Newly-formed Intergroup of European Online Meetings

 

Groups originating in Europe that meet online have formed an Intergroup to be fully represented in the AA service structure at the level of Region and to support member groups through shared experience, strength and hope. The European Online Intergroup (EOI) will help us to more effectively learn from each other to address unique issues while serving those who still suffer, both in and out of our meetings.

After two years of considering the merits of forming an Intergroup and discussing the purpose and possibilities, a proposal to form the EOI was submitted to those groups that were listed as online meetings on the CER website. Three of the seven groups held group conscious votes affirming their support for forming an intergroup: First164yp (Skype: first164yp); AA Women’s Meeting (Skype: aawomensmeeting), and Saturday Morning Reflections (Skype: saturday.reflections).

In September 2017, we filled four positions, Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and Representative to Region, and assigned a Technical Host to host our EOI meetings and to maintain the intergroup’s Skype account.

Initially, the following groups expressed interest. One subsequently took the decision to join the EOI: Everlasting Sobriety (Skype: FlyingHaggis 671) decided to join in November, Wildest Dreams and Twelve Steps (Zoom online platform), and No Matter What Women (Skype: nomatterwhatwomen). The Topic Discussion (text mtg) group was contacted and continues to receive EOI-related information.

Prior to the formation of the EOI, First164yp was represented by the group’s GSR at both in-person and online CER meetings, and the AA Women’s Meeting was represented by their GSR at the online CER meetings, but this situation left other groups unrepresented and there was a lack of formal cohesion between groups that met online, although many members informally helped new groups more quickly overcome obstacles.

After First164yp was created in 2009, some AA members accustomed to attending meetings in person were sceptical of the legitimacy of AA meetings held online, with some referring to them as “fake”, but thankfully that perception has changed. Our meetings follow a format, have a chairperson, discourage cross-talk, encourage sponsorship, and focus on alcoholism and recovery, i.e., as much like a face-to-face meeting as possible online.

In 2012, a long-standing member of First164yp submitted an article entitled “European wide On-Line Meetings” that was published in AA Service News (Issue 153). This article described meetings originating in Central Europe that are held online, the mechanics of holding these meetings, some of the obstacles they face, and the service provided to members and newcomers who are isolated for a variety of reasons, often in areas where no English-speaking meetings are available.

Through access online, members share their experience, strength and hope, and many members have repeatedly described these meetings as a lifeline. Some members are regular attendees living all over the world, while others find us while travelling or in temporarily isolating situations, such as a member working on an oil rig in the middle of a desert in an African nation, another locked down on a base in Afghanistan, and another providing entertainment as a musician on a party boat cruising the Mediterranean (sounds idyllic to some, but not for a newly sober alcoholic in need of a meeting).

Over the years our groups have gained experience while facing unique problems that face-to-face meetings don’t encounter or very rarely have to solve, such as:

  • How to ensure access to the meeting – though most are now familiar with online tools, such as Skype and Zoom, it wasn’t always the case. For instance, helping attendees learn how to mute their microphones can still be challenging, and Skype presents new obstacles on a regular basis as they “improve” the platform, causing some groups to look to other platforms that are more stable and provide more than 25 “seats” in a meeting. Two groups now provide two meeting “rooms” when attendance is expected to exceed 25;
  • How to screen for individuals trying to gain access to members for the purpose of selling a product (material or religious) or to troll for women – sadly, these have been issues that we have had to deal with. When we encountered abusive members who bothered other members in and out of meetings, we turned to the GB Service Handbook for guidance on how to deal with abusive behaviour and we developed a protocol that at least two groups have adopted and utilized successfully;
  • How to establish a “bank” account for receiving/distributing 7th Tradition contributions that is independent of individuals and provides transparency and accountability, which two of the groups have successfully accomplished. This gained experience was used to create an account for the EOI; and
  • How to participate in the AA structure and to be represented at Region.

From 2015-2017, CER held two of the four quarterly Regional Assemblies online, which made it feasible for groups that meet online to “send” a GSR to at least two Regional Assemblies per year. In Sept 2017, CER decided to hold three of the four Regional Assemblies per year in person and to hold one Regional Assembly online, which made the need to form the EOI and to pool resources more apparent than ever so that we could all be represented at Region.

Since its formation, the EOI held a meeting in November 2017 to finalise the name of the Intergroup and to discuss and vote on other topics pertinent to the function of the EOI. For the first time, the EOI sent the Representative to Region to the Dec 2017 CER Assembly in Budapest, Hungary, which was hosted by the English-speaking Budapest AA group.

We are very heartened and encouraged by the response to the formation of the EOI from both member groups and interested groups online and from CER. We are only beginning, and we anticipate growing and learning more about how to serve our member groups, their members and those who still suffer.

For questions you might have, please contact our EOI Secretary at secretary.eoi@nullaamail.org; our Chair at chair.eoi@nullaamail.org; or myself, EOI Representative to Region, at regionrep.eoi@nullaamail.org.

 

Laura T.

European Online Intergroup Representative to Region

GSR to EOI for AA Women’s Meeting