Inside an AA Meeting

Recovering from alcoholism is virtually synonymous with AA. Although many people are familiar with the idea of Alcoholics Anonymous, fewer people know what goes on behind closed doors. Getting familiar with the ins and outs of an AA meeting might be boost people need to start attending themselves.

What is AA, Exactly?

AA is Alcoholics Anonymous, an international group devoted to helping men and women stay on track after struggling with alcoholism. AA has been around since 1939, and it has helped millions of people with their recovery.

AA does have several books that help with sobriety, but the meetings are a huge part of the process. During an AA meeting, participants stay anonymous, respect one another and share experiences. AA meetings are a way to stay on track, keep up sobriety, get help and offer help to others who are struggling.

There are No Fees and No Registration Required

Some prospective participants may want to attend, but don’t know how to sign up or what it might cost. Fortunately, there is no need to do either. Registration is not required for any AA meetings. Anyone who wants to attend is free to do so, regardless of any factors.

In addition, there is no cost to attend an AA meeting. However, the meeting may pause at some point for a cash collection. This is because AA is self-sustaining, and operates just on the donations of its members. New members are discouraged from donating, and even long-time attendees will find that a donation is completely optional.

You Can Decline to Speak

There are many different ways to benefit from an AA meeting. Having the chance to speak, and to truly be heard, is just one of them. No one is obligated to speak during an AA meeting.

Typically, a meeting will begin with an introduction by the chairperson of the group. Then, individual members will be called on or volunteer to introduce themselves and speak. Anyone who wants to speak usually has a time limit of three or four minutes to share. They are encouraged to keep the topic to alcoholism and recovery.

Those who don’t want to share can introduce themselves by name and then decline to speak. It is perfectly acceptable, and even common, for members to skip this step. Sometimes, just being in the group environment is enough to stay on track. Participants are encouraged to act in whatever way will help them be most comfortable while sustaining sobriety.

Identifying Yourself is Beneficial

One step that all participants can embrace is the introduction–no strings are attached. Also, it helps to be open about the individual recovery process. For instance, the chairperson or leader of an AA meeting might ask for people who are first or second-time attendees to raise their hands. It’s entirely optional whether you decide to respond.

Singling out travelers or newcomers isn’t to embarrass them out or shine a spotlight. Instead, it is to ensure that these participants have all the necessary resources. Newcomers might get lots of phone numbers from long standing members who are happy to serve as mentors. Newcomers can also get information about additional local meetings or support groups that might be helpful.

Types of AA Meetings

The specifics of an AA meeting will depend on what kind of meeting it is. Not all AA meetings are the same, and there are many different varieties.

Most AA meetings are called ID (identification) meetings. This is a more traditional meeting variety, and it revolves around all the participants speaking. There is some discussion, but there is no set lesson or curriculum to follow.

There are also speaker meetings, where just one person speaks throughout. Often, the speaker is someone who has had a very successful recovery and wants to share their story.

Other AA meetings are devoted exclusively to those completing the 12 steps. They might be focused on one step in particular, or they could be simply geared toward newcomers.

There are also open and closed AA meetings. An open meeting, as the name suggests, is one that anyone can attend. Closed meetings are rare, and they are exclusively for those who identify themselves as recovering alcoholics or who are still drinking who want to stop.

Humor and Laughter do Exist in AA Meetings

AA meetings are sometimes regarded as somber, serious affairs. In reality, they aren’t all like that. In fact, there is a lot of humor in most AA meetings.

The humor may be dark at times, but jokes abound. This is a great way to connect with others and to be lighthearted about some of the challenges facing alcoholics. Laughter brings people together, and there are plenty of light, funny moments throughout a typical AA meeting. Humor won’t take away from the effectiveness of AA.

The 12 Steps are a Big Part of AA’s Success

The major tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous is the 12 step program. Participants are encouraged to work through each of the steps in chronological order on the way to recovery. The steps are as follows:

Step 1: Admit powerlessness over alcohol.

Step 2: Believe in a greater power.

Step 3: Turn life over to that greater power.

Step 4: Conduct a moral inventory.

Step 5: Admit wrongdoing.

Step 6: Be ready to change.

Step 7: Aim to remove shortcomings.

Step 8: Make a list of people that have been hurt.

Step 9: Make amends.

Step 10: Conduct an ongoing personal inventory.

Step 11: Use prayer and meditation to develop spiritually.

Step 12: Help other alcoholics and continue the cycle.

Spirituality is Encouraged, but You Don’t Have to be Religious

Some individuals turn away from the idea of attending AA meetings because of the religious language used. When developed in 1939, there is no doubt that Alcoholics Anonymous was a Christian organization. Today, however, that is not the case.

Part of the success of AA rests on letting go of control. For many, that means relying on a higher power. Participants don’t necessarily have to be religious, although many will develop their spirituality to some degree along the way.

AA has saved countless lives, and it can save many more. Knowing what goes on in an AA meeting may be what it takes for more individuals to start attending.