by Christopher Dale


April 20, 2021 – Undoubtedly, Bill would be impressed with, and grateful for, the technology. But unlike an airborne Washington, for Bill the novelty would soon wear off. “No coffee-pouring or seat-saving? No hearty handshakes and welcoming hugs? No common ground-creating warnings against crosstalk and extraneous discussion? No Steps and Traditions posted on walls?”

 Soon, I’m confident Bill W. would notice something else omitted – something that so many of us have found lacking over the year-plus-long Zoom rooms experiment. Someone as perceptive as Bill would soon realize that the missing ingredients were far more than physical. “Where,” asks Bill, “is the spirituality?” In short order, WWBWD becomes another acronym: WTF. Not “What the f—?”, mind you, but “When the f—?” As in “When the fuck are you people going back to real AA meetings?”

 Let’s be honest: We’ve all heard old-timers in AA wonder aloud what the founders would do when faced with one modern-day issue or another. For one, I’ll admit to rolling my eyes and wishing some folks would accept the fact that we’re far closer to 2035 than 1935. By incessantly theorizing and speculating about Bill and Bob’s intentions, well-meaning AA members have become the boys who cried Wilson. And that’s unfortunate. But this is more important than some squabble du jour. With the pandemic finally winding down, whether or not to continue wide-scale Zoom meetings, even as doing so becomes less and less necessary, has far-ranging consequences. Continuing Zoom rooms indefinitely post-COVID would represent one of the most seismic paradigm shifts in the program’s near-century-long existence. That’s not something to be taken lightly.

If Zoom rooms become a permanent part of AA – if they are “new-normalized” rather than disbanded as short-term necessities – the effects will be far-reaching. For starters, with meetings bifurcated into online and in-person versions, attendance at each will be lighter, meaning less fresh faces and more “same old” stories from well-meaning yet long-winded regulars. 

 But as Bill would have seen as clear as his laptop screen, the more important consequence lies in the spiritual. Simply put, for a sizable swath of AA members, there is a spiritual essence at in-person meetings that cannot be replicated online.

 I cannot quantify that italicized statement. There’s no spirituality meter to gauge, no surveys to link to, no studies to cite. But I know many of you reading this know exactly what I mean. And for those of you who don’t, with in-person meetings returning, I highly recommend seeing for yourselves.