That other pandemic, COVID, has tyrannically forced us on to the internet and deprived us of that person-to-person contact, that fortifying sense of community, that is essential to our survival.
Last night, I and the other residents of my recovery house saw a man vigorously performing a scatological act on himself. A bathtub was involved. While it’s going to be a long time before I contemplate a bath, it was just another night of Zoom bombing during an online meeting during this pandemic.
Forgive me, but it seems our country, and the larger world, is unraveling at the seams. I often contemplate if we’re living in the end times. The Romans had their day in the sun, and this may be the end of ours. I’d say this pessimistic line of thinking is a consequence of the years I’ve lost to addiction, but I’ve always been this way. My mind is like a jaguar on a treadmill, always moving rapidly but not really getting anywhere.
Maybe my bleak outlook has something to do with the fact that my compatriots and I attempting to scramble out from the cloud of addiction have been unwillingly deprived of our only method for not imploding. The absence of physical meetings has had an enervating effect on my psyche.. We have been relegated to the internet because of an aggressive bat virus. Bureaucratic mouthpieces have told us that meeting in the flesh would put lives at risk. While that’s not exactly false, it is frustrating.The program, which I reluctantly adhere to because I have no alternativehas been deemed non-essential by our government. This action, specifically the government declaring something superfluous for the greater good, strikes me as ludicrous. Tons of Americans, tons of humans, are reliant on abstinence programs to stay among the living. What about our greater good? These abstinence programs are effective in no small part because they garner a sense of community and camaraderie. That in-person contact and discussion, and in a sense shared misery, is mystifyingly powerful. Speaking candidly, I haven’t quite bought into the actual meat and potatoes or concrete sharing portion of these meetings. But I now realize how much I cherish the small talk and cigarettes before and after meetings. A massive portion of the country, the world even, suffers from the disease. That other pandemic, COVID, has tyrannically forced us on to the internet and deprived us of that person-to-person contact, that fortifying sense of community, that is essential to our survival. Governors, and the government, should certainly contemplate the consequences of classifying our haphazard panacea as non-essential. The act of classifying physical meetings as non-essential is only made more aggravating upon considering that cannabis dispensaries were initially deemed essential in California. Recreational cannabis users often claim that it is critical medicine they need to subsist. It should be abundantly apparent to any non-troglodytic governor that meetings should be similarly classified.
The wrench, being COVID, pelted into the machine, being physical meetings, is not the only pernicious issue we face related to this new normal. Zoom bombing has, well, bombed us. That’s precisely how the aforementioned bathtub scene invaded my field of vision. But Zoom bombing goes further than the briefly obscene and crosses into dangerously hazardous territory when these bombers (sadistic teenagers, sad-sack individuals, or I can’t even contemplate the other possibilities that would drive someone to bomb a 12-step meeting) begin harassing meeting attendees through their microphones. I’ve witnessed some truly disturbing hectoring; the kind that could jeopardize already tenuous sobriety during these arduous times. Female attendees are importuned to display their bosoms, traumatic share notwithstanding. Attendees are denigrated for their appearance. F-bombs are flying. I’ve witnessed attendees get heckled to the point of tears and flee the session. Are they OK? I have no idea. But I’m sure the bombers lived to bomb another day. My peers have countless other examples. The puerility is breathtaking, if not surprising
Enough already. Governors, I implore you to lift restrictions on our supposed non-essential meetings. Meetings can meet social-distancing guidelines and take other precautions. They’re certainly safer than church choirs.
I realize that security measures can be put in place within Zoom to prevent bombing, but they are often at the expense of the recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Most large-scale meetings now disable the chat feature of the Zoom call to prevent a steady stream of obscenities and racial epithets from our bomber buddies. As a result, attendees are unable to share their phone numbers quickly and easily, if they’re so inclined. Zoom meeting chairs also now password lock their meetings. This safeguard prevents people who desperately need that camaraderie – possibly to stay alive – from easily accessing meetings. If you’re flirting with rock bottom, you’re probably incapable of fumbling with numbers and words and special characters. Meetings can also be hosted on Skype or other video chat services, but Zoom is by far the most ubiquitous platform currently available. Yes, some preventative measures are marginally effective. The “waiting room” feature in a Zoom call doesn’t prohibit access to meetings, a Zoom host can restrict access to the screen-sharing feature, which prevents hormonal adolescents from punishing us alcoholics and addicts with indecorous videos. But these are all band-aids, inadequate remedies to a paramount dilemma that ignore the heart of the issue. The solution to absurdity is not implementing a proportional amount of absurdity; asking those in the program to forego meetings is exactly that.
 I’ll concede and recognize that I need the core/big book-oriented sharing portion of the meeting to stay in this thing. I would still be watching tv in my underwear pounding Budweiser if it weren’t for the spiritual principles of the program.
 Ideally, COVID made visible wouldn’t take the form of a wrench. It would probably be a soiled adult diaper, but that wouldn’t be feasible within the context of the metaphor, as it wouldn’t break the machine. Instead, it would probably just rip the adult diaper to shreds and regurgitate it as a sort of fecal firework.
 This frustrating phenomenon happens at an alarming frequency. At least, at a much higher rate than it should. Too often the password for the meeting is simply absent from intergroup websites, is outdated, or can only be accessed by emailing the chair of the group, and often the email is conspicuously omitted from the page. It’s ridiculous to require someone who could quite likely be fresh off a relapse to dive through an absurd number of virtual hoops.
 It’s a sad reality that many meeting chairs are technologically inept. Please don’t come at me with ageism daggers out. These hosts are kind, benevolent souls who can’t contemplate, let alone combat, a Zoom bombing in real time. I refer you to Grandpa Simpson trying to fix the family TV in season 7, episode 14.