Your First AA Meeting
Walking through the door of your first AA meeting can be the most important decision of your life. It can also be frightening, stressful, and uncertain.
"I was terrified. I've interviewed A-list celebrities, traveled abroad on my own with just a plane ticket and a backpack, and have shown up on strangers doorsteps to exchange sex for coke, but a meeting in a church basement terrified me."
This is how New York City writer, Annabelle Kathryn (not her real name) described her first AA meeting in an article on thefix.com. If you're wondering what to expect from your first AA meeting, we'll show you.
Are You Still on the Fence?
It's all about the first step--cliché, we know, but true. If you're still on the fence about going to an AA meeting, what's stopping you? Fear? Shame? Afraid of what you'll find out about yourself? Afraid of failure? Not sure if it's right for you? You've heard mixed reviews from friends about AA. Everyone who goes to meetings has some of these feelings at first.
You could say, "screw it!" and let one of these feelings deter you. Hey, maybe you'll quit on your own without AA. Or maybe you'll be slumped on the couch alone tomorrow night with an empty vodka bottle at your side. The first option is possible but not probable. The second is more likely.
So why take another step down the ladder when you could be taking a step up and out. Even if all those bad feelings hit you at your first meeting, guess what?-it doesn't matter. By your second meeting, you'll look back at the first and think why was I so freaked. Then again, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll absolutely hate your first meeting and never go back. That's possible. But you won't know either way unless you step into that first meeting.
Basic AA Meeting Structure
All meetings, no matter the city or state, have similar, basic structures. They start at an appointed time, on time in a quiet location like a church or AA-specific clubhouse. The structure and decorum are similar to a Toastmaster's meeting. Keep in mind, you can just sit quietly during the entire meeting, not saying a word or participating.
- The volunteer chairperson calls the meeting to order and then reads the "AA Preamble" and the "Serenity Prayer." You probably already know how it starts: God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.
- A usually pre-determined member(s) will read the "Twelve Traditions" and "How it Works" from the AA book.
- The chairperson welcomes any newcomers and lets you know that everything in the meeting is confidential, including whether you want to introduce yourself or not. If you do, just give your first name. That's all that's needed.
- Introductions are made around the room with members only giving their first names. Many will say, "Hi, I'm Tom, and I'm an alcoholic. My sobriety date is March 3, 2009."
- The reading of any AA announcements.
- The chairperson may share a topic or asks for topics from members. This is the heart of a meeting and can include topic discussion, Big Book Study, Step Study or a guest speaker. No one talks over anyone else. Everyone, if they want, gets a chance to talk.
- Conclusion of the meeting
- "Passing of the hat" for donations as AA is member-supported. You're not required to make a donation. But if you want to, drop a buck in the hat.
- Members stand, hold hands, and say the Lord's Prayer or the "Serenity Prayer".
- Hang around after if you want and get to know the members.
Every AA Meeting Is Different
Like any group, AA meetings are as diverse as the population they draw from. Some meetings may attract younger members, mixed (male and female), female or male only, Hispanic, whatever. Call or email your local AA office to find a meeting that may best suit you.
Then go to your first meeting. If you're not comfortable with that group, try another one. Find the right energy and right mix of personalities. Some meetings are non-smoking. Some meetings may focus on drinking stories more than say solutions.
Your first AA meeting is the hardest. By going, you're admitting to not only yourself but to strangers that you're an alcoholic. Certainly, AA is just one path of many on the journey to sobriety. It's worked for others. But what if it doesn't work for you. You'll never know if you don't go. On top of everything, it's free