AA Meeting Topics: What to Expect
When you’re looking into Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings for the first time, you probably want to know what to expect. Understanding the organization, how the AA group meetings function, what AA meeting topics will be discussed, and how to best prepare for the meetings can help you get the most of them and help you decide if Alcoholics Anonymous is right for you.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous is a group of people who meet regularly to share their experiences of recovery from alcohol misuse. AA refers to alcohol misuse as “alcoholism” and people with alcohol misuse disorder as “alcoholics.” It’s important to understand the terminology used within the group to know that no one person is labeled any differently than others.
Alcoholics Anonymous is an inclusive, welcoming group, and the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking alcohol. The primary purpose of the group is to abstain from alcohol use, called “staying sober,” and to help others in the group also abstain from alcohol use. If you need help with your addiction to alcohol, speak to a treatment specialist by calling 800-839-1686Who Answers? and see what your options are.
AA Meeting Topics and Meeting Formats
It’s common to feel intimidated at the thought of entering a room of people you’ve never met before. Knowing what to expect during your first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting can help calm your anxiety.
No two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are exactly the same, but they do all tend to follow a certain format. The chairperson of the meeting usually begins the meeting with the AA preamble that states the organization’s values and mission. The chairperson may recite the Serenity Prayer or select a reading from the Big Book, the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous. A chapter may be read from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the A.A. principles of recovery from alcohol misuse.
There are a few different kinds of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. They include:
- Discussion meetings: During discussion meetings, an AA member serves as the leader of the meeting. They open the meeting and select a topic for discussion.
- Speaker meetings: During speaker meetings, a person or people share their journeys with alcohol misuse and recovery.
- Beginner meetings: These meetings are led by group members who are familiar with the recovery journey and are often structured in a question-and-answer format to help those new to AA get a feel for the meetings. Beginner meetings often focus on Steps One, Two, and Three of the Twelve Steps.
- Step, Tradition, or Big Book: These meetings are sometimes called “study” meetings because group members take an in-depth look at a particular Step or Tradition.
Most AA meetings close by members joining together in a moment of silence or a reciting of the Serenity Prayer. This prayer is a nondenominational prayer.
Open vs Closed Meetings
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are either open or closed. An open AA meeting is a group meeting that any member of the community is welcomed to attend. This means that group members may invite friends, family members, or other support people to the meeting. The only condition of attending the meeting is that the members retain their anonymity and their identities aren’t shared outside the group. Open meetings are usually speaker meetings during which a speaker shares their personal story with alcohol misuse and recovery.
A closed AA meeting is only for AA group members, or for new participants who have a desire to stop drinking. The goal of closed meetings is to give members the opportunity to discuss vulnerable topics that may only be understood by other group members with a history of alcohol misuse. Closed meetings are usually informal and can provide valuable learning opportunities to people new to AA.
AA Meeting Topics
The topics for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are usually selected from the Big Book, Twelve Steps, or Twelve Traditions and are designed to encourage abstinence from alcohol. AA meeting topics suggested for discussion by the organization include:
- Higher power
- Making amends
- Tools of recovery
Preparing for an AA Meeting
AA doesn’t require membership in the formal sense as many groups do. There are no applications or forms to fill out. The only requirement before the meeting is that you sincerely want to stop drinking alcohol.
Because attending an AA meeting for the first time can feel overwhelming, some people find comfort in attending the meeting with an acquaintance, either an AA group member or a supportive loved one. It can also be helpful to have a plan for what you will do after the meeting, whether that is to socialize with the other members or to go to a safe space where there is no alcohol.
If you feel like you need more than an AA meeting to overcome your addiction, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak to an addiction specialist. They can tell you what type of treatment is available to you and get you the help you need.
How to Make the Most of an AA Meeting
Making the most out of an AA meeting starts with being open to the unknown. Being prepared can help you feel more comfortable, but ultimately being receptive to the new friends you might make, the new learnings you might take home, and the new tools you will develop for your recovery will help you get the most out of the meeting.
Willingness to listen to the stories of others and share your own story will help you connect with the group, and the program as a whole. Most importantly, the desire to stop drinking will help make your learnings from the meetings meaningful and compelling and drive real change in your behavior.
Attending Your First Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting
Taking the first steps into an AA group meeting may be the most important steps toward your recovery from alcohol misuse. These first steps are often some of the hardest for some people. It may help you know that many people have stood where you stand, and now stand at the end of years of sobriety. The most important part of your first A.A. meeting is simply showing up.