What is AA?
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, so that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
There are no dues or fees for AA membership, we are self-supporting through our own contributions.
AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
AA Preamble, Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc
About the Fellowship
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.
Singleness of Purpose
Some professionals refer to alcoholism and drug addiction as “substance abuse” or “chemical dependency.” Non-alcoholics are, therefore, sometimes introduced to A.A. and encouraged to attend A.A. meetings. Anyone may attend open A.A. meetings, but only those with a drinking problem may attend closed meetings.
A renowned psychiatrist, who served as a nonalcoholic trustee of the A.A. General Service Board, made the following statement: “Singleness of purpose is essential to the effective treatment of alcoholism. The reason for such exaggerated focus is to overcome denial. The denial associated with alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful and affects the patient, helper, and the community. Unless alcoholism is kept relentlessly in the foreground, other issues will usurp everybody’s attention.”
What Does AA Do?
- AA members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to AA from any source.
- The AA program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
- This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
- Open speaker meetings — open to alcoholics and nonalcoholic. (Attendance at an open AA meeting is the best way to learn what AA is, what it does, and what it does not do.) At speaker meetings, AA members “tell their stories.” They describe their experiences with alcohol, how they came to AA, and how their lives have changed as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Open discussion meetings — one member speaks briefly about his or her drinking experience, and then leads a discussion on AA recovery or any drinking-related problem anyone brings up. (Closed meetings are for AAs or anyone who may have a drinking problem.)
- Closed discussion meetings — conducted just as open discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective AAs only.
- Step meetings (usually closed) — discussion of one of the Twelve Steps
- AA members also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
- AA members may be asked to conduct the informational meetings about AA as a part of A.S.A.P. (Alcohol Safety Action Project) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) programs. These meetings about AA are not regular AA group meetings.
What AA Does Not Do
- Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover
- Solicit members
- Engage in or sponsor research
- Keep attendence records or case histories
- Join “councils” of social agencies
- Follow up or try to control its members
- Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses
- Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalization, drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment
- Offer religious services
- Engage in education about alcohol
- Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other welfare or social services
- Provide domestic or vocational counseling
- Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-A.A. sources
- Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies, employers, etc.
Members From Court Programs and Treatment Facilities
In recent years, A.A. groups have welcomed many new members from court programs and treatment facilities. Some have come to A.A. voluntarily; others, under a degree of pressure. In our pamphlet “How A.A. Members Cooperate,” the following appears:
We cannot discriminate against any prospective A.A. member, even if he or she comes to us under pressure from a court, an employer, or any other agency.
Although the strength of our program lies in the voluntary nature of membership in A.A., many of us first attended meetings because we were forced to, either by someone else or by inner discomfort. But continual exposure to A.A. educated us to the true nature of the illness…. Who made the referral to A.A. is not what A.A. is interested in. It is the problem drinker who is our concern…. We cannot predict who will recover, nor have we the authority to decide how recovery should be sought by any other alcoholic.
Court Ordered to Attend AA?
Proof of Attendance at Meetings
Sometimes, courts ask for proof of attendance at A.A. meetings.
Some groups, with the consent of the prospective member, have the A.A. group secretary sign or initial a slip that has been furnished by the court together with a self-addressed court envelope. The referred person supplies identification and mails the slip back to the court as proof of attendance.
Other groups cooperate in different ways. There is no set procedure. The nature and extent of any group’s involvement in this process is entirely up to the individual group.
This proof of attendance at meetings is not part of A.A.’s procedure. Each group is autonomous and has the right to choose whether or not to sign court slips. In some areas the attendees report on themselves, at the request of the referring agency, and thus alleviate breaking A.A. members’ anonymity.
A.A. Conference-approved literature is available in French and Spanish. For additional copies of this paper, or for a literature catalog please write or call the General Service Office.
The A.A. Grapevine, a monthly international journal — also known as “our meeting in print” — features many interesting stories about recovery from alcoholism written primarily by members of A.A. It is a useful introduction and ongoing link to A.A.’s diverse fellowship and wealth of recovery experience. The Spanish-language magazine La Viña, is published bimonthly.
For Grapevine information or to order a subscription to either the AA Grapevine or La Viña: (212) 870-3404; fax (212) 870-3301; Web site: www.aagrapevine.org.
The primary purpose of A.A. is to carry its message of recovery to the alcoholic seeking help. Almost every alcoholism treatment tries to help the alcoholic maintain sobriety. Regardless of the road we follow, we all head for the same destination, recovery of the alcoholic person. Together, we can do what none of us could accomplish alone. We can serve as a source of personal experience and be an ongoing support system for recovering alcoholics.
A.A. World Services, Inc.,
Box 459, Grand Central Station,
New York, NY 10163
Tel. (212) 870-3400.
Is AA a religious society?
A.A. is not a religious society, since it requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. Although it has been endorsed and approved by many religious leaders, it is not allied with any organization or sect. Included in its membership are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, members of other major religious bodies, agnostics, and atheists.
The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is undeniably based on acceptance of certain spiritual values. The individual member is free to interpret those values as he or she thinks best, or not to
think about them at all.
Most members, before turning to A.A., had already admitted that they could not control their drinking. Alcohol had become a power greater than themselves, and it had been accepted on
those terms. A.A. suggests that to achieve and maintain sobriety, alcoholics need to accept and depend upon another Power recognized as greater than themselves. Some alcoholics choose to
consider the A.A. group itself as the power greater than themselves; for many others, this Power is God — as they, individually, understand Him; still others rely upon entirely different concepts of
a Higher Power.
Some alcoholics, when they first turn to A.A., have definite reservations about accepting any concept of a Power greater than themselves. Experience shows that, if they will keep an open
mind on the subject and keep coming to A.A. meetings, they are not likely to have too difficult a time in working out an acceptable solution to this distinctly personal problem.
Do AAs have to attend meetings for the rest of their lives?
Not necessarily, but — as one member has suggested — “Most of us want to, and some of us may need to.”
Most alcoholics don’t like to be told that they have to do anything for any extended period of time. At first glance, the prospect of having to attend A.A. meetings for all the years of the foreseeable future may seem a heavy load
The answer, again, is that no one has to do anything in A.A. There is always a choice between doing and not doing a thing — including the crucial choice of whether or not to seek sobriety through A.A.
The primary reason an alcoholic has for attending meetings of an A.A. group is to get help in staying sober today — not tomorrow or next week or ten years from now. Today, the immediate present, is the only period in life that the A.A. can do something about. A.A.s do not worry about tomorrow, or about “the rest of their lives.” The important thing for them is to maintain their sobriety now. They will take care of the future when it arrives.
So the A.A. who wants to do everything possible to insure sobriety today will probably keep going to meetings. But attendance will always be on the basis of taking care of present sobriety. As long as the approach to A.A. is on this basis, no activity, including attendance at meetings, can ever resemble a long-term obligation.
Can a person achieve sobriety all alone after reading AA literature?
A few people have stopped drinking after reading Alcoholics Anonymous, the A.A. “Big Book,” which sets forth the basic principles of the recovery program. But nearly all of those who were in a position to do so promptly sought out other alcoholics with whom to share their experience and sobriety.
The A.A. program works best for the individual when it is recognized and accepted as a program involving other people. Working with other alcoholics in the local A.A. group, problem drinkers seem to learn more about their problem and how to handle it. They find themselves surrounded by others who share their past experiences, their present problems, and their hopes. They shed the feelings of loneliness that may have been an important factor in their compulsion to drink.
What does membership in AA cost?
Membership in A.A. involves no financial obligations of any kind. The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is available to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, whether he or she is flat broke or the possessor of millions.
Most local groups “pass the hat” at meetings to defray the cost of renting a meeting place and other meeting expenses, including coffee, sandwiches, cakes, or whatever else may be served. In a large majority of the groups, part of the money thus collected is voluntarily contributed to A.A.’s national and international services. These group funds are used exclusively for services designed to help new and established groups and to spread the word of the A.A. recovery program to “the many alcoholics who still don’t know.”
The important consideration is that membership in A.A. is in no way contingent upon financial support of the Fellowship. Many A.A. groups have, in fact, placed strict limitations on the amount that can be contributed by any member. A.A. is entirely self-supporting, and no outside contributions are accepted.
Why doesn’t AA seem to work for some people?
The answer is that A.A. will work only for those who admit that they are alcoholics, who honestly want to stop drinking — and who are able to keep those facts uppermost in their minds at all times.
A.A. usually will not work for the man or woman who has reservations about whether or not he or she is an alcoholic, or who clings to the hope of being able to drink normally again.
Most medical authorities say no one who is an alcoholic can ever drink normally again. The alcoholic must admit and accept this cardinal fact. Coupled with this admission and acceptance must be the desire to stop drinking.
After they have been sober a while in A.A., some people tend to forget that they are alcoholics, with all that this diagnosis implies. Their sobriety makes them overconfident, and they decide to
experiment with alcohol again. The results of such experiments are, for the alcoholic, completely predictable. Their drinking invariably becomes progressively worse.
Are there many young people in AA?
One of the most heartening trends in the growth of A.A. is the fact that more and more young men and women are being attracted to the program before their problem drinking results in complete disaster. Now that the progressive nature of alcoholism is better appreciated, these young people recognize that, if one is an alcoholic, the best time to arrest the illness is in its early stages.
In the first days of the movement, it was commonly thought that the only logical candidates for A.A. were those men and women who had lost their jobs, had hit skid row, had completely disrupted their family lives, or had otherwise isolated themselves from normal social relationships over a period of years.
Today, many of the young people turning to A.A. are in their twenties. Some are still in their teens. The majority of them still have jobs and families.
Many have never been jailed or committed to institutions. But they have seen the handwriting on the wall. They recognize that they are alcoholics, and they see no point in letting alcoholism run its inevitable disastrous course with them.
Their need for recovery is just as compelling as that of the older men and women who had no opportunity to turn to A.A. in their youth. Once they are in A.A., the young people and the oldsters are rarely conscious of their age differentials. In A.A., both groups start a new life from the same milestone — their last drink.
What are the ‘Twelve Steps’?
The “Twelve Steps” are the core of the A.A. program of personal recovery from alcoholism. They are not abstract theories; they are based on the trial-and-error experience of early members of A.A. They describe the attitudes and activities that these early members believe were important in helping them to achieve sobriety. Acceptance of the “Twelve Steps” is not mandatory in any sense.
Experience suggests, however, that members who make an earnest effort to follow these Steps and to apply them in daily living seem to get far more out of A.A. than do those members who seem to regard the Steps casually. It has been said that it is virtually impossible to follow all the Steps literally, day in and day out. While this may be true, in the sense that the Twelve Steps represent an approach to living that is totally new for most alcoholics, many A.A. members feel that the Steps are a practical necessity if they are to maintain their sobriety.
Here is the text of the Twelve Steps, which first appeared in Alcoholics Anonymous, the A.A. book of experience:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Making a Start in AA
You have made a decision. You’ve taken Step One and said to yourself: “Yes, I am one of those people who is powerless over alcohol. I can’t stop drinking and I want help.” You have discovered as it says in the Big Book, that alcohol is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” To stop drinking and stay stopped, there are a few simple principles that you may want to apply to your life. These principles are AA’s program of recovery. They can work for you as effectively as they have worked for others. Following are some suggestions, which we feel will be of help to you on your path to recovery.
Living One Day at a Time
Alcoholics Anonymous is a way of living “one day at a time.” We break life into small pieces that we can handle. We don’t plan to stay sober forever, but just ONE DAY or ONE HOUR, or whatever length of time is necessary for us to stay sober TODAY. We do our jobs One Task At A Time and solve our problems One Problem At A Time. We clean up our past One Mess At A Time, we become willing to turn our lives over to the care of a Power Greater Than Ourselves.
Going to Meetings
Every day in the Manatee and Sarasota area there are meetings morning, noon, and night. There are sunrise meetings, lunch meetings, after work meetings, evening meetings, and late night meetings. And each one can be found in a comprehensive meeting list called the Where & When. See the link Meetings on this website. These lists are available at almost every meeting in the area and they are free. Take in as many meetings as you can.
Getting a Sponsor
A few members may tell you that they got sober without the aid of a sponsor, and they may be telling the truth. However, our AA experience tells us that you will have a much better chance with a sponsor than without one. In AA you will probably find that your sponsor is a vital part of your recovery program.
Your sponsor will listen to you and give you suggestions; tell you what works for him/her, point out trouble spots and help you decide what to do about them. In other words, you sponsor helps you to understand the AA program and guides you along your path to recovery
Through sponsor can’t solve all your problems. The do help you to face up to them honestly and courageously using the AA program in finding the solution.
If you don’t know anyone or have been embarrassed to ask, a group secretary may be able to help you find a temporary sponsor.
Have a Home Group
When some of us were introduced to AA through a particular group, we thought we had been assigned to that group and should not go to other meetings. Nothing could be further from the truth. Feel free to visit various groups. But sooner or later, it is suggested that we settle down to a regular meeting that we want to consider our Home Group. Jas as we are members of AA if we say we are, so are we members of an AA group if we say we are – and we keep coming back.
(The AA Group pamphlet – P16)
However, having a Home Group should not keep you from going to other meetings. Attend as many meetings as you feel the need for, and a couple more! The Home Group you choose should be one in which you feel comfortable because it is where you are most likely to get sober and stay sober.
Your Home Group ought to be the place where you are challenged to keep growing and where you feel you have so many friends you don’t want to stay away!
Reading the Books
As soon as you can, we suggest that you read these important books, which explain the AA program of recovery and methods AA members have used for not drinking:
- ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (The Big Book)
- 12 STEPS AND 12 TRADITIONS
- LIVING SOBER
- DAILY REFLECTIONS
These books are AA General Service Conference approved literature. We suggest that you read them and reread them. They can be a constant source of inspiration and understanding. Many of us begin our “quiet times” by reading a paragraph or chapter from one of them. They are the basic source of our program of recovery and are indispensable.
Other AA literature is available and can be found on literature tables at most AA meetings. We feel it can be helpful as you travel the road to happy sobriety.
There are also two excellent periodicals that most of us read. One is the AA Grapevine, which is published every month and is filled with helpful articles for the alcoholic who wants to get well and stay that way. The other is a monthly newsletter published here by your Intergroup. Inside can be found articles written by members in our area, and a calendar of upcoming AA functions and events.
You can arrange to have the AA Grapevine mailed to you regularly. Ask your group secretary or Central Office for details. Information for contacting Central Office can be found on this website.
Including the Family
It is said that the practicing alcoholic affects the lives of at least five other people and that alcoholism is a family illness. We find that the family that gets sick together can often recover together. The best way to do this is to share your recovery program with them.
Following are some of the AA activities you can share with your family.
Take your spouse, other members of your family and interested friends to hear the stories of AA speakers; and to share in the fellowship of other AA families. Open meetings are designated in the Intergroup meeting listings.
Special suppers, dances, picnics, and other social activities are regularly sponsored by groups for AA members and their families.
Weekend conferences and roundups at resorts and hotels are held throughout North America and other parts of the world. These events offer activities for AA members and their families.
For family members and friends of alcoholics who desire help there are other programs available including Al-Anon and Alateen. Help can also be sought through other agencies.
When you need help and can’t reach your sponsor you can:
- Go to a meeting
- Call another AA member
- Call the AA HELP LINE (941) 951-6810
If you need some AA literature and can’t find it, ask your group secretary, group literature person, or phone the AA Central Office (941) 351-4818. Much like your sponsor, group secretaries, in fact any AA member will try to help you in every way they can along your journey of recovery.
Welcome to AA
So now you have a start. And, if you are like most of us, we think you will find these suggestions will help you on your journey to a comfortable, happy, sobriety. With sobriety other exciting experiences are:
- A new freedom in your life.
- A new courage in your life.
- The enjoyment of a new way of living.
Remember that you never have to be alone if you use the tools that AA has to offer you. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous wants to provide support and guidance to all alcoholics who reach out for help. Our very survival requires that we must carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Central Office of Sara-Mana
1748 Independence Blvd. Suite G-2
Sarasota, Florida, 34234
Open Monday through Thursday, 9-4. Closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- Not Open during Christmas Eve through New Year's Day, MLK Jr., Presidents and Memorial Days, July 4th, Labor Day or Thanksgiving.
Al-Anon Help: 941-749-1750
(AA and Alcoholics Anonymous are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. This site is not endorsed by A.A.W.S. nor affiliated with Al-Anon.)
I am Responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.