Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a group of individuals who are alcoholics who help each other stay sober.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide group of men and women who are alcoholics and who help each other to stay sober by holding AA meetings. Members have a special understanding of what the illness feels like and how to recover from it with the help of AA meetings. These meetings are free and open to anyone with the desire to quit drinking. Although AA keeps no list of members, groups do report the number of members attending meetings. These reports estimate that there are more than 2 million members belonging to 114,000 AA groups in more than 180 countries.
There are several types of AA meetings. Open speaker meetings are open to anyone who is interested in AA, as well as friends and relatives of members. These meetings focus around members that talk about their own drinking, how they discovered AA and how it helped them to stop drinking. Open discussion meetings have a member discuss his or her drinking experience before leading a discussion on recovery. Closed discussion meetings are for alcoholics only. Members participate in a group discussion that allows them to share thoughts and experiences with other members. They are able to ask questions and seek help of a more personal nature regarding difficulties in their own everyday lives and with staying sober. Other members help by sharing similar difficulties and explaining how they overcame them, generally by using one or more of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Step meetings, which are also usually closed, discuss one of the Twelve Steps.
AA meetings are held once or twice a week and provide an environment for alcoholics to learn about the recovery process while being in touch with other members. In order to succeed, new members should attend on a regular basis. Each group has its own customs and way of holding meetings. They elect a chairperson, secretary and other officers to conduct meetings in a smooth and orderly manner. These elections are generally held twice a year. Although the members do not pay dues or fees, each group supports itself through member contributions. Members pass around a basket during meetings and contribute whatever they can afford. These donations provide the funds needed to pay rent and purchase coffee and refreshments, and provide materials such as AA books, pamphlets and magazines. These funds also aid in supporting the General Service Office, central offices and other AA activities.
AA provides an atmosphere of friendship and support from other alcoholics who understand the challenges and difficulties of staying sober. Recovered alcoholics help newer members by example and by their willingness to share personal experiences and achievements. In return, they are better able to stay sober themselves. Members are encouraged to remain sober one day at a time rather than swearing off alcohol forever, which creates the pressure and worry of whether they will remain sober tomorrow.
According to AA, the program is based on Twelve Steps that teach members to live life without alcohol. The recovery program helps members straighten out confused thoughts, cope with unhappy feelings and guide themselves toward happy, sober lives. The Twelve Steps to recovery are outlined in A Brief Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous.
AA meetings can be located online through the AA Web site. Most cities have a listing in the local telephone book for an AA group or central office. Information about AA meetings can also be found through doctors and nurses, clergy, police, newspapers and other alcoholism facilities. Alcoholics living in remote areas that do not have a nearby group can contact the General Service Office by mail for information about ways to stay sober using the AA principles and program. Besides regular meetings, AA members provide meetings in correctional and treatment facilities and may be asked to conduct informational meetings as part of programs such as Driving While Intoxicated (D.W.I.) and Alcohol Safety Action Project (A.S.A.P.).
According to AA's 44 Questions, membership and meetings are based on anonymity. Members do not have the right to disclose the identity of other members and traditionally do not disclose their own association with AA in print or any other form of public media. Experienced members understand the feelings of new members and the need for anonymity, remembering their own fears of public recognition as an alcoholic. In time, newcomers often realize that their past drinking was not a secret. Most members eventually do not object to others knowing that they are members of a fellowship that helps them to remain sober. However, disclosure of a members association with AA remains at the members discretion and only if the Fellowship will not be harmed.