Preparing for Your First AA Meeting

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Going to your first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting can be a bit scary, especially because you aren’t sure what to expect. The good news is that AA meetings are designed to be supportive and welcoming to all members, and all that is required during the first class is to listen. If you’re not looking forward to attending your first meeting, know that this is a normal feeling and that you will soon ease into the program.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who come together to share their experiences regarding alcohol abuse. Clients in these programs learn from one another, build rapports with others in the same boat and develop effective coping skills for managing their addiction. The single requirement for becoming a member is a desire to stop drinking.

Over time, members in AA grow to form strong bonds with each other and think of the other members as a family. This takes time to develop, and many people are left feeling reluctant in the beginning. Generally speaking, individuals attending AA are doing so because they were ordered by a judge, therapist, employer or addiction treatment center like The River Source.

How Can I Find Meetings?

The best way to find an AA meeting is to visit the Alcoholic Anonymous’ website, but you may also ask someone in the community who is in recovery for their own addiction. There are “open meetings,” which are available to everyone and can provide you with a clearer picture as to what to expect. “Closed meetings” are reserved for those who already know that they have a problem and want help treating it.

Can I Bring Someone with Me?

For your first few meetings, it’s actually recommended that you bring someone who knows the ropes. If you don’t know anyone personally who has attended or attends AA meetings, contact the local AA Central Office and request a volunteer. Bringing along a friend or acquaintance can help ease the transition and reduce some stress. You may also call the Central Office if you require transportation, as many will provide this service.

What are AA Meetings Like?

The media has influenced our vision of what an AA meeting is like: You stand up, share your name, state that you’re an alcoholic and tell about your experiences. In real life, AA meetings are quite different. Meetings may be open or closed, restricted to men or women, smoking or non-smoking or held in a church. They are relaxed and positive, with people quietly greeting each other before sitting down in a group with the discussion leader.

People do stand up and say some type of variation of, “I am a grateful recovering alcoholic,” or “I feel powerless over alcohol.” However, it’s not required that everyone do this. Some AA meetings take a more spiritual approach and include prayers at the end of the meeting where everyone will hold hands. While each group has their own unique components, the goal of AA is consistent: to stay sober and help others do the same.

What if I Want to Share my Experiences?

Even if you’re hesitant to attend an AA meeting, you may find that you want to share about your experiences right away. You may do so, but there are guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Keep the length to 3 minutes or less
  • Share personal experiences, feelings and struggles over opinion
  • Avoid telling others what to do (cross-talk)
  • Only share when the chairperson designates time to talk
  • Show empathy and support for others
  • Be sober for over 24 hours

Are AA Meetings the Same as 12-Step Meetings?

Alcoholic Anonymous originally proposed the 12-step program as an effective method for recovery. Twelve-step meetings are more commonly associated with AA, but they can also serve as the basis for other 12-step programs, such as Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Each individual moves through the 12 steps by attending AA meetings, seeking recovery mentally, physically and spiritually. There is also a more experienced person or sponsor who guides the less experienced individual through the 12 steps.

Why are AA Meetings Important?

AA meetings are a foundational building block in a healthy recovery. They address co-occurring disorders and everyday struggles, including debt and relationships. AA meetings have a supportive structure where people dealing with the same struggles of addiction can come together and form a unique bond. These meetings provide stability to recovering addicts in the early days, and as members stay sober and become sponsors themselves, they have a sense or purpose in helping other individuals stay clean.

The River Source firmly believes in the power of 12-step meetings, and we feel that these meetings should be included in a healthy recovery regimen for both the short and long term.