What can I expect at an A.A. meeting?

So, here I am. I’ve decided to quit drinking, I’m a binge drinker and things are spriraling out of control. I’m getting therapy to deal with my emotional issues and am looking for help to stop drinking.
My therapist gave me a list of places that can help with, of course, the caveat that some won’t be right for me, some will. All the places, sans A.A. have a fee and I’ll have to make an appointment. I thought I’d pop into an A.A. meeting tonight just to see what it’s like.
I’ve read a little of what they’re about and am skeptical because I don’t believe in a higher power and I personally don’t believe in the “powerlessness” that they seem to espouse. However, never having been there, I suppose I shouldn’t judge too quickly.
I have to do something. My partner has just about had it with me and I’m afraid of drinking myself to death or losing her.

Can anyone shed light on what my experience might be like tonight at the meeting.?

This sucks. This sucks bad. :frowning:

The general pattern when I visited a couple was:

There’s a (temporary) leader and a secretary for the meeting. You say the serenity prayer and then everyone introduces themselves. Usually newcomers go first. There may be some special occasions (anniversaries) celebrated. A passage from the Big Book is read. The leader proposes a topic and speaks for a few minutes, then either picks someone or opens it up. You can choose to speak or not. Generally, everyone just speaks about his or her own experience, although they might refer to what someone else said. There’s no back and forth conversation, though. At the end there is another prayer. Afterwards, it’s likely someone will introduce themselves and you will be offered numbers to call if you need help. Don’t worry about the religious aspect. You won’t be the only doubter there.

I haven’t been to a meeting but did want to say it’s impressive to me that you are taking this step. It can’t be an easy thing to acknowledge about yourself and good for you for taking steps to try and change it and for also dealing with your other emotional issues.

I pray you find peace. :slight_smile:

Thank you. I truly appreciate your kind words. This is going to be tough but I’m finally ready.

I’ve attended a few AA meetings. Everyone in my experience was very kind and supporting. You say the serenity prayer, take turns reading from the literature, share testimony, and then say a closing statement or prayer. Afterwards people chit-chat and introduce themselves.

Good on you for going. You’re showing a lot of courage!

I have no advice, but stopped by to send supporting thoughts your way!

Depending on the meeting, it can be very preachy and god-oriented. It can be major caffeine and cigarette addiction. The trick is finding the right meeting. I’d shop around, ask around too. You’ll find one with the right crowd and attitude for you.

Personally I never took to the twelve step program. But I always did like to do things the hard way.

If you’re really turned off by the religious content of AA, you might want to look at Rational Recovery or SMART Recovery.

I have been to quite a few meetings without the baggage - I am not an alcoholic, but attended to support a relative (really; this is not an “I’m calling on behalf of a ‘friend’” story).

The religious thing is no biggie. Some people find strength from the idea of an outside power, is all. As I recall it, someone (a person who has been a lot before and has grown into a quasi-organisational role) picks on a theme (usually from one of the 12 steps) and talks about it from their personal perspective. THe theme and the person change constantly depending on the meeting you attend. The meeting you choose is important - it’s OK for people to self-select for meetings that suit them. Shop around. Some work for people with a high order of education, some for not so much education, etc.

The best thing about the process IMHO (from an outsider’s perspective, at least) is confronting the truth with people who can’t be bullshitted, because they have been there. Addicts have a huge array of self-deceptions acquired over time which are so good that they are not even aware anymore of the level of deception involved, and stripping them away is a valuable part of the exercise. Reading the books helps explain it - they are confrontingly real about this.

You have to get a sponsor who is right for you, too.

And you have to keep going to keep reminding yourself why you can’t lapse - it needs to become a normal part of your life. Later, when you are comfortable, you can give back too, because you can tell your story.

In my experience, it does NOT become a pathetic “feel sorry for me” whine or “look how virtuous I am” gloat because it is all too real for anyone to get away with self-indulgence like that. It takes a huge amount of work to get to long-term sobriety (be clear-eyed about this) but the truth really does seem to set you free.

I agree with this. AA can have VERY strong Christian leanings, which was a big reason why I left. It does depend on the group; some are more tolerant than others. You’re going to have to shop around a bit to find a meeting that works for you.

I would definitely look at the alternatives that 3waygeek suggested, as well as LifeRing, which some have found to be a good alternative for the secular among us.

I don’t have time right now, but I’ll PM later with some more information.


I’ve been to a few AA meetings and dozens of Al-Anon (for spouses and significant others) and ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings which are based on the same 12 steps.

What everyone above said, some readings etc. Go and check it out. The people will be welcoming and friendly and supportive and willing to share their “experience, strength and hope” (that’s an AA phrase).

Go to a few different meetings and see which one you like the best. They will differ greatly and don’t forget that the meetings are run but normal humans just like you, not professionals. In that respect you may want to shop around to find the one that best suits your personality. The one where you feel like you fit in with the other people there.

And if AA doesn’t suit you then try some other avenues like the others mentioned above.

Good luck to you. You’ve made the most important step and that is admitting you have a problem.

Yup to the above.
Yes AA is doG oriented, however I had little issue with ignoring that part of the text/meeting. One can “take what they need and leave the rest”. I wouldn’t have been able to stay with a non tolerant group.

I haven’t been but I also want to congratulate you. And warn you. My sister has been in and out of recovery for several years. Keep trying. Keep going. If one group doesn’t feel right, find another. It won’t be easy, but don’t give up simply because its hard or because you don’t like someone in the group.

By now I guess you’ve already been to the meeting, so I’ll just say good on you, good luck, and we’re always here when you need it.

I went to a couple of AA meetings a few years ago. For various reasons it wasn’t for me, but for some people it’s the only thing that works.

You sound a lot like me, so I’ll say what worked for me: just making the decision. Remember that there is no such thing as willpower, there is deciding to do something and then doing it. You decide not to drink anymore, so you don’t. I won’t say it isn’t tough, but one thing it’s not is difficult. You just do it.

Now, since I am still a social drinker and even occasionally get blitzed (though never as bad as before; I made the decision never again to wake up and regret the night before), some might say I’m an alcoholic in denial. Fair enough, but I never crack open a bottle of whisky at 10am anymore, and the drinking I do do doesn’t affect my life in any negative way, so I don’t really care.

This thread is better suited for IMHO.

I’ll move it for you.

Cajun Man
for the SDMB

I haven’t been to AA, but I’ve spent time in another 12 step program ending in “A” that’s built on the same model. I found it helpful and supportive, and I am not a religious person. I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks everybody for the support and encouragement. I went to the meeting last night and I’m not sure what I think of it. I felt uncomfortable because out of the 27 or so people that were there, only 6 of us were women. Also, they were mostly older and uneducated. But, I did drive to a smaller town because there weren’t any in my town last night.

All the god talk made me roll my internal eyes but I understand that some people need that to get through and that for some people the meetings are ALL they have as a means of support through their struggle. I’m very fortunate that I have friends and family that know that I’m trying to kick and are there for me.

After the meeting I decided not to stick around for the “fellowship” meet and greet but barely made it down the hall when the guest co-facilitator chased me down to talk to me. She gave me her number and begged me to call her. She told me that if I don’t go back to that particular group to go try another one.
I may go to one near the local campus tomorrow night. I think she said she’d be there and to call her because she would go with me if I wanted her too . That made me cry.

I just don’t know if A.A. is going to be right for me but I’m going to give it another chance. Whatever I do, I HAVE to stop drinking. I’m so used to doing things on my own, never asking for help. Clearly, in the past, trying to stop on my own didn’t quite work out. Two years ago I stopped for 4 months then thought I could try drinking in moderation. Ha. It didn’t take long for the binges to start back up. I know I can do this. I see this as a “failure is not an option” scenario.

The Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head and alcohol is the razor, ready to cut that single hair holding it up.

Sigh. Thanks everyone for responding to my post. This is the first time I got personal in my 4 years here. You guys are alright.

ETA: Unfortunately Smart Recovery, and all those other secular groups don’t have meetings anywhere near my home but my friend just called, her mother knows a guy who runs some kind of small secular meeting in the town where I work. I’m going to look him up.

Ah, yes. I forgot that you’re female. The dark side of AA and other 12 stepper meetings is that they’re often male-dominated and often, in spite of the guideline against it, feature plenty of fraternizing (read: getting hit on if you’re a woman).

Stick with it. Find a meeting that does make you feel comfortable. You sound like someone who’s near rock bottom; I hope this is the only time you have to go through this.

Can’t help you with the gender stuff, but “older and uneducated” was actually sort of a positive for me. Some of these guys were Hell’s Angels types, huge, hairy outlaw guys who’d been through hard drugs and prison and violence and whatever people like that get up to when I play board games with my geeky friends. And now they were at the same table as I, with the same problems as I, showing me respect, understanding, and admiration that I was there. At the same time there was one guy who arrived a little late, wearing a suit, because he came straight from a classical concert.

Alcohol really does bring us all together.

Don’t expect to get any free maps.