In the recovery community, each and every 24 hours that an alcoholic or an addict stays sober is a miracle to be celebrated. Most AA and NA homegroups, the meeting in which the alcoholic or addict establishes and sustains friendships and accepts service responsibilities, celebrate milestones within the first year of sobriety by handing out “chips” or key tags for clean time.
The most recognized times within the first year of sobriety are 24 hours (known as the “surrender” chip ), 30 days, 90 days, six months, and nine months. At one year, and each year thereafter, the addict or alcoholic receives a medallion to notarize the year or years celebrating staying clean and sober.
“I recently celebrated 14 years’ sobriety. Except I couldn’t actually celebrate, not in the way we usually do in my Twelve Step meetings,” said a member of the San Francisco-based Alcoholics Anonymous group, in a recent Business Insider article. His name has been withheld to protect his anonymity.
“Normally my friends would clap and cheer and hug me while I pick up a chip, as we call them in AA, a copper medallion with my number of years, XIV, on it. But the church in the Castro District of San Francisco isn’t holding my “homegroup” meeting, nor are the churches and recreation centers and meeting halls in New York, and Seattle, and so many other places around the country right now. They are empty of the folding chairs and ancient coffee makers and vulnerable speeches and corny jokes that constitute AA.”
But this AA member, like so many others from all around the world, has learned to adapt in order to protect his sobriety. He celebrated his 14-year anniversary virtually.
“We are all in our separate homes. And that can be dangerous, because alcoholics are notorious for isolating, for withdrawing from social situations — sometimes with a bottle,” he said. “So on Tuesday night, I went to an AA meeting in New York and one in Seattle. And on Wednesday I went to one here in San Francisco. I ‘went to’ the meetings on video conferencing apps, which have been a phenomenon of the COVID-19 lockdowns. The data being shared on Zoom meetings has boomed by an estimated 2,000%.”
Alcoholics and addicts everywhere are finding ways to celebrate their AA and NA anniversaries in a different way, at least for now. And this virtual recovery world has been a thing in and of itself to be celebrated.