Surviving Your First AA Meeting
Your first AA meeting can be a daunting experience accompanied by shame, dread, and despair. However, a support group is extremely important in alcohol treatment and once you get through the first meeting, you will come to find that you actually enjoy going to these meetings as they provide much-needed strength and guidance. The only requirement for joining an AA group is the desire to stop drinking. Here are a few tips and guidelines to help you face your first AA meeting.
Although there is no single individual formally in charge of the AA meeting, such meetings are usually led by a chairperson, typically a volunteer who has many years of AA experience under his or her belt. The chairperson will usually read out a few things before the meeting gets started such as the preamble, how AA works, daily reflections etc. At a certain point, the chairperson will also ask if there are any newcomers. Although no one will ever pressure you to speak, it is good to introduce yourself to the group. You may simply say, “Hi, I am ___ and I am an alcoholic.” If you are uncomfortable admitting to your alcoholism you may simply give your name. Note that only your first name is required due to the anonymity of AA.
The point of an AA meeting is to listen to the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of others and to gain wisdom and support from it; so listen well. AA will bring together people of all backgrounds and cultures. It is important to focus on the similarities you have with the other members of the group rather than the differences.
It is important to remember that no one is going to force you to share your experiences. If you simply want to sit back and listen, then you are more than welcome to do so. If, however, you do feel like opening up to your group, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. First of all, you should always speak in first person, that is using the word ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’ After all, you are not speaking on behalf of all alcoholics and people can become irritated if you appear to be doing so. Secondly, it is frowned upon to mention names of people you used to drink with. AA is about your journey and yours alone. However, people are usually more forgiving if you are a newcomer and no one will bite your head off if you happen to offend any of the ‘rules’.
Respect the Anonymity
As is obvious from the name, your AA meetings and everything said therein is completely confidential and should not be discussed anywhere else. This rule is extremely important to AA’s members and for good reason. People are often brutally honest at these meetings and expose a lot about their personal lives. Even mentioning that there is someone you know who goes to an AA meeting is out of bounds.
Find the Right Group
There are many different types of AA meetings and it is important to find the one that suits your needs and your personality the best. There are open and closed meetings, the former allowing anyone from the public to attend while the latter allowing only alcoholics to attend. There are also meetings for women only, men only, for younger people etc. Thus if you don’t feel completely comfortable at your first meeting, it may be worthwhile to look into other groups.
The recovery process can be made easier by connecting with support groups that offer safe, inclusive environments. Find out more about our 4-step SMART recovery program.