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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
Where Does My Call Go?
Updated on September 26, 2023
7 min read

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

What is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an organization of peer-facilitated alcohol support groups that helps people recover from alcohol use disorder (AUD).

AA meetings center on abstinence-based recovery from alcohol addiction through a spiritually inclined twelve-step program. Typically, newer members pair up with a veteran member who becomes their sponsor and guides them through the program.

AA participation encourages:

  • A sense of community around alcohol addiction recovery.
  • Accountability around the grave emotional and interpersonal impacts of alcohol abuse.
  • Admittance of character defects.
  • A spiritual approach to healing.
  • A change to one’s general way of living.

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Historical Background of AA

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith founded AA in 1935, two recovering alcohol addicts. The organization's beginnings stemmed from a need to find support outside the medical community since there weren't many resources for those seeking help with alcohol addiction.

The first AA meetings took place in the homes of its founders. They emphasized personal responsibility and spiritual growth as the core principles of recovery.

Bill Wilson based his development of the twelve-step program on his struggles with alcoholism. His spiritual influences also played a significant role in the formation of AA.

What are the Requirements for AA?

The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. As with many mutual help groups, AA emphasizes rigorous honesty and letting go of preexisting beliefs.

This is vital for those anxious and eager to alter the harmful patterns and behaviors of addictive diseases, including alcohol addiction.

AA groups don’t expect members to observe the program’s principles strictly. Instead, they provide support and understanding wherever their members are recovering. AA members claim spiritual progress, not perfection.


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How Do AA Meetings Work?

AA meetings are usually community-based and easy to find. Unlike structured sessions at a treatment facility, people struggling with drinking problem organize these AA meetings.

Each group posts its scheduled meetings online to be as public as possible. This helps those battling with alcoholism find a meeting anywhere at any time.

Program success is dependent on attending these meetings regularly and holding yourself accountable. You can also participate in an online AA meeting (AA intergroup), virtual meeting, or zoom meeting instead.


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What are the Types of AA Meetings?

AA meetings fall into nine categories. All these gatherings are confidential, and members' anonymity is protected. The types of AA meetings include:

  1. Open meetings: These welcome everyone, including non-alcoholics interested in AA. Attending these helps you understand alcohol abuse and how to support those suffering from it.
  2. Closed meetings: Open only to people struggling with alcohol use disorder. This group setting provides a safe space for members who may feel uncomfortable sharing their stories with non-alcoholics.
  3. Beginner meetings: These are open to newcomers who may be new to the AA program. A designated member or group may introduce members to the twelve steps and how they work.
  4. Big Book Study meetings: These meetings center on the study of The Big Book. The book outlines AA's twelve steps and their role in helping people recover from alcohol abuse.
  5. Demographic-specific meetings: These are for people of different age groups and genders. These are available to those seeking a peer group they can relate with better. Examples of such groups include Men’s Meetings, Women’s Meetings, and LGBTQ+ AA Meetings.
  6. Substance-specific meetings: These meetings are for those seeking help with specific substance abuse. It could be meth, marijuana, opioids, or other substances. Attending these meetings provides peers who have gone through similar experiences and can offer emotional support.
  7. Behavior-based meetings: These assemblies focus on specific behaviors that contribute to co-occurring disorders alongside alcohol addiction. Examples of behavior-based addictions include compulsive buying, gambling, and overeating.
  8. Online meetings: These conferences provide support for those who may not have access to in-person meetings. Online AA meetings are available 24/7. You can also access them from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.
  9. Meetings for families: These gatherings offer support to families of those suffering from alcohol addiction. It helps provide insight into how best to help loved ones overcome their struggle.

To know more about these meetings or to find one closest to you, you can refer to the Alcoholics Anonymous World Services website or contact their helpline.

12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are as follows:

  • Step One: Admitted powerlessness over alcohol—that life had become unmanageable.
  • Step Two: Come to believe that a Power greater than oneself could restore an individual to sanity.
  • Step Three: Decided to turn one's will and lives over to the care of God as they understand Him.
  • Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of oneself.
  • Step Five: Admitted to God, to oneself, and to another human being the exact nature of their wrongs.
  • Step Six: Must be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove shortcomings.
  • Step Eight: Made a list of all persons they have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory, and when they were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  • Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God as they understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for them and the power to carry that out.
  • Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, they are to share this message with other alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all affairs.

Can I Go to AA if I’m Not Religious?

Yes, AA welcomes everyone from all forms of spiritual beliefs. Although AA’s principles claim spiritual progress, it doesn’t require members to be religious.

Many AA members interpret the statements from the 12-step approach to help them discover healthy lifestyle changes. AA’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, emphasizes that the purpose of AA is to sober up alcoholics. Moreover, there's no religious or spiritual requirement for membership.

How Effective Are AA Meetings?

AA meetings provide participants with community and peer support to help them overcome their drinking problems. Some AA attendees never relapse, while others relapse once and never relapse again. Others stay sober for a few months or years and keep coming back to the program to start over.

Many prefer their involvement in an AA program to remain anonymous, in line with the group's intention. Most participants don't want to admit to relapsing.

However, the number of members who attend meetings continuously changes because people drop out of the program. Therefore, it's difficult to track success rates.

How Do I Get Started with AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous services are available in 180 countries, so an existing group is likely in your region. There are two primary methods to sign up:

  • In-person: Attending AA meetings in person can be as simple as finding a local office and showing up to sessions. Meeting in person can foster a stronger connection and commitment to the principles of AA.
  • Online: Online meetings are available for people who choose not to or can't meet in person. Online sign-ups allow participants to attend AA meetings during sickness or potential sickness.

How Much Does AA Cost?

There are no membership fees or dues for AA. However, each AA group usually has a collection box or a designated time during the meeting to make donations.

The money from donations can help cover expenses such as rent, pamphlets, or coffee. Members aren’t obliged to contribute and can contribute as much or as little as they wish.


AA offers various support to those who struggle with alcohol addiction. These options include online meetings and the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous that serve as a guide to recovery.

AA is open to people of all spiritual beliefs and its effectiveness varies from person to person. Getting started also is relatively simple.

There are no membership fees or dues for AA, making it a valuable resource for those seeking help with their addiction. So, it's best to find out more about the program by attending a meeting as part of your recovery journey.

Updated on September 26, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on September 26, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Wilson, B. “Twelve Promises.” Alcoholics Anonymous Cleveland.
  2. Wilson, B. “A.A. Tradition–How It Developed.” Alcoholics Anonymous, 2019.
  3. Tonigan et al. “Participation and involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous.” Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  4. Kaskutas, L.A. “Alcoholics Anonymous Effectiveness: Faith Meets Science.” Journal of Addictive Diseases, 2009.
  5. Wnuk, M."The Beneficial Role of Involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous for Existential and Subjective Well-Being of Alcohol-Dependent Individuals? The Model Verification." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2022.
  6. Kelly et al. "Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step Facilitation Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Distillation of a 2020 Cochrane Review for Clinicians and Policy Makers." Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2020.
  7. Reed, S. "What to Know About the Types of AA Meetings." Alcoholics Anonymous, 2023.
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