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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on September 18, 2023
4 min read

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

What is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide 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.

What are the Requirements for AA?

The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to quit drinking. However, AA demands rigorous honesty and letting go of preexisting beliefs. This is vital for people anxious to change their harmful thoughts and behaviors due to 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. People struggling with addiction themselves organize these 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.

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.

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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 and that there is no religious or spiritual requirement for membership.


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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. 

Other people 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 do not want to admit to relapsing.

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

How Do I Get Started with AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous services are available in 180 countries, meaning 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 cannot 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 collected from donations can help cover expenses such as rent, pamphlets, or coffee.

Members aren’t obligated to contribute and can contribute as much or as little as they wish.


  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide organization of peer-facilitated, spiritually inclined support groups that help people recover from alcohol addiction.
  • AA meetings center on motivational enhancement therapy and provide structure, community, and accountability to alcoholics in recovery. 
  • Every AA meeting follows the same general format with minor differences between groups.
  • AA is free for anyone who wants to quit drinking and provides online and in-person sessions.
Updated on September 18, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on September 18, 2023
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