Is AA Free for Anyone Who Wants to Attend?

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol misuse, you may be wondering, is Alcoholics Anonymous free? The short answer is yes, Alcoholics Anonymous is free. The only requirement for AA members is a desire to stop drinking.1 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) comprises 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. The steps are a path to sobriety, and the traditions comprise the structure of the program to protect its primary purpose: to promote the sobriety of the members of Alcoholics Anonymous.2 Free open meetings make AA accessible to people from all walks of life.

What Are the Benefits of a Free Program?

With AA, you do not need insurance. You do not need to pay clinical or medical fees for services. You do not need to wait on a waitlist for an available doctor or clinician. There is no intake process, nor is there a wait time for processing payment. AA is immediately available, and it is powered by people helping people—for free. With AA, all you need to do is find a meeting and attend. This accessibility is one of the key reasons AA works. When you’re at risk for relapse, you can attend an AA meeting immediately. When you’ve hit rock bottom and need support right away, AA will welcome you.

If you’re curious about whether or not you have an addiction, you are welcome to observe a meeting to hear the stories of other members, free of charge. If you believe a loved one has an addiction, you can attend an open AA meeting to learn what it’s all about. Additionally, if you have a loved one with an addiction, you can participate in 12-Step programs such as Al-Anon or Alateen, also free of charge.

Addiction is such a powerful force. It does not take a break depending upon your financial circumstance. Therefore, AA is available to you, independent of your financial situation. There are no limits to the number of meetings you can attend. A general recommendation for newcomers experiencing moderate to severe addiction is to attend 90 meetings in 90 days.4You can participate in the meetings in person, for free. You can attend telephone meetings at all hours of the day, for free. You can attend online meetings and Zoom meetings for free.

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Who Are the Members of Alcoholics Anonymous?

The AA fellowship comprises people from all walks of life: young and old, men and women, people of all races and ethnicities, and people across the socioeconomic spectrum.4 What unites AA members is the shared experience of experiencing alcoholism and the shared experience of recovery.

When you enter the rooms of AA, you are met with compassion. You are met with a fellowship of men and women who understand you upon meeting you. In AA, the expert in the room is your own experience. You are not asked to believe things you do not believe. You are not asked to participate more than you are comfortable. A common slogan shared among members is, “Take what you’d like and leave the rest.”1

AA members understand the perils of alcoholism in ways that people without alcoholism cannot understand. They’ve understood the unmanageability, the loss of control, and the ruin that addiction can have in your life. By the time many people have entered the rooms of AA for the first time, they may have hit rock bottom—a marriage has ended, depression has threatened their ability to work, or legal matters have come into their life as a result of alcohol. AA members understand the patterns of addiction, the automatic thoughts that urge the addiction, and the excruciating discomfort of withdrawal. AA members understand the experience of being enslaved to the very thing that has generated so much loss, suffering, and illness in their life. And most importantly, AA members have found a path to sobriety.1,2

The path of recovery through the 12 Steps supports you in recovering from alcohol misuse and gives hope where hope didn’t exist before. It gives meaning and purpose where this was lacking. It provides a community where there was loneliness and a connection to an experience larger than yourself. In clinical language, addiction to alcohol is often a secondary comorbid diagnosis.5 This means that alcoholism is rarely diagnosed alone. It is often accompanied by mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder.6 In fact, you may have turned to alcohol as a means to cope with the symptoms of one of these conditions.7 The 12 Steps of AA are a spiritual solution that aids in healing from addiction, as well as recovery from the struggles that led to addiction in the first place.

How Are Contribution Funds Used?

The 7th Tradition of AA states that every group ought to be fully self-supporting declining outside contributions.2 During a meeting, the 7th Tradition will be read, and a basket will be passed around in which AA members have an option to contribute. You are a welcome member of AA whether you contribute or not. Most people contribute $1.00 to $5.00 per meeting, but this is not a requirement. The majority of meetings will encourage newcomers to avoid contributing until they’ve identified if AA as a whole, or the specific meeting they’re attending, is right for them.8

What Does the 7th Tradition Fund?

The money generated from the 7th Tradition supports the specific group that generated the contributions. For example, this money pays for the rent of the room where the meeting is taking place, and it pays for refreshments at the meeting such as coffee and doughnuts.

Each AA group holds a monthly business meeting in which all members are encouraged to attend. During this meeting, the group’s treasurer shares a financial report, and members make decisions as a group about how to spend the funds. In situations where there is a surplus of funds, the group may decide to purchase AA-approved literature for their group or make a group donation to AA World Services, Inc., which uses the funds to increase accessibility by supporting efforts such as AA speaker podcasts, websites, literature distribution, telephone meetings, and radio advertisements.8

What the 7th Tradition Does Not Fund

The primary purpose of AA is to support people with alcoholism to live a life of sobriety. AA is independent of religious or political affiliation, and the 12 Traditions of AA protect this mission.2 Tradition 1 states, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.” The traditions identify where such unity could be compromised and create structure in the program to mitigate this.

For example, Tradition 6 states, “An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”2 Tradition 6 keeps the focus on AA and the mission of sobriety. This tradition circumvents disagreement among members about what to endorse or finance, therefore supporting each member’s unity and shared mission: to recover.

The 7th Tradition states, “Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.” This tradition supports unity by protecting against financial influence from external sources. Monetary funds for AA come directly from AA members and stay within AA.8

When I Purchase AA Literature or Merchandise, Where Do the Funds Go?

You may decide that you’d like to purchase the Big Book of AA or other AA-approved literature. A variety of AA-approved books include A Brief History of The Big Book, Living Sober, and Our Great Responsibility, to name a few. Workbooks are available that guide you through the steps. Pamphlets and flyers, as well as newsletters, are also available for purchase. You or your AA group can buy merchandise such as chips and medallions to denote your stages of sobriety.

The funds received from purchasing these items are turned into increased literature production. Additionally, AA makes much of the literature from the Big Book accessible for free online in a PDF format. The funds from your purchase also support the creation and hosting of an audio version of the Big Book, as well as daily reflections on the website. Accessibility is a core part of AA’s mission. Therefore, financial contributions and purchased literature support this accessibility.8

Can I Attend AA if I’m Receiving Paid Medical or Mental Health Treatment?

You can attend AA in combination with other treatments for addiction. Many AA members are concurrently in counseling and share how their counseling supports their recovery. Many AA members attend inpatient or outpatient treatment programs, especially in the early phases of their recovery, to provide additional support for sobriety. Some members meet with a psychiatrist to find the right prescription medication, such as an antidepressant, to work in unison for sobriety and well-being.9

What Kinds of Paid Environments Use Alcoholics Anonymous?

Some paid environments incorporate AA into their services. For example, many treatment centers include an AA meeting as part of their daily curriculum, in addition to group and individual therapies. Also, hospitals settings may host AA meetings as part of their services for patients with medical ailments who cannot attend their regular AA meetings. However, in these settings, you are not paying for the AA meeting, but you are paying for services that incorporate AA into their treatment.

In treatment centers, the inclusion of AA supports clients in developing awareness and familiarity with the AA program structure and feel so that they’ll have a resource to turn to once they are no longer a client. Ideally, in these settings, the meetings will be led by another client or by a volunteer in the local community. If a clinician is leading the meeting, the clinician will not be in the role of therapist or doctor while in the meeting. The clinician will be in the role of a fellow member in recovery. This keeps with Tradition 8 that AA is forever nonprofessional.2 Please note that if an AA meeting is led in a treatment center by a clinician who is not a member in recovery, this meeting will have a different feel to it than peer-led meetings. Typically, the reason for this is no AA member is available to lead the meeting.

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Giving Back

Commonly, AA members receive so much from the program that they wish to give back. In addition to the option of financial contribution to your local meeting, you can make a financial contribution to AA World Services, Inc. However, all of this is optional as AA is free.8

You will have plenty of opportunities for nonmonetary contributions in the form of service. You can lead your local meetings, help set up the meeting rooms, be in charge of refreshments, be your group’s treasurer or representative, etc. It’s a gift to give back, and while this is never required, members often seek to be of service. After all, AA comprises people helping people. In addition to living a life of sobriety, this is one of the most rewarding parts of being an AA member.

AA is an excellent option as part of a solid plan of recovery, as well as a core part of a relapse prevention plan. For more information about treatment options, call 877-640-2220 Who Answers? today.


  1. Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (4th ed.). (2002). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (1989). Twelve steps and twelve traditions. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
  3. Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. (1981). Al-Anon’s twelve steps & twelve traditions. New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters.
  4. Miller, W.R., Forcehimes, A.A., Zweben, A. (2011). Treating Addiction A Guide for Professionals. The Gilford Press.
  5. Quello, S. B., Brady, K. T., & Sonne, S. C. (2005). Mood disorders and substance use disorder: a complex comorbidity. Science & practice perspectives, 3(1), 13-21.
  6. Tolliver, B. K., & Anton, R. F. (2015). Assessment and treatment of mood disorders in the context of substance abuse. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 17(2), 181-190.
  7. Ramsey, S. E., Engler, P. A., & Stein, M. D. (2005). Alcohol use among depressed patients: The need for assessment and intervention. Professional psychology, research and practice, 36(2), 203–207.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous (2018). Self-Support, Where Money & Spirituality Mix [Pamplet]. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
  9. Laudet, A. B., Savage, R., & Mahmood, D. (2002). Pathways to long-term recovery: a preliminary investigation. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 34(3), 305-311.
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