The 17-Year Itch

Across the eastern United States, cicadas are beginning to free themselves from their self-induced isolation, bursting from the earth after seventeen years of hibernation. They’ve spent far too long alone, deep within the comforting embrace of mother nature. They yearn for freedom. To live their lives, to further their species, to break free from almost two decades of solitude.

I guess they’re not so different from us.

16 months ago, we found ourselves facing difficult decisions in uncertain times. There was, most of us believed, a virus working its way through the elderly, the sick, the frail, the irresponsible, and the unlucky alike. Alcoholics and addicts — not cohorts known for dealing with immensely stressful crises well — found themselves cut off from the fellowships they relied on.

People working 12-step programs found the landscape of recovery changing. Face-to-face meetings became irresponsible or dangerous — if not for you, then for the people you could potentially infect later. It just wasn’t feasible to sit in a small, poorly circulated room with a dozen other people who’d all shared air with a dozen people themselves today. My meetings were bad enough with smoke. Now there was something worse floating around.

We’re a creative species, though. We adapted.

There were a lot of things people didn’t do online in the old days (for our purposes, this would be earlier than March 2020). Ordering your groceries from the internet so you don’t have to walk the aisles at Whole Foods was for hermits. Paying for someone to bring you a banana milkshake (like, right now) was frivolous. Expecting to watch brand new feature films on your couch was for the wealthy, or the legally creative.

Luckily, this community and others like it were already established, providing a service to the addicts and alcoholics of the world. Perhaps you needed a supplement your face-to-face meetings, or transportation was an issue, or you found yourself in a situation where you needed to reach out to someone, anyone, that really understood — right now, no matter the time, the date, or the weather. You could find support at any time, from anywhere.

This fellowship certainly wasn’t immune to changes in response to having so many join us so quickly. Some people still wanted to have a specific kind of connection in their meetings. They wanted to see the people they were speaking to. Zoom became a part of this community, just as it did in so many others. The people of the world who make themselves look presentable to sit in chairs in front of books had recovery needs, too.

I know how important it was for me to have such an accessible community, having spent a lot of time in hospitals. With the advent of Covid, the rest of the recovery-seeking world found out how essential places like this were, too. 2020 wasn’t a very good year, but places like this site made it a little bit better. More tolerable. Even if I’ll never understand the appeal of Zoom. You don’t need to see my collection of bigfoot t-shirts.

As we find ourselves on the other end of this thing, face-to-face meetings are opening once again. The bad coffee, the stale smoke, and the squeaky chairs are all returning. That awkward moment where nobody really feels like reading “how it works” is back. Time to hold some clammy hands.

I’m not sure this will be to our online community’s detriment, though. Meeting in person is a big part of recovery, sure, but being a part of this community is a big part of it too. Besides, Brad just showed me how to fix the bot. Can’t miss that.

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