We are starting a chat room here on AA Agnostica! And launching it officially today!
All are welcome to participate, of course. We want to be there “whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help.” But we hope to be of assistance in particular to the newcomer who has a problem with the religiosity of some AA meeting rooms, both in church basements and online.
Let me tell you a bit about my own experience.
I started going to online live chat rooms about four years ago. At the time, my girlfriend went off to China on a teaching assignment, and I was left in the middle of nowhere, with long lonely evenings, feeling really, really sorry for myself, even with many years of sobriety.
I have participated in a number of chat rooms since, including AAOnline, stepchat, LifeRing, and a few others, and they were a great help to me in many ways.
Several kinds of recovery related activities happen in these online meeting areas. There are formal AA meeting rooms where shares (typed and with no “cross-talk”) often tend to be not much more than AA slogans. Then there are more open chat rooms where people talk about everything: TV, football, guns, food, etc. That’s fine, since there has to be a place where sober alcoholics can just hang out together. But when newcomers wander in they are lucky if they get two minutes of attention and this often consists of having the Big Book thrown at them by a hardline oldtimer, and being told that “if they aren’t ready to go to any length,” they can go back out and drink until they are ready. I found this approach hard to take.
It is even more difficult, however, when newcomers come in who are non-believers. They often are immediately jumped on by AA fundamentalists, and ridden hard until they leave. I’m not used to seeing a whole lot of this in live meetings (referred to as F2F – “Face to Face” – online) since I live in a fairly liberal area, but I began butting heads with some people in these online rooms. I imagine these fundies come from areas where AA is a lot more conservative, and although there were other easy going people in the rooms, their more relaxed approach often didn’t prevail.
So while these open online rooms were a great help to me, they are also where I began getting radicalized about being an agnostic.
More than I really wanted, really. I just wanted to live my recovery and help newcomers as best as I could, but now I am getting even deeper into taking action to accommodate these new and non-deist suffering alcoholics.
After witnessing and tolerating this for a while I found a place where we could at least have a “Living Sober Room,” a place where we could focus on the newcomers at length and – just like in our Living Sober book – leave the god stuff alone, and help them believe in the idea of not drinking.
You know, sit them down for a cup of cybercoffee, and help them make sense of recovery long enough to get them convinced, more or less, that going it alone is rarely good enough, and that going to live (F2F) meetings would help. Often we’d go online to help them find a meeting, if they dared tell us where they lived. Online you will meet newcomers who are way too scared to ever go to a live meeting. It’s safe because the exit is only a mouse click away, not all the way on the far side of a room full of staring people.
The Living Sober Room (LSR) worked really well for a couple of years, until the two of us who had worked the room regularly had changes happen to our lives that made it hard to keep up with it. My girlfriend came back; my LSR partner got a job.
Meanwhile I would get ever more bristly when god people badgered newcomers in the other chat rooms. But, you guessed it – mostly I bit my tongue.
AA Agnostica has really helped put things in motion. It is helping new agnostic and freethinkers meetings spring up all over. I started one here in my little Northern California mountain village. A few people come to support it from 50 miles away.
But we need a place where we agnostics can all meet each other easily, little by little, network, and share our recovery.
Thus an AA Agnostica chat room.
In many rural places the Wi-Fi speed is too slow for video to work, and that’s where the typing involved in a chat room is real good. In fact, in a group the typing is actually preferable, since everyone can type at once if they want to without it being a real problem, and moderation can be kept to a minimum.
For starters here at AA Agnostica, we are available in the chat room every single day of the week beginning at 5:30 PM Pacific time (8:30 Eastern). This is an open forum – not a formal meeting – with a moderator present to answer questions and, well, just chat. We will be there for at least 1/2 hour, and longer as needed.
We also have a formal AA meeting every Sunday at 9 AM (Pacific Time) (Noon, Eastern). This is a weekly meeting, one hour in length, and it starts today!
To mark this monumental day, and for this day only, the chat-room will be open all day, until 10 PM (Pacific Time) (1 AM Monday, Eastern). For now, all chatting will take place in the Lobby (except for the formal meeting mentioned above, which will be in a separate room).
You can see the schedule on the chat room page. Outside of the meeting and open forum times, when there is a moderator present, the rooms will be closed. If you happen by at those times, check out the schedule, and by all means, plan your return!
You will need to register and choose a user name. A password is sent to your email address (you can change it later). I’m life-j. May as well make it easy for people to remember your name instead of choosing wbratfunk2020 or something odd like that. How am I going to remember your name is Bob? My name is Life. But it’s up to you.
We currently have three “moderators:” myself, Jaye and Annalia. As traffic in the chat room grows we will look to expand our available chat times and the number of meetings. We anticipate the need for more moderators to accommodate this increase and will approach people we get to know “in the rooms,” as they say, with the opportunity to join us in that capacity. Time will tell.
There are several nice features about the AA Agnostica chat room, such as different platforms like Flash and Java. I like Java: you can “float” the chat window independently of your browser, and place it anywhere on your screen, and minimize your browser window, and multitask. You can also open a one-on-one Private Chat – a “pc” with someone – or with several people at once while sitting in the main room, too. And, as needed, we can have different “rooms.” So, for example, if we want to have women’s meetings, they can be set up in a separate room, accessed through the chat room lobby.
If you have any questions or suggestions, or run into any technical problems, you are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to seeing you in our chat room!
And thanks to AA Agnostica for providing yet another opportunity for we agnostics in AA.
In late 2014 we decided to take a sabbatical from the chat room – perhaps a permanent one. If you are looking for other online forums, please check with Worldwide Agnostic Meetings (Online).