If you’re new to Alcoholics Anonymous, this page of information should help answer some questions you probably have. In addition, you can call the 24-hour helpline at 727-530-0415 any time for more information.
Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other 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.
Part of the recovery program that A.A. suggests is set forth in the Twelve Steps. Based on the experience of A.A.’s earliest members, the Steps are a record of the principles and practices they developed to maintain sobriety (after many other approaches had failed). The Steps are a suggested program of recovery.
The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous
During its first decade, A.A. as a fellowship accumulated substantial experience which indicated that certain group attitudes and principles were particularly valuable in assuring survival of the informal structure of the Fellowship. In 1946, in the Fellowship’s international journal, the A.A. Grapevine, these principles were reduced to writing by the founders and early members as the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Meetings are the mainstay of Alcoholics Anonymous. There are over 600 meetings weekly in Pinellas County. (Click here for a link to the meeting locator page.) A chairperson, who is usually a member of the group, will open the meeting and follow the format for the type of meeting it is — beginner, speaker, discussion, etc. If the chairperson asks if there are any newcomers, feel free to raise your hand and give your first name. This way, people will know you’re new and will be able to help you even more.
When you walk into your first meeting, you’ll see groups of people standing around, drinking coffee and talking and laughing with each other. Don’t worry — you’re not in the wrong place! AA has changed millions of people’s lives and it can change yours, too.
OPEN MEETINGS: As the term suggests, meetings of this type are open to alcoholics, non-alcoholics, and to anyone interested in solving a personal drinking problem or helping someone else to solve such a problem. Beginners meetings are usually open, so a newcomer can bring a non-alcoholic friend or spouse for support.
CLOSED MEETINGS: These meetings are limited to alcoholics. They provide an opportunity for members to share with one another on problems related to drinking patterns and attempts to achieve stable sobriety. They also permit detailed discussion of various elements in the recovery program.
BEGINNERS MEETING: These meetings are geared to newcomers — usually people with less than one year of sobriety. A topic will be suggested by a chairperson and then members who want to, can share their experience, strength and hope about the topic. In this way, beginners will start to understand the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and how they can stop drinking, one day at a time.
SPEAKER MEETING: One or two members of AA will “tell their story” — what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. Newcomers are urged NOT to compare, but to relate to the speaker’s experiences. Remember, we’re all here for the same reason — to stay sober, one day at a time.
DISCUSSION MEETING: A topic will be suggested by a chairperson and then members who want to, can share their experience, strength and hope about the topic. Newcomers are urged NOT to compare, but to relate to each member’s experiences. Remember, we’re all here for the same reason — to stay sober, one day at a time.
There are lots of the AA pamphlets that are helpful to newcomers. Ask about them in the meetings you go to. Usually, each meeting will have an array of pamphlets to choose from, all at no cost to you.