Alcoholics Anonymous: Everything You Need to Know About AA

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings can benefit anyone who thinks they might have a drinking problem and wants to become sober. Those who struggle with alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction can attend an AA meeting, and bond with other individuals in recovery who can empathize, motivate, and inspire them to stay sober. Since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, the fellowship has helped millions of people around the world achieve sobriety, and today, has over two million active members.

Here’s what you need to know about Alcoholics Anonymous, and the benefits of attending AA meetings as part of your recovery from alcohol addiction.

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What Happens at Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings?

Most Alcoholics Anonymous meetings begin with a reading of the AA Preamble, followed by the Serenity Prayer. AA members may read sections of the Big Book — the Alcoholics Anonymous text that outlines the 12 traditions and other information about how to recover from alcoholism. The AA chairperson may ask the group if there are any new AA members or first-time visitors, and ask that these individuals raise their hands and introduce themselves, though this is not required.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be either open or closed. An open AA meeting welcomes anyone who is interested in participating in alcohol recovery — including those who may not have a drinking problem. A closed AA meeting is only open to AA members who have a drinking problem or who think they might have a drinking problem, and want to stop drinking. Common signs of alcohol addiction include drinking daily to relieve stress, and drinking higher amounts of alcohol to experience its effects.

Some AA meetings may revolve around allowing one guest speaker to share their story, while other meetings allow every member to share their personal stories and struggles surrounding alcohol abuse. Many times, group discussions revolve around one of the 12 steps, and conclude with the Lord’s Prayer. AA members may also have the opportunity to share personal tips with one for avoiding relapse and staying sober.

AA - A man sits on a chair by himself in a dark room with a beam of light shining in from above.

What is the Alcoholics Anonymous Philosophy?

At Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, all members are anonymous, and refer to one another by first name only. A top Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy is maintaining and respecting the anonymity of its members, which helps prevent factors like social stigma, controversy, and negative opinions from interfering with one’s recovery from alcohol addiction. The last three traditions of AA recognize the importance of anonymity in the fellowship, and stress that anonymity reminds members to always rank principles above personalities.

The overall Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy is embodied in its 12 steps, which are designed to help people recover from alcohol addiction both spiritually and emotionally. The 12 steps encourage AA members to recognize that they cannot control their addiction, and that they require help from a higher power, such as God. The 12 steps also ask that AA members examine their past behavior, make amends with themselves and those they have wronged, and learn how to navigate the world without giving in to urges to drink.

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What are the 12 steps of AA?

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

AA Benefits for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

AA meetings offer countless benefits for those who need help recovering from alcohol addiction. Evidence reveals that AA benefits people most when combined with alcohol detox and therapy, and gives patients a solid support system to turn to at times when factors like alcohol cravings can threaten a relapse. Attending regular AA meetings can also help members stay on track with sobriety in the weeks, months, and years following alcohol rehab.

The Office of the Surgeon General says AA meetings are effective at motivating many people to recover from alcohol addiction, and that AA can improve a person’s ability to manage triggers in situations involving alcohol.

Other known AA benefits:

  • AA meetings are free to attend.
  • AA meetings can be attended by anyone who needs help recovering from alcohol abuse.
  • AA is anonymous, meaning you won’t have to reveal your last name or full identity.
  • AA meetings happen daily and/or weekly, and are available in nearly every town and city.
  • AA meetings allow you to bond with peers who respect your willingness to stay sober.
  • AA meetings allow you to speak freely about your opinions, emotions, and experiences as they relate to alcohol addiction.
  • AA meetings allow you to pick up new tips and tricks for staying sober and avoiding relapse.
  • AA can provide you with a sponsor you can contact when you need help staying sober or navigating the 12 steps.

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What are the Different Types of AA Meetings?

  • Open Meetings: Anyone can attend an open AA meeting. The group is open and allows people struggling and not struggling with alcohol abuse.
  • Closed Meetings: Closed meetings are not open to the general public, but are specific to individuals who acknowledge that they struggle with alcohol abuse.
  • Beginners’ Meetings: Beginners are designed for the “new comer” it is structured to help people new to the rooms get acclimatized with AA.
  • 12-Step Meetings: In 12 step meetings a specific step is selected and discussed during the meeting. It is designed to help people better understand the purpose and reasoning for the step.
  • Big Book Study Meetings: The “Big Book” is the primary literature for AA. During a Big Book meeting members read from the book and have open discussion about it.
  • Demographic-Specific Meetings: Some AA meetings may be specific to a certain demographic. some popular demographics include “Mens Groups” & “Womens Groups”
  • Substance-Specific Meetings: AA has evolved and branched out into substance specific groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) And HA (Heroin Anonymous)
  • Behavior-Based Meetings: Similar to substance specific meetings the 12 step basis of AA has branched out to behavioral based meetings such as SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) & CODA (Codependency Anonymous)
  • Online Meetings: Since 2020 there has been an increase in the number of Online AA Meetings also known as AA Zoom Meetings. These meetings are conducted online and allow for people to get the same experience of AA while remaining at home.
  • Meetings for Families: The individual struggling with alcohol alcohol abuse is not the only person who suffers from their addiction. Because of this groups like ALANON have been formed to help the loved ones of alcoholics learn to cope and address their family member or friend’s alcoholism.

How to Find Nearby AA Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous is a non-profit organization that facilitates meetings in nearly every city in 170 countries across the world. One of the easiest ways to find nearby AA meetings is to look up Alcoholics Anonymous online and find the site for your city’s AA home office. The AA website for your city will usually feature a schedule displaying the locations and times of nearby AA meetings.

If you need help recovering from alcohol addiction or finding Alcoholics Anonymous online, call our 24/7 hotline at 877-959-7271 to speak with an addiction representative. Addiction to Sobriety will perform an insurance verification check, and discuss all your available treatment options so you can start attending AA and experience a full, successful recovery from alcohol addiction.