It is an incredibly useful tool, and brings hope and respite from alcohol to many. But it is not for everybody, so read on. If you have a negative or unpleasant experience at a meeting, try different meeting, there may be a different vibe with different individuals.
Some feel that after attending a variety of AA meetings, that AA is simply not a good fit for them. If you can relate to this, and have tried other meetings, then know that there are alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous, that may be helpful for you.
Attending Your First Meeting
Alcoholics Anonymous refers to individuals attending their first meeting as a “newcomer”. As a newcomer, an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting can seem, strange and intimidating at times. It is only natural to feel apprehensive about your first AA meeting.
In that apprehensiveness, know that you are not alone as many, if not most, members could relate to that feeling during their first meeting.
Ask questions if you feel lost. There are resources available online that can give you a better understanding of AA slogans and acronyms.
More importantly, don't dismiss AA out of hand after one session just because it's 'weird' or you didn’t find it to be helpful. Everything seems weird the first time we do it. There are many different meetings that you can try out, each can have a different feel and message.
I encourage you to try as many different ones as you can. If you are limited with how many meetings you have locally, trying looking at the different online meetings available. Give it a chance and then, if it still doesn't do anything for you, move onto a different method of quitting drink.
What can make the first meeting less strange is to know what to expect at a meeting, so at least you're not surprised by the format, as there are a few different options.
Different Types of Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings
There are at least 4 different types of alcoholic anonymous meeting, each of which has a different format.
It is important to remember that each AA group decides on its way of doing things, so meetings vary in many ways, however, they roughly follow the structure outlined below.
The 4 types of meeting are:
· Discussion Meetings - These meetings start with the chairperson reading a passage, a thought or idea and then throwing the discussion open to the floor. People can then add their thoughts and experiences concerning the discussion topic and/or their alcoholism and recovery from it. Some groups choose to sit in a circle and give each member an option to speak if they are comfortable.
· Speaker Meetings - This is when a member of AA, who has a fair bit of sobriety under his or her belt, tells their story to the group. When the speaker has finished then, if there is time, members can add their thoughts and any similarities between their story and that of the speaker. Some find that speaker meetings are a good first meeting option since they can watch without feeling as though they need to speak.
· Big Book Meetings - A passage or chapter is read from the big book by a chairperson or pre-appointed member of AA. Then other members comment on the passage. Sometimes each person at the meeting reads a passage from a chapter and then passes it onto the next person, and so on. Some groups will sit in a circle for these meetings as well. Sitting in a circle helps create sense of belonging, and gives you the opportunity to look everyone in the face.
· Step Study Meetings - As in the Big Book meeting, but in these the readings come from another text called "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" or "12 and 12". Then members share their experiences and views in light of the reading.
Common Threads in Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings
Regardless on the type of meeting, there are certain elements that remain the same in most AA meetings:
· Introductions: When members of AA speak in a meeting they generally introduce themselves (even if they have known everybody in the room for a long time). The typical introduction is, "Hello, My name is ...., and I am an alcoholic". There are other variations on this such as, “I’m ...., and I'm a recovering alcoholic" and so on. Do not feel obliged to do this. It is common courtesy to say your name, but do not feel impelled to identify yourself as an alcoholic.
· Chairperson: The chairperson is always a member of AA and usually does not have any relevant professional qualifications. Their only qualification usually is that they are a recovering alcoholic with some sober time. Any member of AA can be the chairperson of a particular meeting. This is something decided before the meeting begins.
· Closing of The Meeting: Meetings can close in different but essentially similar ways. After the 12th tradition is read out (regarding respect for anonymity), in some places they will stand and end with the Lord's Prayer. In others they may form a circle hold hands and say the serenity prayer. Again, each group has their own routine, but this is something that you will catch onto after attending a few meetings.
· Donations: Most meetings will pass around a plate or leave one at the front of the room. This is so you can donate to the running costs of that particular AA group. Do not feel you HAVE to give something. Donations can help cover any literature or books that the group offers to newcomers, the coffee provided or if there are any fees associated with the location of the meeting.
· Rewarding Sobriety: When a member of AA has reached a certain milestone then their 'home group' (that is the AA group an alcoholic identifies as his or her home) will reward them with 'chips'. Chips are medals awarded for certain lengths of time of sobriety. So you can get a chip for being sober 24 hours (doesn't sound much, but it is) and one for being ten years sober. Each chip is a different color and is presented to the recipient by the chairperson of that particular meeting.
What Makes Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings Work?
The way that Alcoholic Anonymous meetings are able to work so effectively is because of a variety of different factors.
Below is a list of some of the most common key factors that make this particular group such a successful option for alcoholic individuals to choose when they have set their heart and their mind on removing alcohol from their lives.
The common elements that alcoholics in the AA 12 step program commit to are....
1. Taking the first step of admitting that you indeed have a problem with the addiction of alcohol and that you need help in being able to successfully recover from the addiction.
2. Being able to let go and submit not just your will, but your entire life in the hands of God or other Higher Being that you are comfortable with.
3. Making any amends that need to be made with partners, friends, colleagues, and other individuals that you have hurt through the course of your addiction.
4. Continuing to commit to abstinence of alcohol, following the principles that are learned in meetings and in the AA big book, and helping other individuals that are having problems that are caused from the addiction to alcohol.
How Can I Find a Meeting?
So you have read this far, lets now talk about how you can find a meeting near you. The AA website has you click on different locations to narrow down your area. The link above can be used for individuals in the United States and Canada.
If you live in a rural area, the other option would be online AA meetings. Please know that it is recommended that online meetings not replace regular in person meetings.
By attending online meetings, you miss out on the personal connection that you get from being in a room with other alcoholics. You can read more about attending online AA meetings by clicking on the link.
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