So, you've been asked to attend some AA meetings. Or you want to attend some AA meetings. You are probably wondering what to expect. Unless you've been to AA before, then perhaps you may think you know what to expect. But, luckily, every AA meeting is a little different. That means you can lay aside your expectations and just enjoy the experience.
How to find an AA Meeting. The oldest way is to look in the phone book, under Alcoholism. No matter where you are in the world, you'll find a listing for Alcoholics Anonymous. On the Internet search "AA meetings in (your city)." On your smart phone, search for applications under the topics "AA Meetings" or "12 Step Recovery."
Open or Closed? If you believe you're alcoholic, try a "closed" meeting, as they are for alcoholics only. If you're unsure about your status, try an "open" meeting. The most important thing is to GO! It's really recommended you try about eight meetings before you make a decision about whether or not AA is for you.
Do I have to talk? No. Every AA group is different, however, they all essentially operate the same. You may or might not be asked to share or talk. It's definitely ok to pass. You don't have to announce yourself as an alcoholic or share anything unless you want to. It's helpful to arrive at the meeting a little early, that way you can get a seat and not draw too much attention to yourself as a newcomer. The folks that are early to meetings are usually pretty sturdy AA members; they come early to set up and welcome people just like you. The people you meet will help you adjust to how the meeting works and what to expect. Just tell them you're new to AA, and that this is your first meeting.
What to bring. The most important thing to bring along is an open mind. It helps to bring a little willingness too. Listening is the best gift you can bring almost anywhere. If you listen in on an AA meeting, often you will be able to identify with or relate to folks who are talking. Of course you can bring a friend in case you're nervous or scared, but unless your friend is an alcoholic, it's best to go to an open meeting. Bring a dollar bill (or two) for the donation basket. It's customary in AA to pay the rent by passing a collection basket. This usually happens about half way through the meeting.
Try to remember that everyone in the room had been new to AA just like you. They all had to find their way to their first AA meeting, they all had to ask questions and feel a little uncomfortable.
Do I have to stay for the whole meeting? No. But if you can, try and stay for the entire meeting. If you can't, if you're just too uncomfortable or perhaps too emotional, it's definitely ok to leave. Be polite, try and wait for a pause in people's sharing before you exit. Try to remember that everyone in the meeting is really there to carry a message of hope to you and are wanting to offer their support to someone new to AA just like you.
EShepard from Tuscon, AZ, has more than 10 years working as a therapist with families struggling with addiction.