Unfortunately, zoombombing is so widespread that many people have probably already heard of it. As nearly all of our lives have moved online, some people are spending their time harassing people seeking community in dark times. These people are not just harmless trolls. They are targeting minorities with racial slurs, harassing women and LGBTQ people, and sharing images of people drinking to disrupt AA meetings. Most recovery support groups are meant to be inclusive. AA and other meetings post their Zoom meeting codes online so that everyone who needs a meeting can find one. Unfortunately, this leaves their meetings vulnerable to harassers whose goal is to be as harmful as possible. On forums like Reddit, 4Chan and Discord, users have contests and receive points for different types of harassment. Alcoholics Anonymous is supposed to be…you know, anonymous. People are reporting feeling loss at no longer having a safe space to be vulnerable. People with Substance Use Disorders need connection to stay sober. During this pandemic, everyone needs connection more than ever. Online is currently the only place we can find it. However, there are ways to prevent zoombombers from ruining your support group meeting. First of all, make sure you have downloaded the latest version of Zoom. On April 8th, Zoom implemented several security measures. Hosts and co-hosts can now lock the meeting, remove participants, set up a waiting room where participants are basically screened to access the meeting, and other features. They also made all these features easier to find with a single Security icon visible only to hosts. If you are a host, it’s really important to knowhow to use these settings so you can protect your meeting. Also, if possible, try not to post your zoom meeting code on social media. Instead, post an RSVP email so interested participants can respond. That way, you can vet participants. Obviously, people can fake it, but at least this way you have some control over who is on the call. There are also always other video chat options like Skype, Houseparty, or Google Hangouts. For informal hangouts where you know everyone has an iPhone, you can use FaceTime. But this won’t work for an official AA meeting where you don’t know what products everyone has. While many of us are finding creative ways to connect during this crisis, others are finding new ways to harass people. In some ways, zoombombing is probably the perpetrators’ way of connecting, too—with each other. That’s why they take videos and share them in forums. It’s sad that the only “community” they’ve found is one that encourages and applauds cruelty. But recovery support groups are real community. No zoombomber will change that. If you are someone who relies on AA or another support group, keep showing up. Remember that the moderators are doing the best they can to protect you—because that’s what real community does. If you are struggling with an addiction or a mental health disorder and need further support, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers is open and here for you during this unprecedented time. We are using third-party, hospital-grade sanitization to make sure you feel safe receiving treatment. At our facilities across the country, we will give you the tools to build towards long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.