Going to an A.A. meeting is simple. You find out where and when there is a meeting convenient for you and you just turn up. That's it. There's no signing in, no money to pay, no appointment to make. There are no intrusive questions, no obligations. Your privacy and anonymity will be respected. You’ll never be met with a demand to come back to any meeting or indeed to AA. You can go to different meetings as often or as little as you wish.
To listen to what happens in a meeting, visit our Meetings on Air.
Many of us had no idea what to expect of our first meeting. For some of us the idea was quite scary, so we were greatly relieved to find that our fears were groundless. A.A. meetings are relaxed, friendly and open.
Here are some issues a lot of us worried about before coming to our first A.A. meeting:
Do I have to book or arrange to attend a meeting
No, simply locate a meeting that you would like to attend, and do along to it. Once there, make yourself known to the organisers and explain why you are there.
What are closed or open meetings?
Most A.A. meetings are "open". That is, anyone is welcome to attend.
"closed" meetings are for A.A. members or people who are new to A.A. who want to stop drinking.
How many people are at a meeting?
This varies greatly. In cities, a typical meeting might have ten to twenty members. Some big meetings might have 50 or more. Some have only a handful. In remote areas some meetings might have only two or three members.
Will I be asked a lot of questions?
No, it's not like going to a doctor or a health clinic. A.A. meetings are very informal. Just take a seat and listen to the stories members will tell about their drinking and their recovery. You can talk to people if you want to or just keep to yourself until you feel more comfortable.
Do I have to "sign up"?
No. There's nothing to sign. If, at some stage you want to join a particular group you just say so. If you don't want to join any group, that's okay too. No one should tell you what to do about your drinking. If you want to keep drinking that's your business. We just suggest that, if you want to stop drinking, you try doing what we did.
How much will it cost?
There is no charge for attending an A.A. meeting. Usually a collection is taken at the end of each meeting to cover the costs of renting the hall and providing refreshments. Only A.A. members can contribute. There's no obligation but most people put in a dollar or two.
Do I have to get up and speak in front of people?
The meeting will consist of members telling their stories but if anyone isn't in the mood to talk, it's fine to decline. You may be invited to speak but it's quite okay if you don't want to.
What is a Public Meeting
There are many kinds of A.A. public information meetings. They generally follow the following format:
- A welcome and introduction is given by the A.A. chair, who will explain:
- what A.A. is and is not, and what A.A.s have discovered about their problem.
- The meaning of Anonymity
- how the A.A. program works to arrest the illness of alcoholism.
- how A.A. is for all faiths and those of no faith, and that it is for men and women of all ages.
- There may be a non-A.A. guest speaker (e.g. public service worker, judge, minister) talking about A.A. from their point of view and experiences.
- There may be A.A. members speaking briefly about their drinking experiences and provide an explanation of the A.A. program—how it worked, and what it did and did not do for them.
- An outline of where A.A. help is available in the local community.
- A film on A.A. may be shown
- Concluding remarks by the chair.
Note that while there may be a charge mentioned on any public meeting announcement, that charge does not to apply to non A.A. members. Tradition 7 of the A.A. 12 Traditions states that A.A. shall be self supporting, declining outside (i.e. non A.A.) contributions.
What type of meetings are there?
By far the most common type of A.A. meeting is called an id meeting. Members just tell their stories of what they were like, what happened and what life is like for them now. There are also steps meetings where A.A.'s 12-step program of recovery is discussed in detail. There are also various other types of discussion meetings.
Who goes to A.A. meetings?
You'll find all sorts of people at A.A. meetings. Men, women, young, old, well off and not well off.
Is A.A. a religious organisation?
No. Quite a few A.A. meetings are held in church halls but that's only because they're convenient and affordable venues. A.A. groups are in no way affiliated with the churches or other organisations whose meeting rooms we rent. The A.A. program is certainly a spiritual one, but what that means is left up to the individual to decide.