Since the start of the pandemic, alcohol consumption and sales have skyrocketed in the United States. Many Americans are using alcohol and drugs to cope with the distress of quarantine and social distancing. Although substance abuse is still on the rise, there are still many paths to recovery with long-term outcomes like rehab and 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Support Groups in the “New Norm”
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are important communities of individuals who struggle with addiction. These 12-step programs are self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and readily-accessible in every city and state. These meetings are critical to the recovery and well-being of those leading sober lives. AA and NA meetings are usually held in public spaces on a weekly basis. However, many who are new to the program tend to attend meetings when they need it most, which can be more than once a week.
Support groups like AA place a significant emphasis on the importance of in-person attendance in order to build supportive relationships. However, the ongoing pandemic has completely changed the operations of support groups by requiring them to take a virtual approach.
While many support group members are grateful for the options available for continued support, there are quite a few difficulties other members are facing. Here are a few reasons why virtual support meetings are failing those struggling with addiction:
A Lack of Personal Connection
One of the most common—and valid—grievances support meeting attendees have about virtual sessions is the lack of personal connection and authenticity. While a great effort is being made in unprecedented times, these online Zoom support groups simply don’t feel like the real thing. Support meetings like NA and AA are deeply rooted in both physicality and spirituality — making the act of going to an in-person meeting incredibly important. Members need the social interactions that come with the meeting, as it’s integral to the recovery process.
Social interactions play an influential role in support meetings, and, unfortunately, Zoom meetings make that difficult. The handshakes, hugs, and small talk that are always looked forward to before and after meetings are now no longer feasible. That’s not to say there’s zero social interaction via virtual meetings, but it’s certainly challenging to have one-on-one exchanges when there are 10+ people in the same chat room.
A Lack of Digital Connection
While virtual meetings make physical connections hard to come by, difficulties with digital connections also exist. Support groups are filled with individuals of all ages, addictions, and afflictions. It may be easy for younger attendees to adapt to the digital necessities the global pandemic has brought on, but long-time veterans are having a bit more trouble. Technology barriers do exist for those who are not well-versed with computers and smartphones, which only leads to frustrating online meetings rather than helpful ones.
Technology isn’t perfect, and video platforms like Zoom still have a lot of adjustments to make in order to provide a seamless experience for all users. Connection problems will occur from time to time, and large groups may even be susceptible to members getting bumped out of the meetings. Not to mention, video lags, freezes, and audio problems tend to occur quite frequently. How can attendees get the support they need during their sobriety journey when most of their meeting time is disrupted by connectivity problems?
No More Anonymity in AA
A significant component to recovery support groups like AA and NA is their anonymity. It’s something that every member takes very seriously, as it’s one of their founding principles. With online group counseling meetings, this anonymity is compromised. There are security settings that can be put in place to keep meetings closed and monitored for non-members; however, these settings aren’t always fool-proof, and the wrong people can stumble into these meetings.
Additionally, many video platforms show the first and last names of each attendee in the meeting. Many in recovery support groups don’t feel comfortable giving their full name to their group or even use a pseudonym, and, now, virtual meetings jeopardize that courtesy. It’s important to note that many platforms allow users to adjust their account settings, but, as stated earlier, not every attendee is tech-savvy enough to change it — or even know about this available function.
While virtual therapy groups are adequate compromises for the unfortunate and overwhelming times we are in, they do have relative setbacks. Working the steps virtually is a big transition for many and one that proves to be difficult. Although the intention remains and the AA principles stand strong, many individuals are struggling to stay sober. The critical elements of in-person meetings simply can’t be replaced with virtual ones. We cannot underestimate the power of human connection, and, unfortunately, the long-lasting pandemic is hindering that ability.
Contact Find Addiction Rehabs Today
Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? Contact us at Find Addiction Rehabs today. We are here to help you locate the best rehab or detox facility that is tailored to you or your loved one’s specific needs. Sobriety is right in reach; let us help you start this important journey.