Are You New to AA?

If you are new to or wondering about Alcoholics Anonymous, you probably have a lot of questions. Hopefully this page can help answer some of them and help us introduce our fellowship to you.

What is AA?
Digital Newcomers Packet
What AA Does Do
What AA Does Not Do
Verifying Attendance at AA Meetings
AA 101

What is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes.

Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Reprinted with permission of The AA Grapevine, Inc.

Digital Newcomers Packet

Here is some more information that might be helpful:

What AA does do:
  • AA members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to AA from any source.
  • The AA program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
  • This program is discussed at AA group meetings.
    • Open speaker meetings — open to alcoholics and nonalcoholics.  (Attendance at an open AA meeting is the best way to learn what AA is, what it does, and what it does not do.) At speaker meetings, AA members “tell their stories.” They describe their experiences with alcohol, how they came to AA, and how their lives have changed as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous.
    • Open discussion meetings — discussions, many times based on AA literature, on recovery or any drinking-related problem anyone brings up. (Closed meetings are for AAs or anyone who may have a drinking problem.)
    • Closed discussion meetings — conducted just as open discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective AAs only.
    • Step meetings (usually closed) — discussion of one of the Twelve Steps.
    • Big Book meetings (usually closed) – reading/discussion from the book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
    • AA members also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
What A.A. does not do:
    • Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover.
    • Solicit members.
    • Engage in or sponsor research.
    • Keep attendance records or case histories.
    • Join “councils” of social agencies (although AA members, groups and service offices frequently cooperate with them).
    • Follow up or try to control its members.
    • Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses.
    • Provide detox or nursing services, hospitalization, drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment.
    • Offer religious services or host/sponsor retreats.
    • Engage in education about alcohol.
    • Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other welfare or social services.
    • Provide domestic or vocational counseling.
    • Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-AA sources.
    • Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies, employers, etc.

    Reprinted from F-2 Information on Alcoholics Anonymous, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

Verifying Attendance at AA Meetings

Some people are required by outside entities to attend AA meetings. Although AA has no affiliation with these entities, and is a group-by-group choice, most of the AA groups in our area are happy to help verify attendance.

Please keep in mind that we are anonymous – we hold each others’ anonymity in the highest regard. Therefore, when attending online meetings, please do not use a screenshot to verify attendance. Please feel free to download and use the following forms to record attendance:

In-Person Meeting Attendance Sheet
Online Meeting Attendance Sheet

AA 101

What can I expect at AA?
Our meetings have a variety of formats.  View our schedule here – you’ll see the days, times, and places AA meetings are held. Meetings marked with an (O) are open meetings which anyone can attend.  Meetings marked with a (C) are closed meetings — only for alcoholics or people who think they may have a problem with alcohol.

Do I have to give my name?
When you go to an AA meeting you don’t have to give your name. Some groups invite newcomers to introduce themselves by their first name only.   All participation in AA meetings is voluntary.

Will I have to speak?
It’s not necessary to explain why you’re there. If you’re called on and prefer to remain silent, just say, “I’ll pass.” Anyone is free to simply sit and listen at meetings.

What about anonymity?
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all of AA’s Traditions. Please respect this custom and treat in confidence who you see and what you hear.  Likewise, you can count on others to respect your anonymity.

Is AA religious?
Alcoholics Anonymous has no religious affiliation. What you believe is up to you. Many AA members have a program based upon a personal belief in a Higher Power; others do not.  Many meetings begin and end with a prayer, such as the Serenity Prayer or closing with The Lord’s Prayer.  Participation is optional.

What does it cost?
There are no dues or fees to attend AA. Most members freely place money in the basket that goes around in order to pay for the group’s expenses, such as rent, coffee and literature, but there is no obligation.

Can I go to an AA meeting drunk?
Yes, people who have been drinking sometimes attend AA meetings. They are welcome to attend, but they may be asked not to speak while intoxicated, but to listen instead.

Am I an alcoholic?
This is a decision that each drinker has to make for themselves. However, we have found that if, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.  This pamphlet might also be helpful, with some questions to help you decide: Is AA For You? If you are not sure, going to meetings helps. We do not try to convince anyone on this question.

What is a home group?
Traditionally, most AA members through the years have found it important to belong to one group that they call their “home group.” This is the group where they accept service responsibilities and try to sustain friendships. And although all AA members are usually welcome at all groups and feel at home at any of these meetings, the concept of the home group has remained the strongest bond between the AA member and the Fellowship.

What is a sponsor?
A sponsor is essentially an alcoholic who has made some progress in AA recovery and shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through AA. We urge you to not delay in asking someone to be your sponsor.  AA members want to share what they have learned with other alcoholics – we know from experience that our own sobriety is greatly strengthened when we share our experience, strength and hope with others.

What is the Big Book?
Published in 1939 under the title “Alcoholics Anonymous,” the Big Book is the basic textbook outlining the program of action for recovery from alcoholism through Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition to describing the disease of alcoholism and the spiritual steps toward recovery, the Big Book contains dozens of personal stories from people who have recovered from alcoholism.

Meeting Types & Descriptions
Use the “Meetings” tab above to locate an AA meeting near you. There are many types of meetings, including specifically geared toward beginners, others featuring speakers, and others where all who want to can share their experience, strength and hope on a topic.  We suggest attending a variety of meetings before deciding if AA is for you.

Closed meetings: A closed meeting is for alcoholics, as well as those who think they may have a problem with alcohol.  Closed meetings give members an opportunity to discuss particular phases of their alcoholism and recovery with each other.

Open meetings: An open meeting can be attended by anyone, alcoholic or nonalcoholic.  The only obligation is that they not disclose the names or identities of AA members outside the meeting.

Beginners meetings are intended for people in the first year or so of sobriety, and generally focus on Steps 1, 2 and 3.

Discussion meetings often either choose a topic from our literature or ask members for a topic, opening the meeting for others to share.

Speaker meetings are those where a member shares their story for the majority of the meeting.   The meeting may or may not then be opened for others to share.

Literature meetings are devoted to the study and discussion of the Big Book or other A.A.-approved literature.

Special Interest Meetings – some AAs come together as specialized AA groups — men, women, LGBT, secular, and others.