History of OIAA – Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous

History of OIAA

In 2023, OIAA was fortunate to have the long-vacant position of Archivist filled. Currently an Archives committee is being formed and historical documentation of significant events are being gathered for inclusion in the evolving History of OIAA.  

The first AA meetings online used Bulletin Boards and were around 1986. Email groups started forming in the early nineties and the development of the worldwide internet rapidly fueled the growth and variety of groups. The first online AA group, Lamp-lighters, was formed in 1990, and has met by email continuously since then. Now there are thousands of AA groups and members, connected together through this Online Intergroup. Using various mechanisms such as video conferencing, phone conferencing, message boards, email list-serve, and chatrooms; the AA community is constantly connecting and finding new, creative ways to communicate the experience, strength and hope of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous.

A brief history of OIAA 

In 1994, the online members of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous began to look forward to participating in the International Convention in San Diego, held in June 1995. Many in our community felt it would be a great opportunity to meet some of our fellow alcoholics face to face, further bonding the close friendships we had made in our online groups.

The Living Cyber Committee was formed in March 1994 to coordinate the hosting of a hospitality suite at the convention. Participation ― or membership ― in the LCC was open to all recovering alcoholics who wished to join. Alcoholics from all corners of the online community ― bulletin boards, commercial online services, and the Internet ― joined in the effort.Prior to the convention, the LCC endeavored to communicate its existence, purpose, and activities to all known online A.A. groups. A Web page was set up. Flyers containing information on how to contact the Fellowship online and how to find online A.A. resources were compiled, printed, and distributed at the convention.

Our plans evolved to include a link to the online fellowship ― to those who could not attend the convention in person. Three computers were set up in the suite and stayed online continuously with alcoholics around the world.

The Living Cyber Suite was a resounding success, providing a gathering place for members of online groups to meet each other in person, usually for the first time. Visitors were given an opportunity to log on to the actual online Fellowship. Those unable to travel to San Diego were able to “virtually” attend the convention through the suite. Two major email groups, several groups from the major online services, and an Internet Relay Chat channel participated in uniting alcoholics from all over the world with the online members and visitors in the suite.

Following the convention, it was decided to dissolve the existing committee and reform. All online A.A. groups were invited to send a representative to the committee. We decided that we should serve as an Intergroup, serving the A.A. groups online.

The Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous now represents scores of online groups with a combined membership numbering many thousands.

Original Purpose and Objectives Statement (written in the mid-1990s)

The phenomena of the new technology of computers, modems, World Wide Web, and Internet communication gave birth to a new medium of exchange through which alcoholics could interact with other alcoholics. Over the last several years, many new online meetings have sprung up which, having no geographical boundaries, were not able to fit the service structures of the usual face to face (f2f) meetings of A.A.. Out of this grew a recognition on the part of many online groups that some form of service group was necessary to assist and facilitate communication and coordination of the cyberspace A.A. milieu. While the official service structure of A.A. is attempting to develop a strategy for including the online meetings within that structure, the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (OIAA) was formed to provide services typical for Intergroups or Central Offices of face-to-face meetings. While most Intergroups serve specific geographic regions, OIAA was established to serve cyberspace.

The primary purpose of all Alcoholics Anonymous groups is to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. Out of that purpose, OIAA has committed itself to assisting member groups in several ways, most of which are related specifically to the medium of cyberspace. Because personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity, we at OIAA are dedicated to assisting and facilitating the best possible unity of service to and for A.A. in cyberspace. Communication and information are two essential ingredients for establishing and maintaining unity; therefore, OIAA is obliged to provide a central forum for the dissemination of information about and for the online community of A.A. and A.A. as a whole.

OIAA currently provides information in several ways, and we are hoping to develop even more ways in the future. One way OIAA disseminates information is the development and maintenance of the World Wide Web Meeting Directories that includes email meetings and groups as well as real time (chat) meetings and groups. Another communication vehicle is the OIAA Unity Committee, which is charged with communication with other A.A. service bodies, such as local districts, intergroups, areas, regions, AAWS, GSO-NY, and GSO-UK. A third form of communication is the OIAA Public Information Committee, which responds to needs at the public level and facilitates public awareness and understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous by means of the Internet, news media, personal contact, or non-AA public functions through conference approved literature, speakers, or correspondence and in accordance with the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, and 12 Concepts of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The OIAA is also in the process of developing guidelines to assist its member groups, future groups, other intergroups, f2f meetings, districts, areas, and GSOs, and AAWS with the ins and outs of the online experience. This may translate into online publication of how-to service pieces on establishing online groups, or dealing with the traditions in cyberspace, or a number of other nuts and bolts issues (like creating home pages, etc.).

Another priority for OIAA is the development of joint projects for its member groups. These would include providing a presence at International Conventions, local conventions and round-ups, and demonstrations of how online A.A. works. OIAA itself was born out of one such project at the 1995 International Convention in San Diego. We hope to provide such a presence at many conventions in the future.

The online phenomenon is relatively new, but the membership of online groups has been swelling tremendously recently as news of its existence reaches the world-wide membership of A.A. We expect this trend to continue and hope that OIAA will be able to provide the cyberspace community with the kind of services such membership will require. It is an exciting experience and one which all of us at OIAA are dedicated to providing under the principles of A.A.’s steps, traditions, and concepts.

Governing Body of the Intergroup and Membership (2000’s)

The governing body of OIAA is the Intergroup Committee. The Intergroup Committee consists of one Intergroup Representative or Alternate Representative from each member group; the officers of OIAA; and the past officers of OIAA (for one year after their term of office). A group is a member group of OIAA by having a representative or alternate in the Intergroup who participates in the bi-annual elections and the business of the Intergroup. However, any online A.A. group which chooses not to participate as a member group cannot be denied the services of the Intergroup (such as listing in the Meeting Directories), so long as they qualify as an A.A. group under the traditions of A.A. and the guidelines of the Intergroup. The primary qualification for an A.A. group is that, as a group, they have no other affiliation (Traditions 5, 6, & 10).

Each group has one vote (through their representative or their alternate) and no individual can have more than one vote ― so it is recommended that each representative only serve one member group. Upon election to an OIAA office, the officer-elect steps down from representing the member group which formerly elected them. In this way, each group is assured of representation specific to it’s concerns and each officer can then address the concerns of OIAA as a whole.

The OIAA officers currently consist of an Intergroup Chair, Alternate Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Historian/Archivist, Listkeeper, and the Chairpersons of our standing committees: the Policy and Admissions, the World Wide Web, the Finance,  Public Information, Convention, and Unity.

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