Going to an AA meeting is simple. You can find 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.
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. AA meetings are relaxed, friendly and open.
Here are some issues a lot of us worried about before coming to our first AA meeting:
Will I be asked a lot of questions?
No, it’s not like going to a doctor or a health clinic. AA 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 AA meeting. Usually a collection is taken at the end of each meeting to cover the costs of renting the hall and providing refreshments. Only AA 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.
Is AA a religious organisation?
No. Quite a few AA meetings are held in church halls but that’s only because they’re convenient and affordable venues. AA groups are in no way affiliated with the churches or other organisations whose meeting rooms we rent. The AA program is certainly a spiritual one, but what that means is left up to the individual to decide.
What type of meetings are there?
By far the most common type of AA 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 AA’s 12-Step program of recovery is discussed in detail. There are also various other types of discussion meetings.
What are closed or open meetings?
Most AA meetings are “open”. That is, anyone is welcome to attend. “Closed” meetings are for AA members or people who are new to AA 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.
Who goes to AA meetings?
You’ll find all sorts of people at AA meetings. Men, women, young, old, well off and not well off.