What is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous is an International mutual aid fellowship of men and women with drinking problems. Its main objective is for members to help each other achieve and maintain sobriety. It is a non-profit, non-religious, self-supporting organization open to all individuals with drinking problems and to their family and friends. AA members use the Big Book, the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions as their guide.

For more information, see the topic: 6 Reasons Why AA Can Help You Overcome Alcoholism For Good

What to expect at an AA meeting?

In every AA meeting, you will find alcoholics who will talk about their drinking problems, how it affected their lives and changed their personalities, and how they deal with it. There is no one in-charge in an AA meeting, because every member is equal, although there is a chairperson or secretary who will formally start and end the meeting. There can also be a main sharer who will talk about his struggles with alcoholism and how he overcame it by being a member of Alcoholic Anonymous and working the 12 steps. Learn more about AA meetings: What you need to know about Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings.

What does it cost to attend AA meetings?

AA meetings are free of cost, although you can voluntarily give your contribution during the meeting. The collection usually covers the rent of the venue, refreshments, AA literature and other related expenses. AA is a self-supporting organization so it doesn’t receive contributions from non-members.

What do the meeting codes on for AA mean?

Open: Anyone who’s interested in AA can join.

Closed: Only those who have drinking problems and want to be a member of AA can attend.

Beginners/newcomers: It is an AA meeting for those who will attend an AA meeting for the first time.

Children welcome/Childcare: You can bring your kids with you during the meetings. There are child care services available.

Español (Spanish): It’s an AA meeting for Spanish-speaking individuals.

Gay/Lesbian: It is open for all members of LGBT community

Men: Only men can attend the meeting

Smoking: Smoking is allowed in the venue.

Women: It’s a meeting for women only.

Young People: It’s a meeting specifically designed for teenagers and young adults.

Big Book meetings - These meetings focus on the main text of AA which is the Big Book

Candlelight: These are meetings held at night. It’s called candlelight, because the lights are dimmed

Concepts: These meetings focus on the twelve steps.

Discussion/Participation: These meetings commonly concentrate on a certain topic or two which the group or the chairperson pick. Members take turns in talking about the topic.

Questions & Answers: These meetings allow members to ask questions about topics that are important to them and that they feel a need to discuss with others. This format is very popular at teen meetings.

Speaker meetings: These meetings have a speaker that is also a member of AA. A speaker tells the story of his own recovery from alcoholism.

12 Step and 12 Tradition study: The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions are discussed. Members typically read a chapter out of the Big Book and talk about it afterwards.

Who attends AA meetings?

Anyone with a drinking problem who has a desire to stop drinking is welcome to attend a closed AA meeting. Non-alcoholic relatives and friends of alcoholics can attend open AA meetings. Open AA meetings are open to everyone who wishes to experience AA fellowship.

How do I know if I’m an alcoholic?

You are an alcoholic if you have an apparent and uncontrollable physical compulsion and psychological obsession to drink alcohol. You drink it excessively regardless of the serious problems it brings to your family, work and finances. Read a detailed discussion on the signs of alcoholism: Alcohol & Drug Addiction - Signs & Symptoms

If I go to an AA meeting will everyone know that I'm alcoholic?

If you are still drinking and you’re afraid that you’ll be kicked out of the meeting because of it, don’t worry. The only requirement to attend AA meetings is for you to have the desire to quit drinking. Almost everyone who attends a closed meeting has or had drinking problems. The members also introduce themselves in this manner, “Hi, I’m ___ and I’m an alcoholic, or student/visitor or Interested in AA.”

If you’re going to attend Open meetings, other members will not know that you are drinking unless you tell them. A non-alcoholic who’s a friend or relative of an alcoholic can join open meetings. Learn more about “How to get through your first meeting in 4 easy steps”.

Is it OK to drink socially and attend AA?

No. Moderation is drinking less than you want, hoping that it will lessen your strong urge to drink.

For most alcoholics, moderation doesn’t work because the characteristic sign of alcoholism is the inability to control drinking. That’s why moderation is not a good strategy to overcome alcoholism. For an alcoholic, the idea of drinking moderately can range from any amount of alcohol that’s convenient to excess.

Drinking socially is still drinking and if you really want to quit, you have to avoid consuming alcohol, even for social reasons. However, you are still welcome to attend AA meetings whether you drink socially or heavily, as long as you make a serious attempt to quit drinking. Suggested reading: Abstinence vs. Moderation: Which works best for AA members?

What’s the difference between AA & NA?

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous both offer the 12 steps to encourage inner healing that would free a person from addiction to addictive substances. NA adapts and expanded the 12 Steps of AA to apply to addiction. However, AA members are mostly alcoholics although some also have drug problems, while NA members are people with drug addiction, although they may also have problems with alcohol.

Do I need to go to rehab first before going to AA?

Alcoholism is both a physical and psychological problem which requires professional help. It is advisable to go first to a treatment center that offers detox to deal with the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Follow that up with an inpatient or outpatient program that sets up an after care plan to help recovering alcoholics stay on track. AA meetings would be very beneficial in maintaining sobriety during outpatient or after being discharged from inpatient treatment.

AA as a standalone tool is very useful for people with mild alcoholism. But for those who are suffering from severe alcoholism, AA can be used during the recovery period (after rehab) to stay clean and sober. To help you decide whether you’ll attend AA or go to a rehab, read: Signs you need to go to rehab before attending AA.

How often do people attend AA meetings?

Some members attend meetings two or three times a day, every day, once a week, once a month or once in a blue moon!

What happens at AA retreats?

A retreat is a time for you to rest, contemplate and pray. It is also a way to get to know more people in AA, understand more about the 12 steps, and focus on the spiritual aspect of AA. The activities depend on the type of retreat experiences, like directed retreats (religious), secular (features experiential workshop), and silent retreats.

Read more about retreats: “Should I attend AA retreats?”

Is AA a religious organization?

No. AA is considered as a spiritual program but it specifically states that it is not a religious organization. Although its founders are Christians, AA is not affiliated with any religious organization and it does not impose or promote Christianity. Its members come from different religions. There are also atheist and agnostic members.

How often should I attend AA meetings? Do I have to attend for the rest of my life?

Whether you haven’t attended an AA meeting or you have been an AA member for years, the only thing you need is the desire to stay sober.

Alcoholism is a serious condition so it is advisable to attend at least one meeting a day within the first 90 days after you quit drinking. On the first year of your sobriety, you can attend a minimum of five meetings a week to keep your focus. The risk of relapse is still very high during the first three years after you got clean and sober. So, as the stress hits, you are encouraged to attend extra meetings. At this period, alcoholics in recovery can attend as many as 3 meetings a day.

Many people attend AA for their entire sober lives after they overcome alcoholism because it helps maintain their sobriety and they inspire newcomers to stay sober. It is also their way of giving back to AA.

Does AA have a book?

Yes. It is called, “The BIG Book”. It was originally written by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Big Book describes how a person can recover from alcoholism.

If I am addicted to both drugs and alcohol should I attend AA or NA meetings?

You can attend either AA or NA because the 12-Steps can help you build a strong foundation for lifelong sobriety. You will not only learn how to escape addiction but also to live a quality life. By listening to the stories of other members about their experiences while using alcohol and/or drugs you can compare and contrast triggers for relapse. The meetings will also allow you to express your feelings and receive support. You can also build a strong network with fellow AA members to help you cope with your daily problems.

I have a family member who is an alcoholic. What support services are available to me?

Family members of an alcoholic can join Al-Anon Family Groups and Open AA meetings.

For more information, read “How AA meetings can help a family member of an alcoholic” and “Signs that a family member needs help from co-dependency”.

What is a 12 step program? Is AA 12 steps?

AA is the original proponent of the 12-step program. The 12 Steps outline the course of action for dealing with compulsive behaviors, drug addiction and alcoholism. Read more on How to work the 12 steps of Alcoholic Anonymous.

How effective are 12 step programs? Are there meeting options that aren't 12 steps?

Many former alcoholics and drug addicts claimed that the 12 steps helped them achieve and maintain sobriety. The following are some of the alternative mutual-aid groups:

ü LifeRing

ü Moderation Management

ü SMART Recovery


ü Women for Sobriety

Who creates the AA meetings? Can we create one at our location?

A group of 2 or more alcoholics can create an AA meeting, as long as they are not affiliated with any other support group. If you want a meeting of your own you can get the format from, and adapt it to suit the needs of the members. You also need member-volunteers to welcome new members, prepare refreshments, and invite a main sharer and chairperson.