SECRET PASSWORDS –
May 12, 2021 – The switch from in-person to online at the onset of the pandemic was overnight. “It all happened really quick,” recalls Anne, the group’s elected “overall chair” for 2020. (All names have been changed or abbreviated in accordance with the interviewee’s wishes.) “When we got the call from the church saying we were shut down, we got it that day, like two hours before our Sunday meeting. It was all very trial-and-error, let’s just get it up and see what happens.” Without a clear protocol or time to convene for a vote, Anne and a core group of attendees made an executive decision. “I remember feeling anticipatory anxiety. My biggest concern was not just that we were going to lose our space, but how are we going to let our constituents and newcomers and anyone who wants to attend our meeting, [know] where and when and how to find us? We didn’t have a mailing list. We weren’t allowed to leave signs up. We weren’t even allowed to access stuff in the church—they just locked the doors and that was that. So it was very fly by the seat of your pants.” AA’s most famous step is the ninth, the one about making amends. But tucked at the very end of the list is step 12, with its decree to “carry this message to alcoholics.” Whether by helping to run a meeting, sponsoring newcomers or just bringing cookies every week, service is an essential part of recovery. This dictum is expressed more casually as “service keeps you sober,” and when I hear Anne recall the stress of those days and weeks in March, I’m reminded how impactful this group effort is.