The Power of Online Meetings

The first online voice AA meeting in Europe, first164yp, was started in January 2009 as a Monday night meeting on free Skype by Dallas T., an American living in Milan, Italy, who had just served as the Young People’s Contact for the Continental European Region (CER). Hence, the ‘yp’ in the name.

At the beginning, there were technical challenges. Skype had its limitations. Our computer devices, connections to the internet, and internet provider all had limitations.

However, like Eric Yuan the young man in China seeking a better way to see his girlfriend thirty years ago other than via a ten-hour train ride, Dallas had a vision to provide a weekly English language AA meeting for English speakers in Europe who were not close to or could not get to a face-to-face English language meeting due to personal conditions such as disability or being a single mother at home with young children. He then left what he had started to others to pursue studies abroad, and today, deep into the pandemic quarantines, first164yp continues to be a ‘god-send’ to many alcoholics in recovery. Hardly a week has gone by in first164yp’s nearly 12 years when somebody doesn’t express how first164yp has saved their life and is continuing to do so.

Greeted with enthusiasm by younger members of AA around Europe in 2009, the idea of online meetings met resistance as ‘fake AA’, similar to the ‘fake news’ diatribes we later heard from power-driven politicians. We explained that we were not trying to replace face-to-face meetings, but to offer more alternatives for sharing experience, strength and hope in recovery from alcoholism and for carrying the message of AA.

Meeting attendance nevertheless waned, but we publicized the meeting on the CER website https://alcoholics-anonymous.eu/and attracted new members, and the meeting survived. A meeting group conscience was taken and together we created an AA group, created the first 7thTradition collection in Europe, and expanded to offering meetings five nights a week. The challenge was and still is to attract a stable, reliable cohort of trained tech hosts. As more were attracted to first164yp, the group conscience made the bold decision to offer ten meetings a week – two simultaneous meetings Monday through Friday at 20:00 CET (Central European Time) (GMT+1), first164yp and first164yp2. Our technical coordinator sends out a weekly schedule to all tech hosts and the tech host team is connected today in a WhatsApp group to instantly text each other if a last-minute substitute is needed or a tech host is encountering technical problems.

Attached is a pdf document showing first164yp over the past two years. Meeting attendance gradually rose to an average of 250 participants per week (25 per meeting) before drifting slightly downward. Then the pandemic hit in March 2020, quarantines were imposed, and our two simultaneous meetings suddenly shot up to 90 participants each. We quickly opened first164yp3 to address the explosion of demand for online meetings and kept that open until shell-shocked face-to-face groups discovered for themselves either Skype started by a Swede, Dane, and a bunch of Estonians or Zoom started by Eric Yuan.

Today, demand is back to pre-COVID ‘normal’ of three years back of around 140 participants per week, an average of 14 per meeting, ranging from 8 to 28 per meeting. There is usually a core of regulars, a wider circle of frequent attenders, and always someone new to AA or new to online meetings.

Below is our group-conscience-designed first164yp meeting chairperson’s script that has been fine-tuned by the group conscience throughout our nearly 12 years of experience. The last update was May 2020. Please feel free to use it and adapt it to your group’s needs.

May we all continue to ‘carry the message’ through whatever media becomes available as humanity continues to progress in offering ways to connect with each other. Bill Wilson would have been thrilled.

Daniel F., Belgium

Welcome to the ________ (Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs or Friday) night First164yp online meeting. My name is ________, and I’m an alcoholic. (Allow time for greetings from others)

I’ll be your chair tonight, and ________ is our technical host.

Please help me open this meeting with a moment of silence to remember the still suffering alcoholic in and out of these meetings followed by the Serenity Prayer:

(To be inserted by technical host into the Skype chat):

*Serenity Prayer (from page 125 of the 12&12)*

God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courage to change the things we can, And wisdom to know the difference.

*Alcoholics Anonymous Preamble (from the Grapevine)*

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

 

Before we introduce ourselves and say where we are calling from, please remember to mute your microphone when you are not speaking and to turn off all other internet applications. If your connection is dropped or click on the green ‘join’ button in the top right hand corner of your screen, or send a re-join message. Also, please leave the responsibility of bringing attendees into the meeting to the technical host. If you know someone who wants to attend but is not on the first164yp Skype contact list, tell him or her to send a contact request asking to join the meeting. Are any of you unfamiliar with how to mute your microphone?(Let tech host describe)

My name is ________, and I’m an alcoholic in ________ (location).

(Then, tech host asks each person by name to introduce themselves and where they are calling from.)

 

Are there any newcomers to AA for whom this is their 1stmeeting, or anybody with fewer than 30 days of sobriety? This is not to embarrass you, but so that we can get to know you better.

This is a 1-hour meeting. Please consider the number of attendees and limit your share to a maximum of 5 minutes (Note: sharing time of 3 minutes for larger meetings).
If you are reaching this time the tech host or chair will ask you to bring your share to an end. Before sharing a 2ndtime, please wait until everyone has had a chance to share. If you have been drinking today we would urge you to stay and speak to someone after the meeting.

In this meeting, we speak about our own experience, strength, hope and feelings. We accept without comment what others say because it is true for them, and we work towards taking responsibility in our own lives, rather than giving advice to others. Our personal conduct in AA matters, please be considerate, tolerant and avoid abusive language. We also ask that you not use emoticons or animations, which decrease the bandwidth. In keeping with our primary purpose to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety, please share on alcoholism and recovery.

 :05(Chair introduces topic or reads from AA literature followed by a briefshare)
 :15(Chair opens meeting for sharing)
 :53(Chair prompts those who haven’t shared and asks if anyone has a burning desire)
 :55(Closing)

Are there any AA-related announcements? (Announcements inserted by tech host into chat)

Who would like to volunteer to chair next week? (Chair asks someone if necessary)
(Please note that there is no formal sobriety requirement to Chair a meeting)

Our 7thTradition states that, “Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions”

Contributions are used to pay for our Intergroup Region Rep to represent us in-person twice/three times a year at Continental European Region (CER), and to contribute to AA as a whole through CER. Email first164yp.treasurer@nullgmail.comfor the latest Treasurer’s report. Please see the chat box for steps on how to make a donation using PayPal.

(To be inserted by technical host into the Skype chat)

*Steps for making a donation: *

1. Log on to your PayPal account (paypal.com will redirect to your country/region equivalent).

2. Click on ‘Send Money’.

3. Enter first164yp.treasurer@nullgmail.comand the amount.

4. Choose ‘Send money to family or friends’.

5. Enter a message (optional) and send.

6. You do NOT have to maintain a balance on your PayPal account. You can pay with a credit or debit card for a small fee.

 

The first164yp AA group suggests sponsorship. A sponsor is someone who shares with you what they have done using the twelve steps of AA to stay sober. Would everyone who is available to sponsor please type your name in the text box. If you would like a sponsor, ask someone whose story you can identify with if they would be your sponsor. A temporary sponsor is also an option. For more help, contact help@nullalcoholics-anonymous.eu

(To be inserted by technical host into the Skype chat)

*Questions and Answers on Sponsorship *

https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf

Chair choses ‘A Vision for You’ or ‘Promises’ (To be inserted by technical host into the Skype chat) then reads or asks another to read:

*A Vision for You(from page 164 of the Big Book) *

Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man or woman who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you until then.

 

[9th step promises below]

*The 9th Step Promises (from pp. 83-84 of the Big Book)*

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through! We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

 

Opinions or interpretations are solely those of the individual. No one can speak for the group or for A.A. as a whole. In keeping with our singleness of purpose, anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. What you hear here, who you see here, when you leave here, let it stay here. Please join me in closing this meeting with the Serenity Prayer:

*Serenity Prayer(from page 125 of the 12&12) *

God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courage to change the things we can, And wisdom to know the difference.

 

Here are current end-of-meeting announcements:

*First164yp AA group ANNOUNCEMENTS (December 2020)*

1) If you would like to be added to the first164yp emailing list to receive occasional group announcements (blind-copy), send an email to the Group Secretary at  first164yp.secretary@nullgmail.com

2) WE NEED MORE VOLUNTEERS TO TRAIN AS TECH HOSTS
Please contact Our Technical Coordinator on first164yp@nullgmail.com
Requirements: 6 months of sobriety; strong internet connection preferably in Europe (consistently more than 10 Mbps download speed > test connection at http://www.speedtest.net).
We do need tech hosts to enable the meetings to continue with our two simultaneous meetings Monday through Friday.

3) Our next business meeting is Monday, 22nd of February 2021 at 21:05 on first164yp2.

4) Further online meetings can be found under these links:
for Europe: https://alcoholics-anonymous.eu/online-meetings/  and
Worldwide: https://aa-intergroup.org/oiaa/meetings/

5) Our meetings start at 8pm CET = GMT+1 (That is the time in Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome). If you are in a different time-zone you can check the time where you are via this link: http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/