Christ Church

AA meetings are again taking place in Telluride’s Christ Church. (Courtesy photo)

Don’t get “Ted” wrong: Zoom gatherings have been extremely helpful during pandemic.

“Ted” is a made-up moniker for a real person. He’s a member of Telluride’s chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that (like so many others) has pivoted over this past year, convening over the internet instead of in-person.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had anyone that I know of who has fallen off the wagon” over the last 12 months, Ted said wryly. “We haven’t lost anybody back to the debauchery of drinking. Zoom has helped tremendously.”

Even so, “A lot of people don’t like it,” he added frankly. “They want that personal touch. Some haven’t gotten involved with Zoom at all.”

It was welcome news, therefore, when Christ Presbyterian Church — where in-person AA meetings traditionally took place in the ‘Before Times’ — recently welcomed the group back.

“A couple of our members are also members of the church,” Ted explained “We met with Pastor Pat (Bailey) and he said he wanted us back in the church. He said part of their mission is for us to be there.

“I think he understands that in the big picture, we save lives.”

So beginning last Saturday, gatherings have been held at the church (the meetings are still being held on Zoom as well, for those who would like to attend remotely). The Zoom option may disappear, or it could become a staple of AA get-togethers in Telluride. The internet, after all, has enabled members to attend even while they’re out of town.

On Monday evening “We had seven people in the church, and about 16 on Zoom,” Ted said. “There was someone there from New York, and from Santa Fe, and from Vegas, and from Roatan (an island off the coast of Honduras). Right now, we’ll be meeting in the church every day, except for Sundays and Thursdays. On those days, meetings will be on Zoom only, until July.”

The first in-person gathering after more than a year, on Saturday, was deeply moving, for some. “We’re a fellowship,” Ted explained. “A friendship. The human interaction is what makes our fellowship special. My sponsor lives in Ridgway, and he came over on Saturday, and we went out to dinner afterward. A lot of people feel that alcoholics are people who live under bridges and drink out of brown paper bags. It’s not like that all: We’re doctors and lawyers and bank presidents and regular old guys like me. We’re just trying to improve our lives.”

And the Telluride chapter is particularly welcoming. “We’re friendly and special,” Ted said. “I hear this all the time. The other thing, an attendee was in a Zoom meeting who had never even been to Telluride.” This person had simply heard about the meetings, and sought them out. “Part of it, I think is that we get a lot of guests here, being a tourist town,” Ted said. “When I attended a meeting out of state, everybody was wearing cowboy boots. I was the only one in shorts, wearing an earring. But as soon as the meeting started, I felt at home.”

It is a closeness that Zoom helped nurture, but which thrives in person. At the meeting Saturday, “we did these readings, and in the end, everyone chimed in” to the effect that “God would and could” assist if only “He were sought,” Ted said.

That’s the promise of recovery: that help is available to those who willing to reach out. “It makes me emotional, remembering it,” Ted said. “Everybody looked around, and we all just had that feeling of, ‘We’re back.’”

AA meetings in Telluride take place seven days a week. Five days a week (except Sunday and Thursday) meetings will be held at Christ Church, and via Zoom. Get-togethers are in compliance with county health guidelines: Social distancing is observed, and masks are required. If you’d like a list of times sent to your phone, call 970-729-1120.