Lessons learned and Zooming the Road of Happy Destiny
Elizabeth R.
 Sentinel Chair District One

One morning, at the beginning of the Pandemic, about four of us were on the 4-D Zoom meeting. We were having much needed fellowship and discussing trivial issues. We were laughing and enjoying just seeing one another, even if it was in little “Brady Bunch” squares on a screen. Then, this fellow clicked into the meeting. He was holding (and sipping) a Bud Light! It was 7am. Our conversation shifted naturally to welcoming him. He told us that he couldn’t stop drinking and that he felt like if he didn’t, he was going to die. He was emotional. He said he needed help. I will NEVER forget the power of the next moments. My friends, my tribe, my family, a group I’m so proud to be a part of, have been taught and believe with all our hearts and souls that … 

I AM RESPONSIBLE, WHEN ANYONE, ANYWHERE, REACHES OUT FOR HELP, I WANT THE HAND OF AA ALWAYS TO BE THERE, AND FOR THAT I AM RESPONSIBLE. 

We snapped into “12th Step” mode and together we became a unified hand of Alcoholics Anonymous. We shifted the topic to the First Step and all shared about how we got sober and even our experiences with morning drinking. We laughed about it but also weaved in the seriousness of this disease. The fellow visibly relaxed. As I was sharing, he paused his video, went to the fridge and we heard him crack another beer. We forged on. This is not something that would ever happen in a live meeting but here we were. Phillip N., a member of 4-D asked the man to get something to write with and gave him his telephone number. He told him, “Call me.”  Mark said he would. He did. The hand.

This man’s name is Mark H. and he has given me permission to tell his story, his beginning, his introduction to AA during a Pandemic. After that first day he came to our meeting every morning for weeks. We allowed him to share even though he was still drinking. We never judged him or made him feel unwelcome. He kept thanking us over and over. This went on for a month, maybe two. JT, one of our regulars, asked him for his address. He took a Big Book and put it in his mailbox. (JT keeps Big Books in his trunk for just this purpose.) Mark was in shock that a man would care enough to do such a thing. He talked about opening that mailbox and finding that Big Book for weeks. We prayed for him individually and together. We addressed the fact that he was still drinking, we offered him assistance with finding a hospital or rehab.

Finally, Mark H. surrendered and through several events, including hospitalization, he got sober. Mark now has just over six months and is a member of Happy Hour in Killen. He has a very different life with his wife and family and we, at a 4-D Zoom meeting, witnessed the entire process. It is something I will remember for the rest of my life. As my sponsor says, “It works, it really does.”

Mark, after bragging about his six months sober, told me this today when I asked if I could share his story, “Every morning I pray to God to help me not drink today because without Him I probably would! Thank goodness I found AA on Zoom or I would be dead by now! I am so thankful y’all accepted me as I was. Thanks again.” 

We call Mark our “Zoom Baby.” We also have another precious “Zoom Baby” from Haleyville. His name is Caleb S.

Caleb S. of The Haleyville Group shared this, “I got sober in the middle of a pandemic, 10-04-2020. It was suggested to me to try some virtual AA meetings and I was introduced to the 4-D Zoom. I was welcomed with open arms and I was on my way to achieving sobriety. I have since found a sponsor, Jamie S., and found a home group in Haleyville, AL. He and the Zoom group have helped me in my Step work. I began chairing meetings in person on Monday evenings at 7:00pm. My life has gotten better than I could ever imagine, thanks to the AA program and my new circle of sober friends… family members. If you have a problem with alcohol and want to try a new way of life, try a Zoom meeting and join the program of AA. It could save your life. I know it did mine.”

I think when we were faced with this seemingly impossible situation, this Pandemic, AA around the world in the spirit of “going to any length” adapted and even thrived.

Kristie M. from 4-D and my co-conspirator in starting this Zoom meeting says, “I can’t say enough about having access to Zoom meetings during the pandemic. I’ve been able to witness people get sober and others continue to stay sober during these difficult times. It has saved lives while being able to follow the “safer at home” order.”

Sandy P. from Keep it Simple says, “The two words that come to mind when I think of staying sober in the middle of a pandemic is change and continue. Debbie S. used to always tell me, “If it weren’t for change there would be no butterflies.” Beautiful things came from change around me and within me in 2020. Looking back over this past year I can see where I got out of my comfort zone – a lot! Zoom meetings were not comfortable for me in the beginning but I took the action anyway regardless of how I felt. Today I feel like a pro and enjoy them! I also got to experience meetings outside while sitting in a lawn chair. We even held one in a misting rain. Now, that is an experience I am glad I did not miss. Sitting with a group of people where we are all seeking God and the fellowship. One word, Powerful! I am grateful for the God given gifts of honesty, open mindedness, and willingness. Honest enough to ask for help when I am not okay and talk about what is really going on, open minded enough to adapt to the changes, and willingness to continue to do what I need to do to stay sober. Thanks, God!

Yes, these times have made us all dig into our tool box a little deeper, pulling out tools that in some cases we weren’t even aware we possessed.

Leah from The Freedom Group, Red Bay says, “Routine is paramount to my sobriety. It provides structure and security to my daily life. The pandemic brought uncertainty and the loss of my usual schedule. I quickly realized that in order to maintain my sobriety, I would have to create a new normal. For me, part of this new normal has been to get involved online. Thanks to technological advancement, I have been able to maintain my connection with not only my homegroup but other groups as well. While I definitely prefer face to face meetings, part of staying sober is learning to face adversity. The pandemic has shown me that with God’s help I can face any obstacle, including a pandemic.”

JT from 4-D says, “The 4-D Zoom meetings have given me a daily spiritual connection that I desperately needed during COVID. We cry, laugh, share and we’ve had several people get sober. I’m grateful and humbled to have witnessed recovery on 4D Zoom!”

Emily A. from Keep it Simple adds, “Recovery looks a little different these days but there are lots of options available for those who are willing to continue taking the action!”

Some of our numbers have not been so lucky with this isolating time. The relapse rate and the suicide rate in our country have risen significantly during this crisis. I’ve heard people who never drank are drinking more due to the stress and solitude we are all experiencing right now.

This Pandemic almost contributed to a drink for Bill C. from Quad Cities. He shared “Who would of thought a pandemic could be the cause for an alcoholic to start drinking again. It almost happened to me. In March of 2020 a pandemic was sweeping the world. It was recommended and even ordered in some areas that you do not go out unless it was absolutely necessary. Though I didn’t know it at the time, AA meetings are a necessity for an alcoholic. I quit going to meetings in March 2020 thinking it would be just for a couple of weeks to a month or two. The problem was I not only quit going to meetings, I also quit studying the Big Book, reading the Daily Reflections and praying. I was doing okay. I went to a meeting in October to celebrate my two year sobriety date and get my two year chip. They didn’t have any two year chips at the time so got my eighteen month chip.  Going to this meeting gave a boost so continued not going to meetings. Then the Holidays came along with the urges to drink.  I thought to myself “I could have a couple of drinks and then start going back to meetings when things got better”. I knew this wouldn’t work because I had taken that one drink in the past and it didn’t turn out well. I asked a co-worker, also an alcoholic, how she was managing her sobriety without going to meetings. She suggested Zoom meetings and said that 4-D had one every morning at 7:00 am. I had been to 4-D meetings in the past so felt comfortable trying their Zoom meeting.  The very next morning, I signed into the 4-D Zoom meeting. It was a life saver for me! I am once again attending these meetings almost daily doing my daily reading and prayers. I no longer have the urges to drink. I want to thank the 4-D Zoom morning group for welcoming me into their group and giving me the support I needed to stay sober.”  

Another 4-D member said, “It has been a Godsend to my recovery to be able to attend a meeting (in my pajamas!) every day through Zoom. It’s been a blessing to still connect with other members of AA even when going to an in-person meeting maybe not be the best decision for me.”

For me, zoom meetings have opened my world in an amazing way. I lived in Paris, France for almost two decades and in New York for almost ten years. I have logged into meetings in Paris and also in New York and found friends I haven’t seen since we got sober together over 25 years ago. I speak to many of them regularly now and I’m even co-chairing a NYC meeting this term right here from Alabama!  My fellow co-chair, who also got sober in New York, is in Chicago now. Worlds are coming together and enriching sobriety for many, including me.

There are meetings on Zoom that go for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve heard newcomers in those meetings say they just keep them running all day and night on their phones, listening to our experience, strength and hope even while they sleep. They say it gives them comfort to know we are always there.

Jay J. from 4D had this to say: “My thoughts are off 85 (page 85 in BB). It’s spiritual program of action, regardless of what is happening in the world. I can’t rest on laurels. All I have is a daily reprieve as long as I carry a vision of God’s will for me into it.”

Jeff F. from the The Freedom Group – Red Bay said, “Prior to the pandemic I’d not heard of zoom. When we began hearing that some meetings were being canceled, I recall saying that taking meetings away from alcoholics could be very dangerous. Within a week or so, our group had an account, and we were learning how to conduct a virtual meeting. It’s been amazing to see how quickly our fellowship, worldwide, added this platform as a means to attend meetings. It has opened a new user-friendly door for us to attend meetings any hour of the day. I’ve been able to see and hear some of my favorite speakers share their ESH. Along with my own group meetings I’ve been able to attend group meetings scattered throughout our country. In summary I’d say that once again God did for us what we could not do for ourselves!!”

One morning we had two women show up announcing they were zooming through 50 States in 50 days. They had knocked several States off their list and found our meeting when they googled Alabama. One lady is a doctor from Massachusetts, and she was delighted with our term “Zoom babies” for our newcomers. She said they had picked up hitchhikers along the way and many of them often meet in different States. She told us that they had met so many incredible people, learned so many new things and felt at home in every meeting they had been to. I LOVE this action of making lemonade out of lemons. These are the kind of people I want to be when I grow up.

A NYC member had this to say, “I think the thing I’m most struck by is the gift of Zoom meetings during a time of such devastating isolation and loneliness for so many people. I know it says something in the very beginning of the book about how recovery begins when one alcoholic talks to another. I suspect many people are extremely grateful for the ability to connect and experience recovery one day at a time through Zoom. It allows for fellowship, which allows for recovery and may make all the difference in the world between life and death for a lot of people.”

So, this is just a little taste of “Pandemic thoughts” from some of our members in District One, Alabama. My hope is that even though these are unprecedented times we can continue to rise to the occasion and make sure the hand of AA will ALWAYS continue to be there.

“We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge (or zoom) the Road of Happy Destiny. May God Bless you and keep you – until then.” (BB, page 164) (with “zoom” added of course)

Beautiful blue sky transcending into a yellow and tangerine haze just above the horizon. Our closest star, this burning ball of fire is ascending with all of its power to wipe away the darkness. As I look towards the sun I am blinded by its power and might. This awesomeness to witness is a life changing event and carries me into a better place. It is going to be a good day.

Poem and Photo
Caleb S. – Haleyville

4-D 2020 “Zoom Baby” 

4-D Zoom Meetings
Daily – 7:00am
ID:                      57857015
Password:       241873
Red Bay Freedom Group
Sunday IN-PERSON & ZOOM
6:30-7:00 Fellowship 7:00-8:00 Speaker
ID:                     101061663
Password:       247476
An AA Group
Saturdays – 9:00 am 
This meeting is closed; only those who have a desire to stop drinking may attend.
Zoom only:
ID #                 947 196 0946
Password       622897

On the meeting schedule page, Online meetings (and combined online/in-person) meetings have a /Online Meeting flag. Click on the meeting to see the meeting details page for ID & Password if we know it. If the meeting is online-only, the meeting place will be grayed out. To view only Online meetings click on the “Type” button (defaults to : “Any Type”) and choose “Online Meeting” or use this link
Online Meeting AA Meetings (shoalsaa.org)

PS:  We speak a lot about the 4-D Zoom meetings in this article but our live meetings are taking place as usual in our meeting hall. A mask is required.

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