The General Service of Alcoholics Anonymous (G.S.O.) U.S./Canada and South Africa functions as a repository for A.A. members and groups who are looking for the shared experience of the Fellowship. As the global situation related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to develop, we are fully committed to continue to serve as a resource center of shared experience to help navigate this unprecedented public health emergency.
It is important to note the G.S.O. is not an authoritative body over our groups, nor does it initiate rules or directives, as each A.A. group and entity is autonomous and decisions are made through its group conscience. Providing guidance on health issues is outside the scope of the A.A. sharing that G.S.O. offers. For anyone experiencing health and safety questions, it is suggested they contact national, provincial and local health authorities for appropriate information.
However, in response to the global outbreak, we do have some general experience regarding how some A.A. groups and members have begun to address this issue. Many are following ‘’social distancing’’ guidelines established by local, provincial, and national officials, while at the same time maintaining their recovery and attending digital A.A. meetings.
By attending digital meetings, groups can focus on A.A.’s primary purpose: to carry its message of recovery to the alcoholic who still suffers. Many groups have alerted local A.A. offices or hotlines if they are temporarily not meeting in their regular space. Some groups have shared that they are utilizing digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or conducting conference calls. A.A. groups are also creating contact lists, keeping in touch by phone, email or social media. Many local A.A. offices, and areas have added information to their websites about how to change a meeting format from “in-person” to a digital platform. A.A. in the digital age has certainly taken on a new meaning in these challenging times.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has been declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act by the South African Government. In line with the government guidelines all face to face AA Meetings have been temporarily suspended and moved to an online meeting format. Groups that run these online AA meetings need to let their Area Offices know about changes to their meetings, and this will in-turn be updated on this website. Below you will find a list of online AA Meetings in South Africa.
There is a restlessness in the Fellowship regarding the reopening of physical meetings via our Group structures nationwide; understandably so. We are all yearning to get back to normal. These are unusual circumstances, unprecedented in our lifetimes.
Decisions have been made, not popular with many, but common sense has mostly prevailed. In the past few weeks there have been numerous enquiries as to when we can open our doors again. There was even a group opening despite pleas not to; the result was disastrous – one member tested positive and the rest of the group had to be tested.
Decisions made by the structures are made with the information at hand at the time; Conference made a decision not so long ago to await lockdown level 2. In between conferences the Board has the mandate to intervene in matters affecting the Fellowship as a whole; this is such an instance. The Board consequently asked the Class A Trustees to approach the Department of Social Welfare and Development to enquire on our status (AA/Fellowship). The Department reverted to inform us opening can only be contemplated after level 3.
Our policy in handling this is therefore correct – it may not be popular or enjoy universal support, but it is legally compliant and is in the best interest and safety of our members. While we all are experiencing frustration, sadness, unhappiness and other negative emotions, we still have resources to comfort each other – sponsors, friends in the Fellowship, zoom meetings, we are not alone unless we choose to be! Even though we cannot physically guide newcomers as is our want, they are not totally left out in the cold – befriend them as best you can in the circumstances and guide them to the best of your ability.
Remember, this too shall pass – bear with this inconvenience for a bit longer and together we shall emerge stronger than before, more appreciative of what we have and thankful that we survived a deadly virus so that we can carry on spreading the message and do what we do best – help ourselves and the still suffering alcoholic.
Thank you to all those in service who are keeping the doors open via technological means, thank you to those who attend meetings and thank you all in advance for your patience, understanding and support. I wish you and your families all the best during these trying times.
Message from the Trustees – 19 March 2020
Dear Area Chairperson,
In light of the number notifications we have been receiving from groups not opening their doors owing to the spread of Coronavirus it has become necessary for The Trustees of the Fellowship to consider contingency plans until the situation returns to normal. We are also aware that some areas/groups have already made plans but importantly not communicated this through to GSO.
We urge you to please ensure that before you start anything, work with the Area Assembly so that we can coordinate these activates in a controlled manner when Area Assembly passes this information on to GSO. The Board and AA as a whole recognise the autonomy of each group and in these challenging times we hope we can work together.