Most people who are court ordered to attend AA meetings have gotten a DUI conviction or perhaps a domestic violence situation where alcoholism is involved. As an alternative to going to jail, the judge may order you to attend AA meetings for a certain period of time. Along with AA meetings, sometimes the judge may even order offenders to go to an alcohol rehabilitation program, counseling or both.
In case you find yourself court ordered to attend meetings and you have never been, here are 3 main things you’ll need to know.
1. The Screening Test
First off, you will be assigned to a caseworker who will give you a screening test to determine your drinking behaviors. The court officer will take a look at the screening test results and come to a decision based on the test results. If, to the officer’s discretion, it is determined that you are indeed an alcoholic, you may be ordered to attend 90 AA meetings within 90 days. If you’ve been in the system before, you may be ordered to attend even more meetings than that. The goal of this is for you to absorb yourself in the AA meetings so you can be encouraged to stop drinking and grow in valuable ways.
2. The Slip
Your caseworker will give you a paper slip which you will have to get the AA meeting’s chairperson to sign and note your attendance. Be sure ahead of time that the meeting you attend will indeed get your slip signed as some AA groups refuse because they believe anyone court ordered to attend is likely not taking the program seriously. You will have to submit this slip to your probation officer or caseworker once you complete all of your required meetings. This fulfills your AA meeting requirements, although you may have other court ordered obligations depending on your situation.
3. The Meetings
It’s normal to feel some anxiety about attending your first meeting. Many newcomers are afraid they’ll feel pressured to share their story with the group, but the truth is you can attend a meeting to just sit and listen. Bear in mind, however, that you don’t have to give your full name if you do decide to share. Even if you know someone in the room, they’re not entitled to tell others that you were there.
When you arrive to the meeting, you’ll notice some members chatting with each other or busy setting up. There’s usually coffee available, so feel free to help yourself. The meeting begins with the chairperson reading AA literature, including the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of AA. At the end of the readings, the group opens up for members to share about any topic. For example, one may share how they’re struggling to not drink. Another person may share a testimony about an accomplishment. Anyone in the group is free to chime in, but no one is encouraged to give advice—only sharing experience, strength and hope. Again, you are free to just sit and listen.
At the end of the meeting there will be time given to recognize those who have some sobriety time under their belt. If you’re a newcomer or you’re starting over the program, you are free to pick up an AA White Chip, also known as the “Surrender Chip,” to mark the beginning of your new life. There are also plastic chips meant to recognize clean time of 30, 60, 90 days, 6 months, 1 year and more. Many recovering alcoholics like this recognition and are motivated to aim for the next sobriety milestone.
At the end of the day, the court system hopes that AA will make an impact on you and that you’ll want to continue attending long after your court order is complete. And sometimes, being mandated to AA meetings is simply the push that one needs to find the beautiful world that lies on the other side of alcoholism.