Every five years, an International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous is held to honor the miracle of millions of lives turned around through AA. The tradition got its start in July 1950 when Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, announced the first ever AA International Convention to be held in Cleveland, Ohio. At the time, it marked the 15th year since the founding of AA and several other remarkable events. For recovering addicts, attending a convention is usually an experience like no other. Stadiums and convention centers fill with thousands of sober alcoholics as well as supportive professionals, community members and people from around the world.
This year, Alcoholics Anonymous will celebrate its 80th anniversary during its 2015 International Convention from July 2-5 in Atlanta. The three-day affair is set to commemorate the organization’s June 10 inception and will take place Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday morning in the Georgia Dome. Smaller scheduled and informal meetings will also be held in the Georgia World Congress Center and various hotels in the area. The organization expects attendance in Atlanta to reach up to 61,000 people.
The previous convention in 2010 pulled in more than 40,000 attendees in San Antonio, Texas. In 1995, the event gathered more than 54,000 members in San Diego, California. However, this year’s celebration is set to break records and make for the biggest of AA meetings to date.
While most people have planned for their attendance in 2015, some accommodations are still available. Preregistration costs were $100 for those who purchased by May 12. Registration now costs $110 and may be purchased by filling and sending out this registration form via fax or mail, registering online through the organization’s convention registration page, or on-site at the Georgia World Congress Center starting Wednesday, July 1.
Registration is required to attend the convention meetings. While many members believe that all AA meetings are free, that is not necessarily the case. Conventions are put on by groups outside of AA and are funded using the proceeds of past attendance and fundraising activities. The International Convention, while supported by AA World Services, is not a function of Alcoholics Anonymous. Therefore, it is a private event held for the benefit of AA members and meetings are not considered “open.” Members will need a registration badge to be able to attend.
Information packets are also available at most AA Central Offices located in cities throughout the world and online by searching through the AA website.
Many newer members share fond convention memories such as sharing rides, rooms, meals and the entire event with groups of friends and family members. There are stories of several members sleeping in cars, vans, trucks and camping in every conceivable location.
At the moment, the International Convention websites state that there are still rooms available at AA event rates, though most near the event are already fully booked. However, many alternative placements remain and costs can always be shared with friends and family.
While navigating through crowds of thousands to attend an event such as AA’s International Convention is something best done with some preparation and forethought, it is also possible to pull it off last minute.
Airline fares for convention attendance are reduced for those who have already registered. Keep in mind that you must already be registered while purchasing your ticket in order to receive the discounted rate, which can be accessed through the Alcoholics Anonymous World Services webpage. Special rates are also available for train fare and car rentals.
Benefits of Attending AA’s International Convention
Attendees often report being emotionally overwhelmed and inspired by the ceremonies surrounding the International Convention. The history of AA, its founding members and the sheer emotional impact of tens of thousands of sober alcoholics gathered in one venue is something all members should experience at least once.
Hearing the moving testimonies of AA members, the amazing stories of their recovery and the miraculous interventions and transformational tales that they all share makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for newer members. Long-time members usually attend to see old friends and to be a part of the biggest sober party in the world.
However you get to the party, be sure to take many pictures, phone numbers and all the contact information you can for the future. Great friends and relationships are forged at these gatherings and are often the cement that builds for long-term recovery.
The Past and the Present
The following are AA International Convention locations throughout the years:
1955 – St. Louis, MO
1960 – Long Beach, CA
1965 – Toronto, Canada
1970 – Miami Beach, FL
1975 – Denver, CO
1980 – New Orleans, LA
1985 – Montreal, Canada
1990 – Seattle, WA
1995 – San Diego, CA
2000 – Minneapolis, MN
2005 –Toronto, Canada
2010 – San Antonio, TX2015 – Atlanta, GA
During a November 2013 General Service Board Meeting in New York, it was announced (?) that future locations of the AA International Convention include Detroit in 2020 and Vancouver, Canada in 2025.