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Finding an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting
For many people attempting to quit drinking, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings provide enormous help.
The get-togethers can be fantastic outlets for those working on recovery, with groups of others in similar situations offering support through comradery, advice, or even just active listening.
But finding the right AA meeting is almost as important as attending at all, to help ensure you connect with the group, fully engage with the meeting and its teachings, and give yourself the best possible shot to have a successful experience with the program.
What Are AA Meetings Like?
Before figuring out how to find the best Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for you, it might be helpful to understand what an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is like in general, so you have an idea of what to expect.
Most of the time, the meetings are held in places connected to churches or community centers. You’ll likely arrive as a small crowd is gathering, with members chatting, making coffee, or sitting quietly. There are also many online AA meetings that you can conveniently attend from the comfort of your own home.
Eventually, everyone takes a seat on one of the chairs arranged in a semi-circle. The meeting starts when the group leader—called the chairperson—goes through a number of readings, including the AA Preamble and the Serenity Prayer. Other members of the group will then recite other passages from the AA Big Book, including the 12 Traditions and the 12 Promises.
The chairperson then opens up the meeting. It might be a Step Study meeting, where the focus and discussion revolve around one of the 12 Steps. More likely, it will be an open meeting, where members can talk about anything recovery-related that’s on their mind.
Once everyone who wants to share is finished, the meeting wraps up with another group prayer. All in all, an AA meeting takes around an hour.
Finding An Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting Near You
There are several ways to find an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting near you.
Perhaps the easiest—and most to the point—is by using this AA Meeting Finder and searching for your preferred location.
Indeed, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be held in any number of formats in our virtual world, including through online video conferencing, phone conferencing, group emails, or chatrooms.
You might even decide—when determining what the right AA meeting for you is—that you’d prefer one of these formats to in-person meetings. Virtual meetings can actually be quite useful for those with tight schedules, transportation issues, or physical disabilities. Still, many experts advise that in-person meetings should at least be tried when a person first begins the 12 Step program.
The portal organized by the OIAA should help you sort out meetings by format, time zone, preferred language, and meeting type, among many other options.
Still, finding a meeting is only the first step toward finding the right meeting for you.
Finding The Right AA Meeting
While tools like the OIAA database make it easy to find Alcoholics Anonymous meetings generally, there’s no tool to help find the right AA meeting for you.
Unfortunately, the only way to find what feels best is the old-fashioned way: Trying out different meetings for yourself until you find the right fit.
Try not to be dismayed–every meeting attended is still a step in the right direction, whether or not you feel particularly connected to the group. Still, to make your search as successful as possible, there are a few things to keep in mind that might make a meeting experience better (or worse) for you.
This is a biggie. They say we are a composite of the people we spend the most time with and this goes double for recovery.
To have the most positive experience possible with the program, it’s important to look for a positive group that can help lift you up and give you the right kind of support and advice.
Imagine going through this process while being surrounded by those who are depressed or unmotivated. Their apathetic feelings toward recovery could be dangerously contagious.
Some good ways to decide whether or not you’ll get along with the group is by using that pre-meeting gathering. You can start to get a feel for peoples’ personalities. Are they more talkative? Friendlier? More standoffish or quiet?
As the meeting progresses, you’ll naturally get a better idea of the types of people attending it—and whether or not they’re a group you want to share your recovery with.
Potential for Growth
This goes hand-in-hand with group demeanor, but focuses on a specific aspect of it: How engaged and encouraging are fellow meeting-goers?
Some AA meetings are filled with people who are simply trying to ride out the event—whether they’re there by court order or are still not quite ready to fully embrace the program or their place in it.
But recovery is all about moving past traumas and harmful behavioral cycles through personal growth, which is much easier to achieve with a group that encourages members to speak and reflect on their experiences. A group that can help you grow will also listen and treat the discussions as opportunities they are for seeking change and healing.
There are thousands of AA meetings run all across the country, and each goes at its own pace, with its own types of discussions.
Still, there are some things you should be learning from each Alcoholics Anonymous meeting no matter what, including some insight on the teachings of the AA Big Book (the official guide to the 12 Step program) and other aspects of staying sober.
If you don’t feel you’re learning anything from your Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, it might be a sign that you should look for another one.
Meeting size is another factor—with some people feeling more comfortable in larger groups or smaller groups. Keep in mind that this will likely depend on where you are—a city, suburb, or rural location—as well as time of day and day of the week, though it can be hard to predict how big certain meetings will be, and even the same meeting can vary in size from week to week.
How Often Should You Attend AA Meetings?
You’ve done the legwork and found an AA meeting near you, at the right time and day, that helps you feel positive about sobriety and encouraged in your journey—congratulations!
Now, you may be left wondering how often you should be attending this meeting. (Or any AA meeting, for that matter.)
The answer is deeply personal. Some people feel they need to attend an AA meeting every day. Some people prefer to go once a week. Some people only go occasionally, when they feel they need extra help in staying sober.
How often or how little you attend AA meetings is ultimately up to you. However, most experts agree that attending more frequently—especially in the beginning—is more likely to lead to a successful recovery.
If you’ve found a weekly meeting you really connect with, it might be a good idea to at least start with that commitment. If you feel you want to attend even more AA meetings, you’ll have to seek out other days and times that work for you and essentially start the whole process over again, but if it’s what will help you on your journey, it’s well worth the time and effort.