About A.A.

The main purpose and mission of Alcoholics Anonymous members is to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of people who have a drinking problem.  It is non-professional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere.  There are no age or educational requirements.

Membership is open to anyone who want to do something about their drinking problem.

Singleness of Purpose and Problems Other Than Alcohol

Some professionals refer to alcoholism and drug addiction as “substance abuse” or “chemical dependency.”  Non-alcoholics a, therefore, are sometimes introduced to A.A. and encouraged to attend A.A. meetings.  Anyone may attend open A.A. meetings, but only those with a drinking problem may attend closed meetings.

What does A.A. do?

A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give personal service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming from any source. The A.A. program, as outlined in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.

The program is discussed at A.A. meetings:

  • Open speaker meetings — open to alcoholics and non-alcoholics. Attendance at an open A.A. meeting is the best way to learn what A.A. is, what it does, and what it does not do. At speaker meetings, one or two A.A. members “tell their stories.” They describe their experiences with alcohol, how they came to A.A., and how their lives have changed as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous and working the program. 
  • Open discussion meetings — one member speaks briefly about his or her drinking experience, and then leads a discussion on A.A. recovery or any drinking-related problem. Non-alcoholics may attend but not share.
  • Closed discussion meetings — conducted just as open discussions are, but only alcoholics or prospective alcoholics can attend.
  • Step meetings (usually closed) — discussion of the Twelve Steps or Twelve Traditions.
  • Treatment/Correctional Facilities -– meetings may also be taken into correctional and treatment facilities by A.A. members.
  • Informational Meetings -– A.A. members may be asked to conduct the informational meetings about A.A. as a part of A.S.A.P. (Alcohol Safety Action Project) and D.U.I. (Driving Under the Influence) programs. These meetings about A.A. are not regular A.A. group meetings.

A.A. does not . . .

  • Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to seek help and recover.
  • Solicit members.
  • Engage in or sponsor research.
  • Keep attendance records or case histories.
  • Join “councils” of social agencies.
  • Follow up or try to control its members.
  • Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses.
  • Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalization, drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment.
  • Offer religious services or host/sponsor retreats.
  • Engage in education about alcohol.
  • Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other welfare or social services.
  • Provide domestic or vocational counseling.
  • Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-A.A. entities.
  • Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies, employers, etc.

Alcoholics Referred from Court Programs or Treatment Facilities

In recent years, A.A. groups have welcomed many new members from court programs and treatment facilities. Some have come to A.A. voluntarily; others, under a degree of pressure. In our pamphlet, How A.A. Members Cooperate, the following appears:  “We cannot discriminate against any prospective A.A. member, even if he or she comes to us under pressure from a court, an employer, or any other agency.  Although the strength of our program lies int he voluntary nature of membership in A.A., many of us first attended meetings because we were forced tom either by someone else or by inner discomfort.  But continual exposure to A.A. educated us to the true nature of the illness . . . Who made the referral to A.A. is not what A.A. is interested in. It is the problem drinker who is our concern . . . We cannot predict who will recover, nor have we the authority to decide how recovery should be sought by any other alcoholic.”

Proof of Attendance at Meetings

Sometimes courts ask for proof of attendance at A.A. meetings. Some groups, with the consent of the prospective member, have the A.A. group secretary sign or initial a slip that has been furnished by the court. Other groups cooperate in different ways. There is no set procedure. The nature and extent of any group’s involvement in this process is entirely up to the individual group. This proof of attendance at meetings is not part of A.A.’s procedure. Each group is autonomous an d has the right to choose whether or not to sign court slips.

What is an A.A. Group? 

As the long form of Tradition Three clearly states, “Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.”

The A.A. Home Group

Traditionally, most A.A. members through the years have found it important to belong to one group that they call their “home group.” This is the group where they accept service responsibilities and try to sustain friendships. And although all A.A. members are usually welcome at all groups and feel at home at any of these meetings, the concept of the The AA Group home group has still remained the strongest bond between the A.A. member and the Fellowship.

With membership comes the right to vote on issues that might affect the group and might also affect A.A. as a whole — a process that forms the very cornerstone of A.A.’s service structure. As with all group-conscience matters, each A.A. member has one vote; and this, ideally, is voiced through the home group.

Over the years, the very essence of A.A. strength has remained with our home group, which, for many members, becomes our extended family.  Once isolated by our drinking, we find in the home group a solid, continuing support system, friends and, very often, a sponsor. We also learn firsthand, through the group’s workings, how to place “principles before personalities” in the interest of carrying the A.A. message. 

Talking about her own group, a member says: “Part of my commitment is to show up at my home group meetings, greet newcomers at the door, and be available to them — not only for them but for me. My fellow group members are the people who know me, listen to me, and steer me straight when I am off in left field. They give me their experience, strength and A.A. love, enabling me to ‘pass it on’ to the alcoholic who still suffers.”