Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is a support group designed for people struggling with alcohol addiction. It is one of the so-called 12-step programs for addiction recovery. AA is popular not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world.
Joining an AA group is a great option for those suffering from alcoholism. If you’re one of them, you could be considering joining one yourself, but you may have a few apprehensions.
What if I’m shy? What if I don’t want to reveal my lifestyle to strangers? What if I get intimidated?
These are all valid questions to ask. If you have no idea what AA is or what the meetings are like, read on for some AA tips for beginners.
What is AA all about?
AA is a 12-step program for people recovering from alcohol addiction. The organization started in 1953, and ever since, it has helped millions of people live alcohol-free lives.
Usually, you would join an AA group as part of a more formal treatment program. But you can also join them on your own.
AA relies on the power of unity and fellowship to combat alcohol addiction. Simply being in the company of people going through struggles similar to yours is, in itself, therapeutic.
What are those 12 steps?
These are the 12 steps you and your fellow AA members would work through in the meetings.
- Admit that you’re powerless over alcohol.
- Accept that a higher power will restore your sanity.
- Make a decision to turn your life over to the higher power.
- Take a moral inventory of yourself.
- Admit your wrongdoings to the higher power, to another person, and to yourself.
- Accept that the higher power will remove the defects in your character.
- Humbly ask for the higher power to remove those shortcomings.
- Identify people who have been hurt by your addiction and be willing to make amends.
- Make amends to those people, except if doing so would harm them.
- Continue taking personal inventory. When you go wrong, admit it.
- Connect with the higher power through prayer and meditation.
- Spread the word about AA to other alcoholics, and continue to practice the 12 steps in your daily life.
These steps are not meant to be done alone, though. You will have a “sponsor” who will help you work through the steps. You can think of your sponsor as your AA best friend, the person to whom you can say anything. He will also guide you in case there are things you don’t fully understand.
Is the AA program the same for everyone?
While everyone goes through those 12 steps, not everyone will have the same journey of recovery. You have a different level of addiction than your fellow members and different experiences leading to the addiction. So, there will be different approaches for each member. You may work through the 12 steps in ways that are unique only to you.
What is a typical meeting like?
At first, walking into an AA meeting room could be intimidating to you, especially if you don’t know what to expect. More than that, you may feel a little bothered that you have to share your struggles to complete strangers. These are all valid concerns.
You’ll realize soon, though, that AA meetings are not as uncomfortable as you’d expect. Once fellow members begin to share their stories, you’ll find that your initial anxiety would go away. Hearing others share would also encourage you to tell your own story. That way, you’d have a healthy outlet for airing out your thoughts and feelings about your addiction.
The best part is that you’ll feel that a weight was carried off your shoulder later on. Just talking about your struggles and having people listen to you is already a huge relief by itself.
Will AA cost me a lot?
No, it won’t. Joining an AA group is actually free of charge. And with the many AA groups spread out across the country, there is no shortage of them to find.
Other people who are struggling with alcoholism even choose AA over more costly rehab programs. AA is quite effective, especially if the case of alcoholism is not severe.
Is AA only for people who believe in God?
No, it’s not. Though there would be mentions of God in AA meetings, AA itself is not affiliated with any particular religion. So, if you happen to not believe in God, it’s not a problem. AA members will neither reprimand you nor force you to believe.
In fact, several atheists have joined AA groups and successfully stayed sober for a long time.
Can I join both AA and a formal rehab program?
Yes, you can. Actually, many members of AA also take formal treatment. For some, attending AA is part of their treatment program.
Are all AA groups the same?
All AA groups follow the 12-step program, but not all groups are exactly alike. There are AA groups that have certain kinds of people only, such as women, young adults, medical professionals, business people, and the like. Some groups have many members, while others are only small groups.
Some groups practice calling people randomly each time. This way, facilitators make sure that everyone would have a chance to share, especially the more reserved members.
Other groups also focus on discussion. One member is selected to speak on a topic he’s passionate about. In his speech, he would also incorporate his hope for recovery. Then, group members would talk more about what the speaker shared.
How do I find an AA group?
The best person to help you is your primary care doctor. Ask him about AA, and most likely he’ll refer you to a group that’s best for your needs. Psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals can also help you find a good AA group.
You may also find one yourself in a telephone book, or in “where and when” booklets that list AA meetings.