We can all remember what it felt like on the first day of school, or the first day on a new job. Those anxious feelings we experience are caused by the fear of the unknown. It is no wonder that this same reaction is very common when attending your first A.A. meeting. You most likely have no idea what to expect, how to behave, or what to say at the meeting. Fortunately, the actual experience in A.A. meetings is actually a pleasant surprise. Read on to learn about what to expect at your first A.A. meeting.
What is A.A.?
Alcoholics Anonymous was introduced in 1935 by founders Bill Wilson and Robert Smith, followed by the publication of the “Big Book,” Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. The tenets of the 12-step addiction recovery program help promote lifelong changes in the cognitive, behavioral, social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the recovering person’s life.
Approaching recovery with a “one day at a time” mindset allows the individual to feel they have some control over their destiny. Instead of being overwhelmed thinking they must conquer the entire recovery process all at once, working one step at a time can make it feel achievable, that it is possible to overcome the substance use disorder and find freedom in sobriety in small attainable chunks.
What Happens in an A.A. Meeting?
When entering a 12-step meeting you will likely be greeted warmly by whoever is gathered around the coffee station. Folks tend to congregate there and chitchat prior to the meeting. Once seated, you’ll notice that the meeting follows a specific format where the “chair” of the meeting starts by greeting the group and then reciting something from A.A. literature. Other members will continue, one reciting the 12 steps of the program, and another reciting the 12 principles of recovery.
After this business is completed the meeting will open up to the members. People will introduce themselves, first name only, and identify themselves as an alcoholic before conveying their message. Some like to talk about a recent setback or challenge they faced, while others may want to share about a victory. At some meetings, one or two members might stand up and give their story and testimony about their recovery through the A.A. 12-step program.
What becomes very clear in A.A. meetings is the humble authenticity of the members. As members speak about their experiences or share their personal stories, it is truly beautiful to witness the raw, real, humanity on display. It becomes evident that substance use disorders touch all walks of life and do not discriminate.
During the meeting, members are advised not to engage in what is termed “cross talk,” meaning that interjecting opinions or advice is highly discouraged. People who decide to openly share something just want to be heard, not counseled. However, after the meeting there will be an opportunity to share your thoughts directly with the person if they are open to it.
It may take attending a few meetings before you are familiarized with the program and begin to feel comfortable in the setting. Also, since each meeting is slightly different, you may wish to visit several A.A. gatherings before deciding on which is the best fit for you.
Accessing Local A.A. Meetings
Thankfully, A.A. meetings are plentiful, with lots of options each day in most areas. To locate a meeting near you, access the meeting locator page and click on your state. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be necessary for A.A. meetings to move to online platforms. To access online meeting times click here.
The 12-step program has withstood the test of time, remaining one of the essential recovery tools for people committed to overcoming substance use and rebuilding their lives. The A.A. “tool” is available free of charge, day or night across the globe, and is considered a source of strength, support, and encouragement for those who participate.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.