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Alcoholics Anonymous Overview

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship of men and women of all ages, who have the same desire: to stop drinking and maintain sobriety. The program, founded in 1935, enhances spiritual and character development. The original mission of AA, which continues today, was solely “to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.”

There are 2 million AA members in 170 countries worldwide. It is a self-supporting group through membership donations. There is no professional help at AA. Being a member is not a cure or treatment for alcoholism; it is a support system.

Alcoholic Anonymous’ Beliefs

The single purpose of AA is to carry the message of hope and strength to alcoholics who struggle with the addiction. The program entails total abstinence from drinking. AA is based upon 12 steps and 12 traditions. The steps address the alcoholic’s step-by-step journey through recovery. The first step defines the program: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.” The traditions address the business aspect of AA, including basic concepts of groups and meetings and anonymity of the members.

General AA Guidelines/Tenements

AA has a 24-hour plan to help alcoholics. Alcoholics are encouraged not to declare that they will never drink. Instead, it is important to concentrate on the current 24 hours and to get through one day at a time without a drink.

If the alcoholic has an urge to drink, they should neither give in to it nor fight off having the drink. They just need to postpone having that one drink until tomorrow.

Old and New AA Members

AA members are not solicited, but newcomers and old friends are always welcome at meetings. New and old addicts are treated similarly. They are encouraged to stay away from a drink one day at a time. It is important for them to concentrate on not drinking right now, today.

AA’s Meeting Agenda

According to Tradition Three of AA, “any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety can call themselves an AA group.” Meetings are open to anyone who is serious about stopping drinking.

At a typical open AA meeting, two or three speakers share experiences, strength and hope with the group. The stories carry the message of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the foundation of the group. These meetings are open to the alcoholic, their relatives and friends.

Closed meetings are discussion groups for alcoholics only. Members can speak freely and ask questions among the group about personal problems with sobriety and everyday life of recovery.

AA Meeting Attendance

There is no compulsory attendance at meetings. When a member first starts AA, attending a daily meeting is encouraged. Some seasoned people attend daily meetings while others choose to attend less often. There are meetings offered at various locations throughout the day and night.

Attendance at meetings is important to maintain sobriety. Most people attend meetings regularly at a location where they have become affiliated and feel comfortable.

Does Everyone Have to Share or Speak?

No, only when a member feels comfortable publicly opening up at a meeting do they share their story. Some people choose to only listen, rather than speak.

Do You Have to Believe in God to Go to AA?

AA members do not have to believe in God. AA is not a religious movement. It is not associated with any religious sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution. AA refers to “a Power greater than ourselves” in their steps. The Power can be anything the member chooses it to be. Some members choose to call that Power, God.

Alcoholics Anonymous continues to be a life support system for many. It’s philosophy and structure has branched out into other support groups such as Cocaine Anonymous and Pills Anonymous. Attending such group meetings provides camaraderie and support in helping people maintain their sobriety or finding help in the first place.



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