Support groups switch to meeting virtually and expand network

Published 11:29 am Monday, May 11, 2020

Support groups on the Outer Banks such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon and Nar-Anon have had to make adjustments to their regular meetings due to COVID-19.

Gale, the district committee member for AA OBX, told The Coastland Times that before COVID-19, there were around 100 AA meetings per week within her district, which runs from Hatteras up through Corolla.

“Some groups met every day to talk,” she said. Early on in the pandemic, Gale said some small groups would still meet in person while exercising social distancing.

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However, after the places that would host the meetings began to close their doors, AA members turned to other means of talking on a daily basis.

Currently, most AA groups in the area are meeting via phone conference calls or video calls. “The whole format was awkward at first,” Gale admitted. “There were a lot of bumps, but I think after several weeks now things are running much smoother and in reality, people were just grateful to be connected.”

Pat with Al-Anon had similar sentiments when it came to the changes in how and when groups were meeting. “Not everybody is comfortable [with this new format], but we went from having four meetings a week to meeting every day.”

Large spikes in online usership have shown that more people are reaching out via the internet for support during this time. Gale said that their website is getting around 1000 hits per week, but phone calls are rare.

Pat noted that the general structure of meetings remains the same. There is time for light conversation before the meeting begins, followed by readings, topic discussions and time to share.

“The meetings have settled into a rhythm,” Gale noted. Although the digital means of meeting allows for some to come and go as they please, Gale said younger people especially seem to enjoy the video conferencing method.

“A lot of people have embraced the format and made new connections,” Gale shared.

Pat told The Coastland Times that she has been a part of Zoom meetings with people from all across the country since COVID-19.

“If a person has someone else in another state who wants to join, they are inviting people to come on the call,” Pat explained. This has opened the door for groups to hear from speakers and other individuals not only nationally, but internationally as well.

Jessica with the local NA group said her small community of members have really been able to “branch out” and experience meetings in a way that was not possible before.

She explained that in a recent meeting, a person who was deaf was able to share their thoughts because an interpreter was on the Zoom call. Through sign language, the person – who was never able to share prior to COVID-19 – could now participate.

The local NA group has gone from meeting five times per week to meeting three times virtually. However, Jessica noted that if there was an increased interest from the community, they would consider hosting more.

“We have about twenty people attending on a regular basis and one of the local rehab facilities has been tuning in as well,” Jessica said.

As for OBX Nar-Anon, all physical meetings have been cancelled for the past six weeks. Debbie J. with Nar-Anon said that she has been staying in contact with the group, but no one knew enough about the Zoom platform to have video calls.

“I have a weekly email I send out and people occasionally share something through that,” Debbie said. The weekly emails will include updates and topics for discussion, but are meant mainly to check in on the group.

Everyone agreed that despite the change in format, there is still support for anyone in need. “We didn’t know how it was going to work, but it’s working,” Pat said.

To reach out to a local AA, NA, Al-Anon or Nar-Anon group, visit the following links or email those listed below:

OBX AA: www.aaobx.com

OBX Al-anon: www.alanonobx.com

NA: www.virtual-NA.org

OBX Nar-anon: E-mail debbiehj52@gmail.com or visit www.naranonchat.com

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