One of the good things about the widespread use of internet is online Narcotics Anonymous meetings, which can now be attended by people from all over the world.
I spoke with Chris, who joined these meetings a couple of years ago. After finishing treatment at Castle Craig he couldn’t find a meeting in the area where he lived, so he chose to attend the online groups.
Manuela: Tell me how you started attending NA?
Chris: I started attending NA online meetings in June 2012. I was eight weeks clean. The meetings were browser based: I would open my internet browser, log on and start typing. There was no audio or video. I was attending six meetings a week, with ten to twelve other people, for about six months. Now I’m attending two or three every week.
Manuela: How are these meetings organised?
Chris: Meetings happen at 7.30 PM UK time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Even if we’re UK based, we get people joining from all over the world. Each meeting has a Chair and a Greeter. The Greeter welcomes newcomers and explain how things work. The Chair sets up and conducts the meeting. The floor is open for sharing by typing an exclamation point into the chat box.
After some time we decided to move the meetings to Skype so we can have both sound and text. Now we have moved back to an internet browser programme so people don’t have to download any software on their devices. A maximum of fifty people can join the meetings. At our first meeting with the new system thirty two people attended. That’s seven more than Skype allows without having to pay them.
Manuela: Do you prefer the online meetings to the face-to-face ones?
Chris: Online meetings are not better than face to face. There’s always a benefit of sharing with people face to face and I would always advise it. Online meetings are for people who are unable to join the traditional meetings. This could be because their are isolated, have a disability, are sick, are looking after someone who is sick, or have young kids who need them.
The beauty of online NA is that you are in the comfort of your home, you turn on the computer or your smartphone – and there you are: in a meeting. It would be impossible for me to get to a meeting where I live. Sometimes I attend also Australian online AA meetings which are early in the mornings. The Highlands and Islands group also have a meeting at 1PM (UK time) on Wednesdays.
We also have meetings on Christmas and on New Years Day, which can be very difficult times for a recovering addict. We have a marathon meeting starting on New Year’s eve which goes through The New Years Day, until 1 AM.
Manuela: What do you get out of these meetings?
A lot of positive things come from attending these meetings. You expand your support network. At one point I was having a bad day and I needed advice; through these meetings I found someone who was a few years clean. I skyped them and they gave me some real life advice. I met my sponsor through these meetings. It’s been a great chance for me.