Online AA and NA Meetings

The hallmark of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is their in-person meeting format. People clustered together, sitting in folding chairs in a community room, sharing stories and testimonials, supporting one another in a difficult journey–it’s a powerful thing. But today, the coming together of AA or NA peers might just as likely happen virtually, across a computer screen. The COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns that started in 2020 didn’t launch online 12-Step meetings. But it certainly accelerated the movement. 

AA and the Acceleration of Online Meetings

The first AA meetings online took place on internet bulletin boards in the late 1980s. “Conversations” took place as people posted messages back and forth on a common message board, using a dial-up phone modem. When the worldwide web splashed onto the scene, in 1991, veteran online AA members began working to find a way to allow everyone in the AA fellowship to connect virtually as well as in person. The Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (OIAA) was born. It is now a “clearinghouse” for many AA groups who have an online presence. OIAA maintains a directory of online meetings on its website (, so you can find and join an online AA meeting at any time. day or night, from anywhere in the world.

Before COVID, meeting their peers virtually was comfortable for some 12-Step fellowship members, but most still preferred to meet in person. Then with the 2020 shutdown, everything changed. There were no longer in-person meetings available. Everyone had to meet online–or not at all. 

It was a tough transition because there were no master lists of names and emails. But people reached out to their friends, who contacted their friends, one after another. Via the “grapevine” and through the reach of the worldwide web’s vast messaging capacity, the news did spread. Over the next year, online AA and NA and other 12-Step fellowship meetings began to flourish. 

Fortunately, the results were favorable, overall. A study published in Addictive Behavior, February 2021, and available online at,  reported that “online recovery support meetings are likely to mobilize the same therapeutic mechanisms as empirically-supported in-person meetings”, although more study is needed. In addition, as reported in the Journal of Addictive Medicine, March-April 2022 (available online at, “the majority (64.9%) {of meeting attendees} found virtual meetings were at least as effective in promoting their abstinence as were face-to-face meetings;  and 41.8% estimated the same for newcomers.”

What Platforms are Used for Online 12-Step Meetings?

During the pandemic, the Zoom video and audio platform for joining virtual meetings became the most-used online meeting platform. It remains popular today because it is easy to use; you can see and hear others; and if you wish, you can mute your audio and/or turn off your video. You can be an anonymous “lurker,” for as long as you like. 

Other platforms include Google Meet, Go to Meeting, and Blue Jeans, an encrypted video-conferencing app from Verizon. 

To use these platforms, there needs to be an identified meeting planner who is willing to take on the role of “host,” set up the meetings, bring others into the online virtual meeting room, and be responsible for other technical duties.

Online vs. In-Person 12-Step Meetings: Pros and Cons

Pros of Online Meetings:

•  You can easily find and join a meeting, any time of the day or night, in any location, worldwide.

•  If you live in an area where in-person meetings are hard to get to, you can still attend. (One person reported in an online forum that they would have to travel 120 miles to attend an in-person meeting.)

•  If you are shy, have social anxiety, or are otherwise uncomfortable meeting new people in person, you’re likely to feel more comfortable in your own environment.

Cons of Online Meetings:

•  You need to install and learn to use a web-based video and audio platform.

• The “virtual” aspect of meeting people and engaging in conversations is often not as fulfilling for many people; and it may not be as easy to make personal, long-term connections with others.

•  It can be easy to get distracted by other things (your email, for example).

Online 12-Step Chats and 24/7 Meetings

Another way to connect online is by using Chat Rooms, where you text back and forth online. (Now, many Chat Rooms also have options for sending images, targeting your message to one or more specific people rather than to a whole group, and some even allow video clips to be sent.)

Two good sources for accessing links to Chat Rooms, as well as links to 24/7 12-Step meetings are the OIAA website (, and the website In the Rooms ( 

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