Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have changed drastically during the coronavirus pandemic. What once was an in-person safe space is now a socially distant Zoom call. Since shutdowns began, Alcoholics Anonymous has struggled to connect with new members, and experts fear many aren’t getting the help they need to stay sober, according to the New York Times.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are a staple of the program. And while Zoom meetings could be an asset and help members access meetings at any time, non-members started infiltrating meetings and breaking anonymity, according to CNN. Organizers started using passwords for meetings after outsiders started crashing meetings, but passwords consequently have made meetings less accessible.
Passwords are used to protect members’ anonymity, but they can also create a barrier for new members. AA meetings typically aren’t advertised, but spread through word of mouth referrals. If potential new members are social distancing, it’s harder for them to find the right password to join a meeting.
And while it may be more difficult for new members to find an AA meeting, experts think there will be a surge in attendance once social distancing restrictions are lifted. Experts theorize that stress from the pandemic and economic crisis is causing more people to drink excessively and depend on alcohol. Alcohol deliveries have increased during the pandemic, and it’s easier to drink in excess alone in one’s own home.
When AA will resume in-person meetings will vary by state. But most states have begun lifting restrictions already, so meetings may resume sooner than expected.