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What to Expect From an AA Meeting

So, you are thinking of attending an AA meeting for the first time . . . If you think you might have a problem with alcohol or maybe you have been given the option of attending AA by judges, employers, family members or a treatment program, you probably have some questions. If you come to A.A. on your own or for another reason, this page may provide some answers.

How do I know if I am an alcoholic?

Only you can decide whether you're an alcoholic. Others may point out indications of a problem such as losing control, DUI arrests, lost jobs, broken marriages and relationships, memory blackouts, the shakes, etc. Many others have had no such consequences for their drinking but find that they never know when they will stop after taking the first drink and are baffled by their total loss of control. Ultimately, only you can tell if you are actually an alcoholic. No one in A.A. will tell you whether you are or not.

What happens at an A.A. meeting?

A.A. meetings have different formats, but at any meeting you will find alcoholics sharing their experiences of what drinking did to their lives, what actions they took to help themselves, and how they are living their lives today without alcohol.

Do I have to give my name?

When you go to an AA meeting you donĀ“t have to give your full name. Some groups will ask if this is anyone's first AA meeting. The newcomers will be asked to introduce themselves by your first name only. Will I have to speak? It's not necessary to explain why you're there. Others will share but no one will think it odd if you choose to remain silent. There are many AA members who prefer to sit and listen at meetings.

What happens if I see someone I know?

They will be there for the same reason you are there. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all of A.A.'s Traditions. We will respect your anonymity and ask that you treat in confidence who you see and what you hear. They will not disclose your identity to outsiders. At A.A. you retain as much anonymity as you wish and that is why we call ourselves Alcoholics Anonymous.

What about religion?

AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, or religious organization. Most AA members have a spiritual program based upon a personal belief in a Higher Power of their own personal understanding but everyone defines this power as he or she wishes. Some people choose to call that power God, others think it is the A.A. group, still others don't believe in it at all. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and nonbelief. What you believe is up to you. Many meetings open and close with a short prayer; participation is optional.

Are there dues or fees?

There are no dues or fees for AA membership. The AA groups pay for certain services such as rent, coffee and literature. If help is to be available to every alcoholic on the day he or she asks for it, we must support our group, the AA General Service Structures and local Intergroup. Traditionally, AA groups are self-supporting, declining outside contributions. You may wish to make a contribution when the basket is passed, but this is optional.

What can I expect if I have been ordered to attend an AA meeting?

If a judge, school or employer has suggested you attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, they may believe there is evidence that you have a drinking problem. If you have an attendance card to be signed, most AA meeting chairperson will be happy to do so at the end of the meeting. Take a look at a current meeting directory. You'll see the days, times, and places AA meetings are held. Meetings marked with an (O) are Open Meetings -- anyone can attend, while those marked with a (C) are Closed Meetings -- for people who have a desire to stop drinking.