Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Internet and AA - blogs...

(Context: for a few days I'm thinking through some perspectives on AA and the internet in preparation for a workshop)

I've been writing a blog/journal for about 7 months and following AA related blogs for about 10 months.  This all started as a part of my investigation of AA principles and to observe what others had written about AA on the internet.

Back then, Google and Yahoo returned, as a part of my search results, several different blogs in response to "AA" and "Alcoholics Anonymous" searches.  There are also lists of blogs around recovery themes on AA related sites.  I found a few folks who had regular blogs that I could relate to their experience and I liked their style, read some of the blogs linked to off their pages and started following several  regularly.

I selected Google as a blogging platform because it seemed to be the largest free blogging site that seemed, at that time, to minimize commercial crap linked off my blog (if I so chose).

One could probably write several books about why people blog and what drives people to post articles to the internet on a daily basis.  In fact, as I was writing this article, Mary L. posted an excellent article which is far more studied and academic than I could muster about this part of the communication revolution.   Some generalities I've drawn from observing others' blogging and sharing their AA experience are:
  1. People blog about their lives in and around AA for a number of different reasons. Those bloggers I follow who blog about their lives in AA regularly (daily or nearly every day) seem to track in some common themes:
    1. Some just review their daily lives in recovery and try to share "what's up in my day" - probably bad meeting topics (in my opinion) but it's nice to hear and encourage one another (via articles and comments) along the way.  Probably more analogous to the sharing at coffee or between meetings than meetings, per se.
    2. Some try to support AA and individuals in AA by encouraging folks toward working a program of recovery.
    3. Some use their blog as a part of or a replacement for their personal journals of recovery.  Articles including "gratitude lists" are common.
    4. Some try to entertain as well as (or sometimes instead of) intimate sharing of themselves.
  2. While many blogs generally follow one of the tracks above, most vary.  Some vary daily.
  3. It seems important for some to share intimately while others steer clear of honest intimacy - possibly due to privacy or anonymity concerns.  Of course, one of the truths about the interenet is that it's possible (probably likely, in AA circles) that some share dishonest intimacy ("Anyone can be a Las Vegas show girl on the internet...").
  4. It is really possible to "connect" with people through their writing.  In 9 months, I've grown to care deeply about several individuals through reading of and about their lives.
  5. I can see where some people, who probably are not able to get to meetings as easily as I, could substitute this sort of fellowship in their AA programs.
  6. Occasionally (~4 times in 9 months in my circles), someone new to AA or sobriety tries to reach out for new recovery in this community.  The process online is much the same as at my home group - a few folks try to reach out and make suggestions about where and how to start.
When I review the above, I think the same could be generally said as I look around the room at any AA meeting I go to.  More on this in a later article....

When I started this blog, it was to explore the application of AA's principles in my own life and in an AA life in general.

My own experience blogging has left me with the following thoughts/perspectives (in no particular order):
  1. It has been much more successful for me than keeping a "journal".  Even before my recovery started, I tried several times to keep a personal diary/journal and have failed miserably every time I've tried.  I just seem to have no discipline at keeping a journal but I have been able to write a blog article about 90% of the days for over 6 months.
  2. Most of what I write is of the "what's on my mind" variety but I've written things that were important for me to share.  Since my sponsor lives out of town, this has been useful and probably kept me more "current" and "accountable" than I have been the past few years.
  3. It is just damn hard for me to think of something worthwhile to share every day.
  4. It is also hard to find the time to write something that is not total garbage in the middle of a busy life.
  5. I often find it as important or more important to comment on others' articles than write one of my own.
  6. My understanding of the principles in our wonderful program has increased.  Interestingly, these principles inform and support my online life as much as other parts of my life.
  7. I've had an opportunity to "meet" some wonderful people I'd have never had the chance to connect with.
  8. I've grown toward and become open to what seems to be "next" in my life.
So, as a result, there are pluses and minuses  in this experience.  On the plus side:
  1. I've grown through both reading and writing in the blog community.
    1. I've become a better typist.
    2. I've learned some new words.
    3. I probably express myself in writing better now than I did 7 months ago.
    4. I've learned to not take myself too seriously in yet another venue.
  2. I've learned to appreciate that our traditions apply online as well as in person and, when applied, lead to a better blog and blogging community.
  3. I've "met" some new people I truly love.
  4. I've felt useful.
  5. It has contributed to my peace and serenity and hope.
There are also some negatives:
  1. Blogging is clearly (for me) somewhat self-indulgent.  For this alcoholic, anything this self-centered can be dangerous.
  2. It takes a lot of time.  On a good day, it can take about an hour to read the ~6-7 blogs I follow and generate an article.  On other days, it can take nearly a full day.
  3. I have, in fact, avoided some "face" time with drunks or family in favor of participating in my blogging community.  While I'm listing this here as a negative (because I think it probably is for me generally), I don't think this is always negative - for me or others.
  4. I really don't come here to get contrary views.  (e.g. I've deleted comments that were not in keeping with the spirit of what I'm about here.)  IF this were the only place I sought support in my AA program, I think I could get pretty sick.
  5. Few bloggers seem to support any sort of "singleness of purpose" regarding their AA message in their blogs.  While this may be no more of a problem with blogging than it is in AA meetings and conventions, I believe that some, deliberately or inadvertently, may dilute their effectiveness in sharing AA by sharing other items outside of AA.
  6. There are many, what I would call, "anonymity breaks" in the blog world.  I appreciate that not all would agree with my perspectives on either the definition of anonymity or the importance it has in the program of AA.
So, there are good and bad efforts in participation in AA, both in person and on the internet.  An AA General Service Trustee reported that one of the Area Delegates to the 59th General Service Conference in May was blogging about the proceedings as the conference was happening.  While I accept that this could have happened (in my opinion, some Delegates are less clued in than the average member about AA traditions and practices), I spent a good part of a day looking for such a blog and expect that, if it were true, it was in a blog that is not open to the public.

Tomorrow, I'll try to write an article on AA members' participation on social networking sites.


dAAve said...

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Just like in real life.

Mary Christine said...

Thanks for summing up a lot of my experience as well.

Steve E. said...

You really put some work into this Ed, and I appreciate it as well as many who read and do not comment--A lot to think about here. Thank you.

On a lighter note:


Mary LA said...

Thanks for the link Ed -- interesting topic, isn't it?

Scott W said...

Good coverage, thanks.