Should I Go to AA Meetings?
Should I Go to AA Meetings? Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the world’s largest network of support group meetings for alcoholism. Also commonly referred to as the “Twelve Step” program, it’s usually easy to find at least one AA meeting (and more likely several) no matter where you are.
AA focuses specifically on alcoholism, but there are various spin-off groups that follow the same principles for all other types of addiction. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is the largest general support group that deals with drug addictions of all types, but you may also see groups dedicated to addictions to specific drugs, like Pills Anonymous or Crystal Meth Anonymous.
If you are considering AA meetings, there are two big questions to ask first. Are you at a point in your recovery process where meetings are appropriate? And is the structure of an AA meeting something that is going to have benefit for you?
The Right Time for Meetings: Should I Go to AA Meetings?
Almost no time is a bad time for AA meetings if you are worried about your drinking. You don’t necessarily already have to be in a recovery program to begin going to AA. If you feel your drinking has reached a problem level, and are physically dependent or concerned about physical dependency, attending AA meetings can be helpful. People can even attend AA meetings while they are still actively drinking, though the meetings will usually require all participants to be sober to attend.
Though you can attend an AA meeting at just about any time, it’s important to understand that AA is an ongoing commitment. Working through the “twelve steps” is a critical part of the program and something you’ll be expected to take up at some point. Before you can begin this process, you’ll need to deal with any current alcohol dependency issues you may be experiencing. Most people find the process of initially breaking off from alcohol use to be too overwhelming to handle alone. At a minimum, a period of detox at a licensed treatment facility is recommended before beginning regular meetings and undertaking the twelve step process.
Is AA the Right Choice for You?
AA is not the only support group option out there, nor is it the best choice for everyone. To understand if AA is right for you, you should first learn a little about what open AA meetings are like.
If there is a “beginner meeting” in your area, this is the best place to start. These meetings are specifically designed for people who are still not sure about the program and want to learn more. You don’t have to attend a beginner meeting to get started with the program, but it’s very helpful as a first AA meeting experience.
Another important distinction to understand is the difference between “open” and “closed” meetings. A central principle of AA is that each participant must individually decide if they are an alcoholic or not. Open meetings are for anyone who wants to attend, regardless of how they define their status with alcohol, and family and friends may come along. Closed meetings, however, are only for those who define themselves as alcoholics or who believe they may be an alcoholic. As a newcomer, it’s usually best to start with an open meeting.
AA meetings almost always have the same format. They start right at the posted time, and a chairperson welcomes all members and asks if newcomers want to introduce themselves. Participants will generally sit in a circle facing each other. The chairperson reads the Preamble, then asks for a volunteer to read the 12 steps. Usually, at this point, the floor will be opened up for people to speak about their personal experiences with alcohol on a voluntary basis. Working the 12 steps is done separately from meetings, but participants may talk about their progress and will also usually have a sponsor from the group who they can continue to talk to outside of meetings.
The central issue that sometimes makes people uncomfortable with AA is the spirituality aspect. AA makes clear that they do not endorse or incorporate any specific religion, but they do ask participants to believe in a “higher power”, though they leave the definition of that up to each person. Meetings do often conclude with a Serenity Prayer, however, which does include a reference to God. There are a number of alternatives to AA that have a similar structure but do not include any “higher power” references, including SMART Recovery, LifeRing, and Women for Sobriety.
Are the Twelve Steps the Right Steps?
Should I Go to AA Meetings? AA is a critical ongoing component of the sobriety of millions of people worldwide. Even if you decide AA isn’t the right group structure for you, membership in some sort of ongoing support group has been shown to have extremely positive effects on recovery and is highly recommended.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.