Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide organization that aims to help those who struggle with alcoholism overcome it through peer support. Alcoholics 1 Anonymous meetings are open to anyone, and the organization is unaffiliated with any political or religious organizations.
AA purposefully avoids supporting or denouncing any causes to remain neutral and open. A person does not have to be of any specific race, gender, religion, or nationality to be able to attend a meeting.
Moreover, the help provided by AA is strictly non-professional. There are no doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists that are directly involved with the program. While it is common for many people to be referred to AA meetings by their therapist or doctor, they are not officially affiliated.
All of the meetings are led by people who are also recovering from alcoholism. Each support group is free to operate in the way that works best for them, but due to the successful nature of the original structure, many follow the same program.
Additionally, because they have no official backing, the group does not solicit members, attempt to coerce anyone into recovery, keep attendance records, make diagnoses, or offer shelter or counseling. They do not force attendance and purposefully keep meetings informal. The choice to recover is always with the person who has to go through the program, no one else can do it for them or force them to recover. Nearly every major city has in-person or online AA meetings that anyone who is struggling can attend.
Alcoholics Anonymous was originally founded in Akron, Ohio in 1935 by two gentlemen who supported each other in their journey to sobriety. Although 2 the group has roots in Christianity due to the work of the Oxford Group that helped them achieve and maintain sobriety, the group today does not follow a specific religion. Instead, it focuses on spirituality and believing in something greater than oneself.
Many believe that this emphasis is not on religion, but spirituality and fellowship contribute to the group’s longstanding success and relevance. Nearly two million people worldwide count themselves as members and nearly 60% achieved sobriety through the program 3.
At the core of nearly all Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is the central tenet of the teachings of its founders. This teaching is known as the 12-step program or the 12-Steps. Those who are new to AA meetings are not required to accept, embrace, or follow these steps, however, it is requested that members keep an open mind throughout the process4.
It is up to each individual as to how they want to complete the steps and as to how long it will take them to complete these steps. Although they are written with a distinctly Christian wording, you do not have to be religious or Christian to apply these steps or to attend the meetings.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not the only group that promotes and helps people achieve sobriety, although it is the most well-known. These are some alternatives:
Both in-person and online AA meetings follow similar structures. They can either be open meetings, which allow anyone to attend and typically allow members to speak about their experiences, or they can be closed meetings. Closed meetings are specifically for Alcoholics Anonymous members only, and many closed meetings have specific things that they focus on such as specific steps of the program or meetings for those just beginning the program.
The majority of in-person AA meetings will take place in a church, community center, or another type of easily accessible public building. The meeting may be large, or it may only be a dozen people. Most meetings will begin with the speaker reading the AA preamble, leading a group prayer, and then asking if any newcomers want to introduce themselves.
All of these aspects are optional. It is perfectly acceptable to simply sit and listen at a meeting without interacting. After the introduction, many groups will have time for individuals to share their stories with the group. In some situations, random people may be called upon to see if they would like to share, and in some meetings, the speakers will be planned.
AA online meetings tend to be a little more rigid than in-person meetings. This rigidness is because many more people can attend an AA online meeting, so there have to be practices in place to ensure that the agenda is followed.
Online Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be a great option if you search for “AA near me” and there are no available in-person meetings. Online AA meetings can also be very beneficial for people who have social anxiety or for those who don’t feel comfortable talking about their experiences and would prefer to listen instead.
While participation is encouraged, it is not required. For many online AA meetings that are larger, there will be a signup sheet ahead of time for people that want to speak during the meeting. This aspect allows the leader of the meeting to ensure that everyone that wants to speak has enough time to do so and allows them to plan for an appropriate amount of time for the group.
These online meetings are just as beneficial and productive as in-person meetings for many people, and they can be especially beneficial for those who do not have access to transportation or do not have the time to attend a physical meeting. Online AA meetings allow for flexibility and a greater sense of inclusion for those who may have been previously unintentionally excluded.
There are several benefits to joining AA and attending meetings. They provide a safe, secure, and open space to express yourself and to speak about your experiences without judgment and without fear of repercussions. They provide a sense of community and friendship, and they allow someone the ability to meet others who have gone through similar situations with substance abuse.
In addition, AA meetings provide people with new coping strategies, give an outlet for anxious thoughts, teach accountability, and promote growth and self-empowerment. Your fellow AA members want you to succeed as much as you do, and they provide an additional level of security and stability that you can lean on when you need additional support.
The easiest way to find a meeting to attend is to search “AA near me,” or “AA meetings in ‘your state’”. Alternatively, you can go directly through the official AA website or through your doctor or therapist to find a meeting site.
If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
(888) 744-9969 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.