and for the wonderful… today’s presentations.
So, Zoom has changed and modified since we first started using it as a virtual meeting platform at the beginning of the pandemic. You could say the explosion of virtual meetings drove many of the changes, and many were based on security. No one wants to be in the middle of a meeting and have a group of Zoom Bombers run rampant through your meeting space, disrupting everything. And it does still happen.
Some of the important tools we use are the use of Breakout Rooms, pushing people to the waiting room, and locking the meeting down while we remove disruptive Zoom Bombers. This way, more can’t come in while you’re swiftly working to remove those that are there.
Breakout rooms are something that both Hosts and Co-hosts have the ability to open and use. When you have someone in the meeting that might need some one-on-one assistance, whether it’s for Zoom pointers, which includes like their audio/video isn’t working properly, or just a compassionate listener for a twelve-step conversation.
Having a Host or Co-host open a breakout room and assigning a designated Home Group Member and the struggling visitor is one of the best ways in which to handle and utilize the tools Zoom has for us. Removing people from a meeting can be difficult. But as a last resort, if it is a Zoom Bomber, you can put them out and report them to Zoom at the same me under the security menu in the toolbar at the bottom. It is best to have someone from your Home Group who is your designated “Troll Patrol”. Their only job is to keep an eye out for Zoom Bombers, and, if bombed, respond swiftly to assist in their removal. They can also be the person who is assisting and working with people to get themselves renamed and watching for anything that might be a potential issue.
Pushing people to the waiting room is another way to separate someone from the meeting quickly without fully removing them. If you have someone who has come into the meeting, and they’ve been repeatedly asked to rename themselves, turn on their camera, and they continue to take no action, push them to the waiting room. They are still able to change their name, and you can still message them, but it will be far less disruptive to the meeting. If this happens to be someone who is a potential security issue, “Basic A.A.” uses all of these techniques in running our hybrid meeting.
I’m going to pass it back to David so that he can give you a meeting Security Walkthrough.
David B. | Basic A.A.
And I’m just going to close quickly by saying so, we’ve talked a lot about, you know, what our group does. Specifically, we arrived at these protocols for a lot of group consciences, implementations of Traditions, and A.A. Guidelines, and the practical experience of our group members. It’s important to have a strong group to depend on people who are participating in the group structure who will communicate, and will actually show up for the positions with that primary purpose in mind. So again, everything comes down to, “How can we best carry the message?” Thank you all for letting us be of service. Again, Mary and I are available for questions after this meeting as well. We would love to communicate and help anybody who needs help with the security side of Zoom.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Thank you to David and to Mary. Great presentation on Safety. Okay, we’re going to go on to our fourth panelist for this afternoon, and it’s “Opportunities for Disability… Sorry, disabled… “Opportunities for Disabled, Immunocompromised, Hearing Impaired to Participate in Online A.A.” I’d like to welcome Paul L. from Yuma, Arizona.
Paul L – Yuma, Arizona
Hi! My name is Paul, and I’m an alcoholic. And I do currently live Yuma, Arizona. My online group is “Spirit of the North.” I’m just really getting involved in that. And my A.A. in-person group is “Safe Harbor Group.” I’m a little embarrassed here, with all these great presentations. I really don’t have that much of a presentation. I have a story, and we probably all have a story, but…
My Sobriety Date is April 3rd, 2020. And you know, I direct my whole life until I get here in Yuma. I ended up in the hospital on the morning of April 3rd, almost bled out, and you get the rest of the hospital. And I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and went through all the… everything you can imagine there. And when I get out, you know, they told me I needed to go into some kind of a treatment facility, and I couldn’t get into a treatment facility. And so, you know, I get on the internet and start looking for what am I going to do? My wife is also an alcoholic, and she stopped drinking while I was in the hospital. But you know we were… We could have easily gone back, without meetings and/or something.
And so, I got online and was looking around. I run into A.A. I didn’t know what to think about A.A., and they had a hotline out there… the hotline phone number. And I was so shaky still from coming out of the hospital that I didn’t think I could even talk to anybody. But I saw some information about a Zoom meeting, and I didn’t really know what that was. But I found an email address out there that I could email somebody, and somebody responded right away and then I ended up talking about phone. And they came out. Two guys came out, you know, 12-Stepped me and it was just, you know, probably one of the best days of my life. It’s getting started in this, but they set me up on how to use Zoom. And so my wife and I, you know, it was right in the middle of the… right in the middle of the start of the Covid and so we were split, living in an older home, and we just did meetings all the me. And you know there are local meetings here that they set us up with, and they were perfect for us, we just loved it. But what we encountered was a lot of people here are really resistant to using Zoom, you know. They even went… We set up these kinds of “quasi” meetings, just so we could know what a real meeting was like. And you know, we definitely appreciated them, appreciate everything that everybody’s done for us. So, when we were able to have meetings again, we were back to hybrid, and you know this was in several local meetings that I attend. But you know, as soon as it started passing, our local groups – through group conference – decided not to have not to have a hybrids anymore. And so. we do it in-person. My problem is hearing when I go to a meeting. Right now, I’m listening to technology through Bluetooth and my hearing aid. But when I go to a meeting, I really can’t hear. You know, some shares, I don’t hear anything they say. And some shares I can hear better by looking at them. But even as much as you’re like trying to whisper or try… I just get hear. So Zoom is just a blessing for me. And with the closed capons on Zoom, I watch TV and everything with closed capons. And, you know, I appreciate the signer up there so much, and I just haven’t learned it. And that, you know, I should take some me to learn it. So, you know I really don’t have a lot of information. I, for one thing, I didn’t even… You know, I knew that there were 24-hour Zoom meetings out there, and I’ve heard of people going to those, but I didn’t really have a concept until I got called to this “Spirit of the North Group” and that was just recently. If there’s real groups out there are really online groups out there, and I’m so grateful for that, grateful for what OIAA is doing, and I want to help out and do whatever I can. I’m involved as a webmaster here in Yuma for aayuma.com and I was a Chairperson of the Intergroup stuff, and I’d like to help out and I’m going to find out how to do that. So that’s all I got. Thank you.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Thank you, Dave. That was from the heart, and I really appreciated your honesty, and sharing with us. For the people that have their hands up, the next sharing session is not until after the next speaker. So, if you could lower your hands, that would be great. Okay, our final presentation this afternoon is Mary M. from “Saturday Literature Study,” “Online A.A. and the Service Structure. Welcome Mary.
Hi! My name is Mary and I’m an alcoholic. My sobriety date is January 11th, 1975. I want to thank everybody for letting me speak and to all those people who made great arrangements for this. I’ve never done it with an interpreter or foreign language, so I’m reading it to make sure I hit in my me limit. It should be 5 and a half minutes. We’ll see how good I do. And I apologize that I don’t have Dave’s Circle, or the A.A. group. Because I thought that was clever, because a Delegate does bring the conference back to the groups. All I can share with you is my experience and hope for the future. We must find a way for the river of A.A. sobriety to stay fresh and full.
Most of my A.A. life was spent in the State of Washington, where I was acve in the Group, District and Area level service. In 2016 I moved to Idaho, whose service structure was not as well developed. In 2019 I was diagnosed with COPD, and it was recommended I curtail my activities, as well as going on oxygen full-me. During the me of Covid, it was very hard to get online meetings of our District Business meeting. The Treatment, Special needs, Correctional, after three months of hybrid, resumed in-person meetings only. They have recently renamed themselves “Hospitals and Institutions” and this April has started to hold online meetings. Both the committee and the District have parcipation in unity problems, and neither has a full slate of trusted servants. in January 2022, an online literature study was started, of which I became a member. We were reading “Language of the Heart.” When the issue of whether to be a meeting or a group came up, we stopped our normal reading to read the A.A. Group pamphlet, which shows us the responsibilities of being ed to A.A.’s Service Structure. We are now a group belonging… not to the area where I live, Area 18… but to District 25, an online district, in Area 72.
There was another area that had an online District, but it was in New York, so we chose the one closest to us. Our members are from different locations: Idaho, Washington, California, and a regular attendee is from Ireland. We have a GSR who attends District 25 and Area 72 business meetings. We do our general service work through the district where we live.
For example, I am the Archivist for District 2 in Area 18. My concern is what I see happening online, which is a lot of stress on the 12 Steps of recovery and sponsorship. There is little stress on the Traditions and the 12 Concepts for World Service and the General Service Structure. Of course, in 1975, my sponsors physically took me to the Area and District meetings. It helped that I taught myself how to drive drunk and was scared to drive for the first 6 months of my sobriety. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to go. I was told to be ready at a certain me. It was considered part of my learning of A.A.
Online groups need to make an effort to explain, explore, and be involved with all levels of service. This is especially true for our newest members, who may think we are only a program to stop drinking. It seems to me that service with most online groups and meetings consists of chairing meetings, working security, meetings, and sponsorship. This is important service for the online community carrying the message about A.A., but they are selling themselves short not to be involved in the General Service Structure. How else can they tap into the experience of the never-ending 36 facets of our spiritual fellowship?
General Service is a committee structure that allows us to be flexible as we pass on the message throughout our spiritual fellowship, and beyond. These committees start with members from home group volunteering at the district level. Then the district meets with the area on a quarterly basis. The district and the area committees are repeated within the General Service Conference and the General Service Board, with additional committees pertinent to each level of service.
Our delegates at the General Service Conference are assigned to committees. This structure is completely designed for the primary purpose of carrying the message to the suffering alcoholic. Several committees are designed to reach alcoholics who cannot go to meetings. Specifically, correctional facilities and treatment facilities. Since Covid, many of these facilities now have online A.A. district-sponsored meetings. Cooperation with the Professional Community takes literature to doctors, lawyers, and judges. There may be an answering service where you can sign up for this. Every committee deals with literature specific to its needs. My district, at this me, has 44 groups. My hope is that once the areas get so full of online districts, then online areas will be folded into the system, meaning that the districts in this new area would have their own committee system and their own Delegate. This would cement accommodation and online groups deeply into the service structure. Opening the Service Structure would enable the online groups and the suffering alcoholic to be a part of all of A.A. How can we not rejoice at a string of new alcoholics who have found us and are trying to stay sober. Do we not owe them, all of us? The river of A.A. must stay full and fresh. Thanks for my sobriety.
Okay, thank you very much, Mary. Wonderful presentation.
Terry N. Moderator GIAC
Thanks to all of the presenters today. This has been an awesome session. Now we’re going to open our second sharing session for 20 minutes, and our moderator is going to be Geralyn.
Thank you so much. So, let’s get started. We’re going to go right ahead. Kathleen D. From Massachusetts.
Kathleen D Massachusetts
Hey, everybody! Kathleen, Alcoholic. First of all, I want to thank all the presenters today and everybody doing service work on this meeting. I really want to thank Aim for what he shared in the beginning of the meeting. And I guess maybe, piggybacking on that, is The Safety Card also is for members of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I say this because everything he said about disruptors can be true of alcoholics. And just as you would take safety at an in-person meeting. I think for me, I felt that people didn’t live close. You know I didn’t have to worry about things like that. And to be quite honest, we did have somebody we just had to, you know, ban from a meeting for 90 days because of some, you know, inappropriate behavior. And everything he said about security, I’d like to back up for also. You know, my sponsor taught me a rule when I started two years ago, and that’s, “Don’t share anything public in a meeting that you don’t want the entire world to know.” There’s always going to be somebody. And you know there’s probably no way for us ever to protect our identies. But online can be group numbers, too. And thank you all again for your presentations.
Thank you. Kerry H. from Alma, Wisconsin.
Kerry H Alma, Wisconsin
Hello, I’m Kerry and I suffer from alcoholism. I’d like to also do it on the service people doing the service. And for this meeting I’d like to spotlight the fact that I attended the OIAA Zoom Security Forum here a couple of months ago with Tom R, and I also am strictly virtual. I do attend one in-person meeting a month, but all of my sobriety, which is date 6/26/2021 has been on Zoom. And I would just, you know, I follow the Security Guide quite closely with my personal meeting that I host, and then several of my other meetings that I attend, also follow the Security Guide, which has been very helpful. And I’m looking forward to additional ones. So, with that, I’ll pass. Thank you.
Thank you. So, Dave…
Dave W VT (IGR Q&A)
And I’m still an alcoholic, always will be. Two things… I need to burn a couple of seconds here. If there’s somebody who once was integral in the Unity committee of the OIAA, we meet on Thursdays at 4 pm Eastern me. And I will put some information in that person’s chat. We’d love to have you back.
Second thing is, and this is it. There’s a thing about disruptors that is… it is kind of weird. And that is that the effective disruptor is often an outside issue, what we’d claim is an outside issue. And I believe we are not doing nearly enough
to make it… to ameliorate… I don’t want to use big words… to address why people suffer so when these disruptors get in before they get out. And the challenging here is that many… In my experience, folks who are severely challenged by disruptors… it’s usually an outside issue. And they don’t… and they feel in danger, and they feel they trigger something in their past or in their present. So, I just want to put a line in here that I believe that online A.A. is not doing nearly enough to help make the effect of disruptors less triggering for those who are extremely sensitive.
Tom M, Coordinator, GIA
Let’s take only the people who have their hands raised now. No more requests, no more other hands raised after Marnie O.
Okay. So, we’re going to end with Marnie. Beth D from Florida:
Beth D. Florida
Hi, I’m Beth. I’m an alcoholic, IGR for OIAA Rep for the “Into action Group.” First of all, I want to thank all the presenters and I have their… They’re a little muddled in my brain right now, because there were so many wonderful presentations. But the person who spoke at the International convention on online groups. I attended that meeting, and it never occurred to me that someday I would be in, not only a member of an online group, but actively parcipating in OIAA and I just love it. I have a question for the Tech Steppers.
I’m a member of a small group. I hear about all these scripts, over 150 or 200 people coming every day, and we have a small group that meets once a week, and has anywhere from 15 to 20 attendees. I was wondering if the tech service would be willing to do a workshop for the members of our group to help us with the skills that we need in order to eject people who are being inappropriate.
OIAA TechStepper-Mitch C.:
Oh, we sure would. You could submit some better requests. It’s in the chat.
Beth D. Florida
Thank you so much.
Thank you so much, Beth. Jennifer B.
Jennifer B., OIAA Treasurer
My name’s Jennifer. I’m an alcoholic and “Recovery in the House” is my home group, and I also serve as your Treasurer at OIAA. So, if you have any financial questions, my email is email@example.com. I wanted to share a personal experience as far as safety.
A friend of mine, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, she and her daughter were murdered in 2010 by a fellow member of Alcoholic Anonymous. And it was a great loss to our community. And so, in Zoom or online meetings, be careful of what you may share with others. Get to a level of being comfortable before you share some of your personal information, if at all. One me a person raised their hand with one to 90 days, said his days, and then started directly, speaking to another member, who happened to be an attractive female. I unmuted, and asked her if she knew him. She said, “No” and I said, “We protect our pretty ones here” and I removed him. So, my message I guess is – if you see something, say something. We have a group responsibility to protect those who may not be able to… who don’t have the attributes to protect themselves. So, thanks.
Thank you, Jennifer. Mathew H.
Hello, everybody. It’s good to be here. Thank you for allowing my question. First, I want to just complement the organizers of this. I’ve done quite a bit of online work, and this is extremely well done, end to end and it’s commendable. So, thank you. You know, one thing that’s really been coming to mind for me is, you know, within A.A.’s Concepts, Warranties, and Traditions, it really speaks to a great depth of love and tolerance. And I wanted to ask the question earlier, but this is probably a more appropriate place to do so. I find that, you know, on that subject, we have to be real careful about measuring, not silencing, A.A. members using this Zoom platform. And it’s easy to do because we have so much control as Hosts to put somebody in a waiting room, kick them out of a meeting. And you say it’s so- called “good intent,” and I’ve actually… this has happened to me. I was attending an A.A. event one me, and that happened, and I was very disturbed by it. And my question really is, you know, “Are we talking about like A.A.s higher objectives around love and tolerance?” Because even with Zoom Bombers in my home group, which actually meets tonight at midnight Pacific me… We often are very cool with them, you know, and they’re going to continue to be disruptive. We’ll kick them out. But we’re like, “If you really have a desire to stop drinking, you’re welcome to attend.” And it’s a thing that I just feel very passionate about, that we should be striving for more around the area of love and tolerance and so many areas in our society today. And I just wanted to bring that forward. And also, note that Zoom is the more default platform, but there are others. This is an online platform, you know. We just happen to be using this particular portal of technology to use it. That’s all. Thank you.
Thank you so much. Mathew. Hank K. from New York.
Hank K Angola NY USA
Hi, everyone. My name’s Hank and I’m an alcoholic. And I’m a Past Delegate to the General Service Conference here in the U.S./Canada structure, from Panel 70, which we call “Pandemic Panel 70,” because we’re the only delegates in the history of the General Service Conference to never attend a live Conference. Both of our Conferences were online, and we called… We called the first General Service Conference, “A.A. comes of age, 2.0, United in Love and Service, because you know, of the major changes going on… Just a couple of comments. First of all, one of the things that the General Service Conference did in Panel 71 was to open up this question of how online groups ought to fit into the General Service Structure. And you know, as you know if you’ve been around the room for a while, A.A. moves at one pace – glacial. And it’s going to take a while, I think, to sort out how best to work A.A. online meetings, and possibly hybrid meetings, into the General Service Structure. There is an ongoing effort at the General Service Office in New York. The staff there is studying this question and has been asked to come up with recommendations. And if you’re interested in passing along information to be considered there, reach out to GSO. Reach out. I’d say email firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will help you connect to the right person.
The second thing I wanted to share is that a bunch of us from the Northeast Panel 70 Delegates got together. The transformation of the experience, being a delegate as a result of going online, was phenomenal. We got much more interaction with other Delegates than ever has been the case in the past, and it did a great deal to improve the Group Conscience of the General Service Conference. We started a home group afterwards because we were all so close and it’s an online group called “Rusted Servants.” And hey, thank you.
You’re a little over time here, Hank, so wrap up, please.
Hank K Angola NY USA
Terribly sorry. Yeah. So, we originally went into the Online Intergroup, and we dropped out because of the Zoom Bombers. We didn’t have the technical capacity to handle that. So, I just thought I’d share that story. Thank you very much. And thanks for the service of all of those involved here.
Thank you, Hank. Jamie , from Nebraska
Jamie D. (Nebraska)
There we go. Thank you. Jamie, I’m an Alcoholic. And thank you guys so much for this workshop, it’s a great workshop.
I had a question to one of the last panels. It’s a question about that they were part of an area that’s in a different location to them because the Oregon area is one of the only recognized online areas. I wanted to know how that works, because I know our group has been getting itchy, and would like to appoint a GSR. But the online group that I’m a Home Group of is “Dawn Patrol.” Originated in Albuquerque, but I live in Nebraska, and we’ve got a really wide spectrum across the U.S. Very interested at how online group operate and work.
And who were you directing that question to?
Melinda F., OIAA TECH: I believe it was Mary.
Yeah, this is Mary. And what we did was we looked. And there’s an area in New York State and an area in Western Washington that both have online districts. We chose Western Washington. But you would, because you’re in Oregon and that is closer to you. Not that we’re… but we just want to feel closer. We’re not going to be with them in-person, probably, and so we signed up through GSO as a Group. And then we got our Group Number, also, so we could have a treasury account. And then we got our registration, and I believe that’s what they call it. We got ahold of just Area 72, Western Washington, and got the registration from them. And you could look that up online, and the District number is 25. The DCM’s name is Frank and he’s very good about talking about groups that want to come in and join them. He will help you get on board. Is that good enough?
Thank you so much, Mary. Okay. So we have Ricky from “Circle of Reflection.”
Rickey, Circle of Reflection Online A.A. Group
Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Rickey from “Circle of Reflection” in Canada in the West Indies. We are, at present, trying to implement some of these safety measures because it seems that we are getting some disturbance from members. So, being here with you guys has been really wonderful. I’ll tell you from personal experience, I have been also a Trustee on the General Service Board in Trinidad. We hosted a convention last year. And I will tell you, something really terrible happened. Someone, was a foreigner, had seen while we were doing that hybrid and screen and stuff… and the stuff they put up was really despicable and disgraceful. You know, I and the other person handling that – we had to boot him and send a report to Zoom. So, there are a lot of… there are people who are… they are just miserable and try to disrupt Zoom meetings. We are… we are like Patrick right now, Internet Man. You know Patrick, what he said, “We’re going to change the new into a new horizon.” That’s what we’ve been trying to do… into a new horizon being with the Zoom. We are around over 3 years now, but the problems we have encountered, and people have… They had encouraged people to leave because of their behavior, especially the newcomers. And we are trying our utmost to try to protect the newcomers with these people. Some of them feel that they are Bill and Bob and trying to force their ideology on the people, which is far from how these structures or what your program is. So, thank you all for allowing us here. We do need advice. If you can come in and do our presentation in our group or guide us a bit, we will greatly appreciate it. That is “Circle of Reflection” online here. Thank you very much, Ricky in Trinidad.
Tom M, Coordinator, GIA
Thank you. Hey, Gerry, we’re only going to have me for one more question or comment. And so, we’re going to take the current person with their hand up, and then everyone else hang on, and we’ll have a session after the meeting that you’d be able to talk or ask questions. But for this sharing session this will be the last one.
Okay, so we have Narace, if I said that right (I hope, I don’t know) from Trinidad.
You said it right. My name is Narace. I’m also a member of the same group that the previous speaker spoke about,
Circle of Trinidad, Circle of Reflection, 198 Group. And just about the first part… This is the first me I am attending this meeting. I would like to say that you know men should sponsor men ideally, and women sponsor women. And now I would think it might also be okay if people sponsor people. Having said that, I would also want to say that the online meeting… We are having a lot of resistance from the traditional, physical A.A. Groups – that structure. Because a lot of people in Trinidad have the belief that, you know, the online meeting is going to detract from the physical meeting groups because a lot of these physical A.A. groups. Because a lot of these physical groups have been entirely depleted over the Covid because they were not allowed to meet. And now some of them have actually closed down. So, the online meeting is being seen as a threat. And there’s still a lot of gray area. How does online meeting associate with a physical meeting? Because we… I think both of them are important. You know. How do we relate? I belong to a physical group. but I also am a member of this online group. And there’s also a feeling that you can’t belong to a physical group and belong to an online group. So, there’s still that need for clarification. And I hope that we can get some help from you people here on that topic. Thank you very much for allowing us.
Thank you so much, Narace. Okay. So we’re going to go back to… I believe we go back to Jane again, or is it Tom?
Tom M, Coordinator, GIA
It’s back to me. Thanks. Thank you so much, Geralyn, for moderating that sharing session. And Arnie, I’m sorry we didn’t get to you, but we’re just way over time at this point, and we have to end this session. But, we’re trying something new today. So, we are going to leave the room open for 30 minutes after this event formally ends. We’re going to experiment with a “Parking Lot” session. We haven’t done this before, but the idea would be just to continue this environment, but it won’t be moderated. It won’t be med. It’ll just be a parking lot session that a lot of us do after our Zoom meetings. And at that point, we will open up Chat and you’ll all be able to mute and unmute yourselves. And so some conversations can continue, and questions can continue to be asked. So hang on until the end of this event. Stay online, you’ll be able to continue.
Alright. What I’d really like to do is give a big thank you to all of the presenters that were here today. They took their me to volunteer and correspond with me and arrange these presentations, and they are the core of what our “Get into action committee” does. Volunteers make presentations, and they’re the ones that share the solution. So, thank you to all volunteers.
Thank you, also, to the people who helped behind the scenes, especially the Tech Team. Great job. And thank you to the Planning committee for the people that came up with these topics. And the next thing is – please remember to take the survey that’s posted in chat. It’s also posted on the agenda. If you downloaded an agenda, there’s a link in there that, if you follow that link, it will take you to a survey. It’ll take you just a few minutes to fill out. I have to tell you how important they are to the” Get into Action Committee” in planning town halls. We ask for your suggestions. We ask for you to volunteer to speak. And we ask for your contact information. And so, please consider volunteering to speak, please consider volunteering to be on our Planning committee. And also, if you have topics to write in, we would welcome those. We all always consult with those topics before we create the panels for these Town Halls. All right, and that’s it.
I think we’re going to end the meeting with… I don’t know that we planned anything to end with… but why don’t we plan maybe the Declaration of Responsibility together. I don’t know if you’ll be able to mute or unmute, but if you’re a Co- Host, you can unmute. If you’d like to say the Declaration of Responsibility with me, great. If not, then fake it, and I’ll say it for you.
Patricia , Maine A28D14
All right. I am responsible when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help. I want the hand of A.A. always to be there and, for that, I am responsible.