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What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
AA is an international fellowship found all over the world that is dedicated to helping people get and stay sober, and have more connected lives. AA started in the United States in the 1930’s with one alcoholic talking to another. The founders of AA learned that if they met frequently, talked honestly and tried to support each other, they could find a solution to their common problem of alcoholism. Now AA is on every continent and the message of AA has been translated into 90 languages. There are over 35 million AA “Big Books” in print in English alone. The purpose of AA is to help people find a way to get and stay sober. Attending AA meetings and reading AA literature can be very helpful for anyone to better understand what alcoholism is, how it affects people, and what the people of AA have been doing to successfully solve the problem since 1935.
How does AA work?
There are no requirements to attend “open” meetings – anyone interested is welcomed. If a meeting is considered “closed” then we ask that you respect that this is a meeting attended solely by people who consider themselves to be alcoholics. If you have a desire to quit drinking you can consider yourself a member of AA. There are never any dues or fees, or contracts. You are welcome to attend as many meetings as you want, any time you want, for any reason you want. The AA “Big Book” was written to describe exactly what the original AA members did to be able to get and stay sober. Many AA meetings are focused on helping people to learn and practice the information in the Big Book that allows people to get sober, stay sober, and have the kind of life they want. Many of us have struggled to be sober, and being or staying sober is never a requirement to attend any AA meetings. When we struggle, we reach out to the supportive people and productive ideas of AA to help get back on track.
What happens at an AA meeting?
We talk, we listen, we drink coffee. We offer the hope of change that we have personally experienced as our lives got better by following the program outlined in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. We try to be honest and to offer our collective experience, strength and hope to those who are still suffering. We share our personal stories of trying to accept life on life’s terms, one moment at a time. There are no requirements to share anything at a meeting, but if you show up and listen with an open mind you may hear something helpful. We connect with others by discussing common problems and seeking common solutions. There are different types of meetings where people can discuss topics connected with alcoholism, learn about the AA program, read AA materials, or listen to a designated speaker share his or her story of alcoholism and recovery. “Speaker Meetings” usually follow a format where the speaker talks about about what they were like when they were drinking, what happened, and what it is like now that they are in AA.
What if the court sent me?
Many of us went to our first AA meetings due to pressure from others – courts, family, friends, treatment centers, employers, doctors, etc. You might find that you will meet many people at an AA meeting who can relate to being pressured to make changes that don’t seem necessary or important to you right now. You are welcome to attend as many or as few meetings as you want and for any reasons you may have. If you want to quietly sit, just listen and get a meeting slip signed, we understand. It works really well for many people who are new to just show up with some curiosity and listen while feeling no pressure to disclose anything about yourself. At any AA meeting it is always okay, and often wise, to let people know, “I’m just here to listen.” If you want to get started making some changes, we understand that too. We have people who are willing and able to help you understand how AA works and how to start making those changes. AA is not professional therapy. There are no appointments, no assessments, no diagnosis given, no treatment plan and no treatment fees. AA is not operated by, or for, the health care or legal systems. AA meetings are organized by volunteers from all walks of life who want to stay sober and help other alcoholics. If you have been court mandated to attend an addiction treatment program, then attending AA meetings may not satisfy all your legal requirements. Please consult with qualified legal advice to clarify any court requirements you may be uncertain about.
Is this a religious program?
No. AA is not connected with any religious denomination or sect. The single purpose of AA is to help all people of all backgrounds gain access to the support and experience of AA to achieve a sober and satisfying life. Anyone wanting to get and stay sober has a place in AA regardless of their religious background or spiritual beliefs. However, It is common for AA meetings to occur on church property and this can be confusing to people. AA wants to avoid the distractions of accumulating money or property, or managing leadership positions and titles; and instead to always remain focused on helping people get and stay sober. So, AA meetings rent space to give attendees a safe and comfortable place to gather; and AA relies on the principle of people volunteering for service work to help organize and run the meetings. Churches commonly have the parking, lighting and other interior amenities that make people comfortable enough to stay and come back. One of the benefits of having the Zoar Road Club is that the space is available for people seeking recovery every hour of every day; and not just for one hour of a meeting.
What is a sponsor?
Many of us had a lot more questions about what AA is and how it works than can fit onto this page. A sponsor in AA is like a tour guide who has experience with the ideas and actions of the AA program. These ideas and actions help people understand the nature of alcoholism and what works to help solve the problem. If you are coming to AA because you are interested in getting and staying sober, you may want to get a sponsor as soon as possible. Sponsors can help you understand more about how AA works. Having a sponsor gives you a person to call or meet with to discuss recovery and ask questions. Sponsors have practical experience and understanding of what it is like to get sober and apply the principles of AA to real world situations. Sponsors also help you to meet more of the people in the AA program and understand how to feel connected to the community. If a sponsor sounds like a good idea, come to a meeting and let it be known you are looking for a sponsor. Sponsors do this work because it benefits them too. Being a sponsor helps people stay sober and honors the principles of AA by trying to help others find relief from the suffering of alcoholism.