For some time there have been phone and online OA meetings in the WSO list. I thought that was good idea, but I had plenty of meetings to go to (Austin is blessed to have at least one OA meeting every day of the week), so I didn’t think anything more of it.
Then COVID 19 brought the world to a halt. I had no meetings to go to even if I wanted to leave the house – which was at the time not recommended for anything but survival errands.
Then a couple OA members stepped up and set up virtual teleconferencing meetings. Within a week all of my usual meetings had an online presence. That is when I created the online meeting list on the Heart of Texas OA Intergroup website. The Austin OA fellowship needed to find our newly minted online meetings, and it was the duty for the Intergroup to carry the message that Austin OA hadn’t gone anywhere.
Groups added their online connection information to their WSO listings, leading to overeaters from all over finding and attending our OA meetings. In summer of 2020, some groups had 50 or more attendees, due to the action of the trusted servants of that group to make their online presence visible.
We also had Austin ‘ex-pats’ return to our meetings. It was good to see the faces of people who moved away and they were happy to attend their old home group again.
The scope of our meetings exploded – from all over Texas, the U.S. and the world. New people became a member of our group and of our recovery family. Some local people started or resumed attending because the meeting was no longer a troublesome drive from the outlying town where they lived.
One might call it magic. One might call it a miracle. Or just a natural consequence of modern technology which made it all so easy and affordable. I take “all of the above”.
The meetings I attend are going to be hybrid when we go back to face to face. We have so many friends and newcomers coming in our virtual door and we want to leave that door open for anyone, no matter where they live.
Some 12-step clubs have invested in online meeting support equipment and services so their groups can continue to have their new extended families. I believe this will be the future for many 12-step groups and service bodies – some in the room, others at home on the couch.
That said, there is no substitute for being in a room with your OA friends, some of whom you don’t know their last names. Especially no substitute for getting hugs.
But who knows? Maybe one day a “virtual” person will come to Austin to really learn that when we say “Y’all Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous, Welcome Home” we mean it.