Founded by six people in 1991, Lamplighters now numbers just under 700 members logging on from more than thirty countries around the world. We share our experience, strength and hope with each other over the Internet, via email. Unlike "live chat" AA meetings (of which there are many), email meetings involve using a central listserver to gather our posts and redistribute them to the group, so that everyone can hear every speaker's share, just as in a traditional meeting place.
Since the Internet operates 24 hours a day, members can log on at any time to download their email, then disconnect to read and respond at leisure. Thus they choose whether and when they wish to "attend" our non-stop meeting.
Most of us use online meetings to supplement our face-to-face AA meetings, not to replace them, and most Lamplighters endorse this practice. In fact, we know of many members who, once introduced to online meetings, have experienced a rekindling of interest in face-to-face AA.
There are a few homebound AA members who cannot attend regular meetings because they have limited mobility, or are ill, or live in a remote area, or work at such odd hours that they cannot fit meetings into their schedules. And some deaf members find online meetings very attractive "equalizers" where their deafness makes no difference to their full participation. Online AA groups or "snail" mail AA are often the only available sources of participation for such alcoholics in recovery.
The closed meetings of the Lamplighters Group are open to anyone with internet access and a desire to stop drinking. Our members reside all over the world, and enrich our sharing with their wide diversity of cultural, racial, gender, socioeconomic, and other types of background.
Those who regularly participate in Lamplighters meetings seem to get what they are seeking. Once one becomes accustomed to logging on, downloading group email, reading offline and uploading one's responses or shares, the experience becomes quite "up close and personal." People have shared how they cried when they read a certain post. And we laugh; we identify; we form lasting friendships. This must truly be experienced to be believed by people who have not yet participated in online sobriety.
Additionally, we find that the necessity of sitting down and typing causes us to think through what we say more carefully than is frequently the case in face-to-face AA meetings.
We meet the definition of an AA Group provided by the General Service Conference (U.S. & Canada) that "any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an AA group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation."
Curiously, even though we don't often get to see each other in person, the bonds we form are surprisingly strong. Anyone who witnessed the hugs and greetings at the online groups' hospitality suite at the San Diego International Convention in 1995 would recognize that these people were very close even before they ever met one another face-to-face.
Yes, we do. We maintain a separate list with our listserver for those who wish to participate in business meetings and special group conscience soundings. This separate list is a great convenience since, just as in face-to-face AA, some people choose not to participate in business matters. The business discussions, incidentally, tend to be very lively, just as they are in face-to-face AA meetings and groups.
We have a Chair, Secretary, GSR (General Service Representative), Treasurer, Listkeeper, Greeters, Representative to the Online Intergroup, and many other group officers. Our group conscience on this and other issues is reflected in our Group Conscience Document.
Like face-to-face AA groups, most online groups have separate forums for holding their business meetings and taking a group conscience. As with any meeting or group, anyone can bring up a subject for discussion to the group regarding changing the format or any other issue. Likewise, as with other groups, we also have service rotation and regularly scheduled elections of our trusted servants.
As with face-to-face AA, you may just decide to leave and look for a group you like better. And you can always come back if you change your mind. And if you don't like reading something posted by a trusted servant, or any other member, you can always tell them so privately by posting "outside the meeting." You can also simply use your delete key.
Our members have a choice of addressing the entire group at once (as when sharing on an AA topic), addressing an individual privately (so that others are not privy to the conversation), or addressing an individual within the meeting context so that all can "listen in." It works almost identically to face-to-face meetings in this respect.
We have discovered that crosstalk is particularly suited to the medium of email - and almost impossible to suppress, even if we wanted to. So Lamplighters encourages crosstalk, as long as it doesn't become overly personal, contentious, or gets into outside issues like politics or religion.
By all means, provided they are able to read what's on their monitor! Lamplighters members have seen some amazing recoveries begin with a semi-coherent online plea for help.
Yes. By group conscience, Lamplighters adheres to the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. We are all members of Alcoholics Anonymous and attempt to conduct ourselves accordingly. In addition, many Lamplighters are serious students of how the Traditions can be applied to the new medium of the Internet. And we regularly schedule topic discussions on the "Tradition of the Month."
The Lamplighters Group rents a "listserver," the electronic equivalent of a church basement or other "traditional" meeting place. Through it, we control the entry to our meetings, and request from new members only a statement of 3rd Tradition intent. People cruising the Internet cannot stumble into one of our meetings. They must subscribe to Lamplighters. Subscription, of course, is free.
Curiously, the Internet seems to have the effect of reinforcing the practice of anonymity. For instance, many of us find that being unaware of the race, age, physical characteristics, spoken accent, or manner of dress of our fellow members, makes it easier to put principles before personalities.
We still, of course, ask our members to respect the anonymity of our membership. And alcoholics who for their own reasons require additional guarantees are able to gain internet, and therefore Lamplighters, access under pseudonyms for further protection of their anonymity and confidentiality.
It must be remembered, however, that the Internet is not a 100% "secure" medium, and that, just as with telephone lines, there are always ways to circumvent even the best security.
The Lamplighters carries the message to sober and to "wet" drunks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whenever they log on, we're there. We have seen members get sober online, and we have seen them get drunk online. We recognize that our primary purpose is to carry the message, not to carry the alcoholic.
Members desiring to contribute either send checks to Lamplighters c/o the "snailmail" address of the group's treasurer, or remit funds via credit card, a method particularly convenient for currency conversion. Complete information can be found in section V of our Group Conscience Document.
Lamplighters is in a unique position. Although we are a worldwide group of alcoholics with members in many cities, states, provinces and countries, our only cost is to maintain a listserver, which we rent at nominal cost from an Internet access provider.
As a result of having no local office to support, no coffee or donuts to buy, no expensive meeting location, we currently remit funds above and beyond a prudent reserve to (1) the International Literature Fund (c/o GSO in New York), which provides translations of AA literature for alcoholics outside the US and Canada, and (2) the Online Intergroup of AA (OIAA), the central online service and support organization for online AA groups.
Many of our members use free email providers, so their only expense is an inexpensive computer and modem. Others, particularly those using WebTV, don't even require a computer, accessing the Internet through their television sets. Several members even log on totally free of cost, from their school libraries, public libraries, and similar venues.
And since most of us read and compose offline, connection time charges, where levied, are at a bare minimum.
Since our common welfare must come first, we have entrusted the Group Chairperson and/or the Meeting Secretary, as elected trusted servants, to take the extreme action, when they deem appropriate, of suspending a disruptive member from listserv access, usually for the duration of the meeting (one week).
A disruptive member is one who by his/her actions or choice of words creates a significant negative impact on the welfare of our group. Our group conscience includes guidelines for recognizing and dealing with these rare situations.
There is no reason why you can't have an on-line sponsor. Indeed, we have heard of cases where, paradoxically, the keyboard-and-monitor interface results in less inhibited sharing among individuals than does the traditional face-to-face sitdown. And, again paradoxically, the unlimited access capability of the Internet makes such sponsorship significantly less expensive for people who can only reach their sponsors with toll calls.
Nevertheless, an online sponsor will generally encourage you to get a face-to-face sponsor in your local area. Online sponsorship can be somewhat limiting. Just as we encourage members to attend face-to-face meetings in their area, we recommend having a sponsor who is a local phone call away.
Yes, we do. The following is an excerpt from a page maintained by a member of Lamplighter's Birthday committee:
"The following stories are accounts from Lamplighters Members where people are relating in a general way, how they came to Alcoholics Anonymous, how they got sober, and what it is like for them today.
These pages are here so Lamps members can read and reread their favorite or most inspiring stories.
Whenever you need to hear the positive message of recovery available in AA, you can come here and quietly read about the joy of recovery from grateful members."
Defining a logical place in the worldwide structure for internet-carried AA groups, where there are no geographical borders to facilitate AA's "inverted pyramid" structure, has long frustrated the pioneers of online recovery. Some believe that online AA might develop its own Conference structure and eventually have a place in the World Service Meeting. The Online Intergroup is at work on this issue. Continued help to the sick and suffering alcoholic and active service work will eventually pave the way.
Meanwhile, Lamplighters is listed in the international directories by GSO in New York, and elects a GSR and Alternate GSR, although these officers do not vote in the Conferences of any nation. However, our central general service body, the Online Intergroup of AA (OIAA), maintains liaison with the GSO of the US and Canada, and with other national general service bodies.
Just like television, email postdates the Traditions. We need the Internet because it is another tool for carrying the message. And, unlike "press, radio or films," or TV, email is a very personal medium, better suited in many ways to carrying the message than those mass media.
As Bill Wilson wrote in a 1960 Grapevine article, "Nothing matters more to A.A.'s future welfare than the manner in which we use the colossus of modern communication."
No. But Lamplighters and several other groups have "electronic pamphlets" in the form of websites. Perhaps the General Service Conference will consider a printed pamphlet on online AA in the future.
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