What to Expect in Your first AA Meeting

We can all remember what it felt like on the first day of school or the first day of a new job. Those anxious feelings we experience are caused by the fear of the unknown. It is no wonder that this same reaction is very common when attending your first AA meeting. You most likely have no idea what to expect, how to behave, or what to say at the meeting. Fortunately, the actual experience in AA meetings are actually a pleasant surprise. If you’re new to recovery, you might have some hesitation or fear about going to your first AA meeting. It’s very normal to feel that way. Anything new can be scary and it might still be difficult for you to open up and talk about your experience with addiction.

Whether you’re researching for a loved one, you’re thinking about going to a meeting, or you’ve been court-ordered to attend, here’s what you can expect at your first AA meeting.

What to Expect in Your first AA Meeting

What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? 

If you or someone you know has had a problem with substance abuse like alcohol or drugs, you have likely heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It has been around since 1935 and was started by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith (known as Bill W. and Dr. Bob). Since its creation in Akron Ohio, AA has amassed over 2 million members worldwide and consists of different types of 12 step meetings. Other organizations have been created using similar principles and programs to not only help alcoholics and addicts but also the people who love and support them.

AA Meetings Follow a Structured Schedule

If you are curious about what to expect at your first AA meeting, find comfort in knowing that each AA meeting is structured. This is not a free for all, where everyone blurts out what they want to say in a room full of fellow drunks. AA meetings are typically held in an average size room with tables and chairs. There are also some meetings that may be held outside at your local park. A good way to know you’ve come to the right place, men and women will most likely be visiting with one another outside of the meeting location or fellowshipping inside of the meeting place.

At every AA meeting, there is a facilitator who is also referred to as the “chair” of the meeting. This is a necessity across the board for all AA meetings. The chair of the meeting will open the group by welcoming everyone, maintaining structure, enforcing group conscience, and asking others to read 12 Step literature before the meeting begins. The format of the meeting will depend on what type of meeting you are attending. No matter what type of meeting you choose, all AA meetings encourage others to not engage in “cross-talk”. The goal of each AA meeting is to create a safe environment for alcoholics to share their experience, strength, and hope with one another. 

Hello, My Name Is…

You may be under the impression that every meeting starts with the attendees going around the room and introducing themselves using the same sort of call and response format: “Hello, my name is John and I’m an alcoholic,” someone says. “Hello, John,” replies the group. This formalized introduction process—especially if you are an introvert by nature—may give you the heebie-jeebies. If so, we have some good news. Yes, when someone speaks during the meeting, they do introduce themselves and acknowledge that they are an alcoholic. And the group does greet them in return. But there is no requirement that you speak during an AA meeting and no mandatory introduction if you decide to keep to yourself. During your first few meetings (or even during all the meetings you ever attend during your recovery), you can participate as much or as little as you choose to.

First AA Meeting – Common Myths

These things you may think happen at 12-step meetings, but may by myths rather than typical occurrences.

  • You will be surrounded by “helpful” alcoholics.
  • You have to stand up and say, “I am an alcoholic.”
  • You have to tell all of your secrets surrounding my addiction to alcohol.
  • You have to participate in group hugs.
  • You have to pray.
  • You are joining a cult.
  • You might see people you recognize.

What to Expect in Your first AA Meeting

Preamble and prayer: 

AA meetings are led by a chairperson. Each meeting begins with the chairperson reading the AA preamble and leading the group in reciting the short version of the Serenity Prayer, also known as the AA acceptance prayer. You don’t have to recite the prayer but many people do.

AA literature readings: 

After the Serenity Prayer, various members of the group may read brief sections of AA literature.

Introductions: 

In some meetings, the chairperson may ask if there are any first-timers in attendance and ask if anyone would like to introduce themselves (first name only). Some people may choose to do this but you don’t have to if you prefer not to.

Discussion: 

This portion of the meeting can vary.

  • If you are attending a study step meeting or discussion meeting, the chairperson will announce which step you will discuss and someone may read that step’s chapter from the “12-Steps and 12 Traditions” book. Then the chairperson may invite others to share any experience or encouragement related to that step. In other instances, a person may choose a topic of discussion for the meeting, and members may share randomly based on the topic. Although the chairperson may ask you to share, you can respectfully pass or just let them know that you would rather listen instead.
  • If you’re attending a speaker meeting, one or more speakers may be invited to share their stories during the meeting.

Closing: 

After the discussion and sharing portion of the meeting has ended, the chairperson may use the closing time to make any AA-related announcements. Or, they may simply invite everyone to stand in a circle and recite the Lord’s Prayer. You don’t have to participate in this if you don’t want to.

First AA Meeting – The Meeting(s) After the Meeting

As the formal meeting breaks up, it is common for small groups to form for some friendly socializing. This can be encouraging, particularly if you have found yourself feeling lonely during your recovery. These low-key conversations with others might be the highlight of your meeting experience. But again, these post-meeting conversations are completely optional.

Different Types of 12 Step Meetings (NA, AA, CMA, etc.)

Substance Addictions

  • Al-Anon/Alateen – For friends and family of alcoholics
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA) – For people with cocaine addiction
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) – For people with methamphetamine addiction
  • Heroin Anonymous (HA) – For people with heroin addiction
  • Marijuana Anonymous (MA) – For people with marijuana addiction
  • Pills Anonymous (PA) – For people with prescription pill addiction

Behavioral Addictions

  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA) – For people with gambling addiction
  • Emotions Anonymous (EA) – For people with mental and emotional illness
  • Overeaters Anonymous (OA) – For people with food addiction
  • Sex and Love Anonymous (SLAA) – For people with sex addiction
  • Workaholics Anonymous (WA) – For people with work addiction

Other 12 Step Meetings

  • Celebrate Recovery – Faith based
  • Refuge Recovery – Faith based
  • Wellbriety – Native American
  • SMART – Self-empowered recovery

Sober Living in Pennsylvania

Recovery houses offer substance-free spaces where recovering addicts can live. Residents move in after completing inpatient rehab. During a typical stay, a resident will attend regular meetings, see a therapist, and do their part to care for the home. After maintaining sobriety for a few months or longer, the resident will leave and return to independent living. Are you ready to start a new chapter? Little Creek Recovery is your home away from home. Work on self-betterment while surrounded by the stunning beauty of Northeastern Pennsylvania. To learn more, please reach out to us today. Allow our team to walk with you on this exciting journey to freedom from addiction!

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