MEREDITH — Susan G. has been going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for 50 years, and never has experienced a time like this, where the organization’s in-person meetings have been canceled.
The group is relying on online meetings and telephone conference calls during the coronavirus pandemic.
Susan, 80, a Meredith resident who asked to retain partial anonymity in keeping with the group’s credo, said an inability to have in-person group meetings is hard, particularly on older people not comfortable with video conferencing technology and to people new to AA.
“I’ve kept my sobriety for 50 years by talking to people and seeing them,” she said. “I feel for . people who came in three or four months ago and are just connecting, but I’m not weathering it very well either.”
She said she recently was on an AA conference call that had 125 participants.
For some people, the ability to attend a meeting amounts to life or death, she said.
“There are people who can do it alone, without a meeting, but they are few and far between. You are taking a big chance. This is a dangerous disease that will put you in prison, in the psychiatric ward, or you die. I was at death’s door myself.”
Susan said she came to Meredith from New Jersey about six years ago, after her husband died. She fell in love with the Granite State as a child when her time at Camp Huckins in Freedom got her away from a tough situation at home and introduced her to music, nature and friends.
Now retired, she worked for many years as a teacher and then as a professional clown.
All the while, AA meetings have been her lifeline. She worries about other alcoholics.
“There must be thousands of alcoholics in real trouble right now, if they can't get on line,” she said. “I'm one of the most untech people in the world. Seniors don't know a thing about it, they didn't grow up with it.”
The anonymous nature of AA means that it can be hard to contact meeting participants after the gatherings are over. This can make people even more isolated during the pandemic.
Other people in recovery, who aren’t necessarily AA members, are also being forced to adapt.
Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Center, said online meetings are being emphasized.
“We are increasing the services we provide on an individual basis and are looking into ‘tele-health’ solutions to ensure uninterrupted access to necessary care,” she said. “Emergency services for individuals in crisis remain unchanged.
“The community-based recovery support services that are generally group-oriented have been increasing on-line meetings to allow for networking without risking the spread of infection through large group meetings.”
Online AA meetings — https://nhaa.net/online-meetings-covid19/