As of 2001, Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship with members in 100,800 groups 150 countries.
As of 2001, Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship with members in 100,800 groups 150 countries.

Alcoholics Anonymous, or A.A., is a fellowship designed for men and women who have a drinking problem with the primary focus of obtaining and maintaining sobriety. Members meet periodically to discuss their problems and to provide support to other members. Understanding what takes place during an A.A. meeting can give ease to potential new members.

Basics

According to the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, the only requirement to become a member of A.A. is to have the desire to stop drinking. There are no membership dues or fees, thus the group relies on member donations for support to cover expenses. A member can be of any age, sex, religion, race or class. A.A. is not operated by professionals; members elect officers to organize and oversee meetings. Participation in any aspect of the meetings is completely voluntary.

Open Meetings

Some A.A. meetings are open for members as well as nonmembers. Students, family members, professionals and other members of the community are permitted to attend. A typical open meeting consists of two or three speakers who are recovering alcoholics. They discuss their personal experiences before, during and after A.A. In some meetings, members are permitted to participate in discussions.

Closed Meetings

Closed A.A. meetings are only for alcoholics. Members usually sit in a semicircle with the chairperson in the center. The chairperson begins the meeting by reading the A.A. Preamble, often accompanied by the Serenity Prayer. She will then ask if there are any newcomers to the group and give them the opportunity to introduce themselves. Newcomers can either accept or decline the invitation. If the newcomer wishes to introduce himself, there are no requirements as to what information he has to share. It is not a requirement to stand up and state your name and say, "I am an alcoholic." Once newcomers introduce themselves, the chairperson will then proceed by giving each member the opportunity to speak and discuss his problems. During some meetings, a collection may be taken up. The meeting typically closes with members holding hands and reciting the Serenity Prayer.

Twelve Step Meetings

The focus of some meetings is on the 12 steps to sobriety. The 12-step program was designed to help members reach their goal of sobriety one step at a time, from uncontrolled drinking all the way to sobriety. During these meetings, members discuss one of the 12 steps in detail and the progress of their recovery.