This article is in response to remarks found in the FOREWORD TO FOURTH EDITION by my youngest sponsee, who also works in the computer field while going to college. Like one of my older well-educated sponsees, also gainfully employed in Silicon Valley, he found the format difference mainly in anonymity vs. secrecy, which illustrates why our founders chose the former rather than the latter. When anonymity becomes secrecy on the net, all manner of lies and misrepresentations can arise - with no apparent recourse to the gullible newcomer. Abuses may range from money bilking to the propagation of esoteric effluent. Or worse. The minimal of which might be Saturday Night Live! Listen, if you will, to the prodigious wisdom of a youngster bound for a life of sober prosperity and purpose! - Daley Stepper
Finally! The easier softer way of practicing the AA design for living has been presented. This trend du jour is Virtual Alcoholics Anonymous! That's right! No need to leave the couch - a meeting is just a mouse-click away.
Forget about having commitments at a local fellowship! You can now take on a commitment: Monitor a recovery website. What about meeting with a sponsor? Well, in Virtual AA, you do not have to meet with a sponsor face-to-face. Instead, you meet in a chat room and only know one another by your screen names. Forget about getting your hands dirty helping a wet alcoholic just coming off a prodigious bender. In Virtual AA, 12 Step Work is sending an alcoholic you have never met an occasional e-mail giving him or her great websites to check out. Instead of referring them to a page in the Big Book, send them a link to some website that another someone from somewhere else has recommended. If an alcoholic asks you how to get sober, but tells you that attending daily meetings, having a sponsor, and God forbid a commitment is too much, well Virtual AA is the answer for them!
Sounds too good to be true? Well it is. As I was sitting in my car on Sunday evening, after a Meditation meeting I was reading the Prologue to the 4th Edition to the Big Book. It started off great. I am elated that the wonderful fellowship of AA has spread all across the globe and that our membership has reached over 2 million. Then came the line that states that the only difference between a meeting online and a meeting at a home group is one of format. Interesting, I thought. I reread this 20 times because I thought there had been some kind of mistake. As I reread this line again and again I feel a great sorrow for the future of AA if this is the kind of thinking that is practiced and believed by the authors of the prologue to the 4th Edition. As I waited in my car for my sponsor who by no fault of his own is handicapped and unable to drive was buying groceries for himself. An hour had passed since he went into the store and at least 5 cars had come and gone that were parked next to me. I thought of the endless homework that awaited me at home, and I was thinking of my needs. Of course I realized that to help another alcoholic is not always a matter of convenience. But the joys of helping another alcoholic and the feeling of serenity that I get when I help and am helped is the greatest gift of sobriety. Having a true network of friends, a place to go where everyone knows you, finding a higher power and a sponsor this is the core of the AA program. I live in the Bay Area and work at a High Tech Software Company. I know a thing or two about computers and the Internet. There is a gigantic difference between online 'meetings' and actual contact with another alcoholic. To even group these two mediums in the same sentence is ludicrous. I pray that alcoholics will not die from poor advice such as this. I am afraid though that many alcoholics looking for the easier more convenient way of staying sober will solely attend these online meetings. If I am cutoff from my meetings and my alcoholic network of friends, I am as good as dead. I could not live without them.
A Closing Note
The above article was written by a young man in AA who was quite prophetic in the last line. When farther along in higher education, he was given an opportunity to study in Denmark. It was as if he had fallen into a bottomless pit, for he disappeared from the area and the Internet as well. Several months later, a lone e-mail showed up on my screen...it was him. Without his AA support network, he had gotten drunk, more than once, nearly dying in the cold night of Denmark, passed out near the street. I replied, knowing he had gotten back to AA, but feared he would not or could not stay sober again. Since then, no replies or e-mails have come from his address. This is a case of the only thing a sponsor can do is pray for the lost sheep.