Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was established in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. Since then, AA has expanded around the globe, offering help to anyone with a drinking problem who attends their meetings. During the organization’s 85-year history, AA has become known for its basic textbook, also known as the Big Book, which explains its philosophy and methods, including the 12 Steps of recovery.
Today, AA has groups in approximately 180 nations and an estimated membership of more than two million. AA’s literature has been translated into many languages, including Afrikaans, Arabic, Hindi, Nepali, Persian, Swahili, and Vietnamese.
What to Expect At An AA Meeting
Alcoholics Anonymous offers two types of meetings: open and closed. Open meetings allow anyone to attend, whether or not they have a drinking problem. Closed meetings can only be attended by someone who is an alcoholic. Only someone with a drinking problem can become an AA member. The only qualification for becoming an AA member is a desire to stop drinking.
Anonymity is a major component of AA and all 12-step groups. Closed meetings provide a private space where attendees know that people with similar experiences and issues will be in attendance. A closed meeting creates a safe and supportive place for those with alcohol use disorder to speak openly and honestly about their addiction.
Meeting topics can vary. Sometimes a group leader will choose a topic to discuss, while other times members will share their own experiences with addiction. Other meetings can help teach program basics to newcomers or act as study groups for the 12 steps.
The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
AA is most well-known for its 12 Steps, which have been modified by many other support groups. In summary, the steps are:
- Admitting your powerlessness to alcohol
- Believing in a power greater than yourself
- Turning yourself over to this higher power
- Honestly assessing yourself
- Admitting what you have done wrong to yourself and to others
- Preparing yourself to ask your higher power for help
- Asking your higher power for help
- Making a list of people you have hurt with your behavior
- Trying to make amends to those people, whenever possible
- Continue to be honest with yourself and try to admit to — and correct — your mistakes
- Continue to seek out your higher power for guidance and support
- Help other people who are struggling with addiction
Benefits of AA Meetings
The longevity of Alcoholics Anonymous speaks to the program’s success. But what exactly makes AA resonate with so many people for so long? To start, AA offers the newly sober an instant and supportive community. For many people, old friends may still drink or not know how to help them avoid alcohol. AA members understand the challenges that people struggling with alcohol addiction face and can offer guidance and advice.
Another benefit of AA is the structure that meetings provide to those with a drinking problem. Feeling alone or bored can lead many recovering alcoholics to drink. AA gives those individuals a safe space to go when these feelings take over. Additionally, AA meetings offer those with alcohol use disorder a place to celebrate their accomplishments and remind members why they are working so hard to maintain their sobriety.
Finally, the widespread reach of AA means that members can almost always find a 12-step meeting to attend. Most towns and cities will have an AA group that they can connect with if they need support. This means that no matter where someone goes, a support group is not far away.
Is AA Right for You?
Each person must decide for themselves if AA is right for their needs. Alcoholism affects all types of people — the young and old, male and female, rich and poor, all races, nationalities, and origins. Joining AA helps members recognize that they are not alone in their addiction, that they are sick and that they can recover. AA members learn that the feelings of guilt, loneliness, hopelessness, and shame they have felt are shared by other alcoholics and caused by the disease of alcoholism. The only way to know if Alcoholics Anonymous can help is to attend and find out. In general, AA recommends that prospective members attend 90 meetings in 90 days to see if AA is right for them. There are no dues or fees to attend an AA meeting. New members may simply be asked for their time and attention, and perhaps help supply snacks or coffee for meetings.
If you are attending addiction treatment currently for alcohol use disorder, AA meetings can help provide additional support and structure. If you’re considering treatment, attending an AA meeting can help you ask for recommendations and referrals. Many treatment programs also use the 12-step model, so you should be able to find a treatment program that complements your attendance at AA.
At Bridges of Hope, we believe in taking an integrated and comprehensive approach to addressing addiction. This means not just treating substance use, but also assisting with mental health disorders, family issues, and relationship dynamics. We use therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices to provide superior care to clients throughout Indiana. When you’re ready for recovery, you don’t need to travel far from home. You can get started with your recovery right here, right now.