Posted on Friday, April 21st, 2017 at 12:00 am in Latest News.
John Gillen - Author | Last Updated: 24th February 2022
In this blog post, we answer the question “What to Expect at my First AA Meeting?”
Before we answer this question, we want to tell you that it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous about attending your first AA meeting. After all, you are essentially reaching out for help from complete strangers. And remember, nobody wants to be an ‘alcoholic’ or have to attend meetings to arrest this addiction that they don’t want in the first place.
It’s likely that you’ve put off going to AA for a long time. If you are reading this post, it’s likely that you are serious about attending AA this time around. You’ve told yourself that you can no longer control your drinking and that the days of telling it will be ‘just one more drink’ are well and truly over. This means you have made real progress. The first step towards sobriety is overcoming denial, so well done.
When you initially attend AA, you will likely be required to do so at a local church or community centre. You may be worried that someone you know will notice your presence at an AA meeting. If this is a concern, we suggest you consider joining an AA meeting that’s not located directly in your hometown.
Before you attend an AA meeting, you are advised to take stock of all the reasons why you are attending in the first place. It’s likely you are simply looking for a ‘way out’. Your drinking has become uncontrollable and you simply hope AA will give you the strength to stop drinking alcohol once and for all.
Essentially, there exist two broad types of AA meetings. The first is referred to as ‘open meetings’. This means these meetings are open to all who wish to attend. During these meetings, there will be an initial announcement. This announcement is followed by the reading of the ’12 Steps’ and the ’12 Traditions of AA’. Following this introduction, a member will stand up and share his or her feelings as they relate to ‘being in recovery’.
The second type of AA group is known as a ‘closed group’. These groups are not open to members of the public.
People may choose to form a closed AA group so that they know everybody who attends has also experienced alcoholism. This may encourage members to be more open about their experiences and feelings towards their alcoholism.
When you attend an open meeting, you will be informed that this group is open to the public i.e. to people who may not have experienced alcoholism. Closed groups tend to be more intimate. Open groups are usually ‘speaker-led’. This means the speaker has been informed ahead of time that the meeting will be ‘open’ to the public, and to tailor his or her speech according to this fact.
When you attend an AA meeting, we recommend you let it be known to the group that you are new to the whole experience. Members will answer any questions you may have about AA and its traditions.
Further, expect people to introduce themselves to you informally after the conclusion of the session. People may also request that you exchange phone numbers. Do not be alarmed by this. Members may exercise what may be termed ‘over-friendliness’ simply because they have been in your position before themselves. Specifically, they understand the isolation and loneliness you are probably experiencing when you first begin to live your life without alcohol.
AA doesn’t have too many rules. However, there are a few rules you will be expected to abide by. For instance, you are not allowed to ‘crosstalk’. To do so is to show disrespect for others thoughts and feelings. Crosstalk includes interrupting someone who is currently speaking. However, it also includes ‘giving direct advice’ to another in a meeting. AA allows you to express your own thoughts or feelings, but you are not permitted to directly ‘give advice’ to another member. This includes expressing opinions about another member’s situation.
One common occurrence that may initially alarm you during an AA meeting is the ritual of ‘breaking the ice’ by comparing embarrassing or even horrifying tales relating to members’ past experiences with alcohol. For instance, members may compare each other’s suicide attempts or share stories about wetting the bed when under the influence of alcohol.
This is really a form of catharsis where members are able to release the tension caused by traumatic experience through laughter.
Going to an AA meeting can be an emotional rollercoaster for all those involved. It’s not uncommon to see the group laughing hysterically, only for this mood to turn into tears. Remember, AA isn’t a platform for people to express how great life is now they are sober. Instead, it’s a platform for people to speak out about their hopes, fears and challenges as they live their life ‘in recovery’.
Generally, we believe it’s a good sign if you witness a group member crying. Why? Because this indicates that the person feels well supported by his or her group. When you live in recovery, you will have bad days. This is a fact of life when you live in recovery. When this occurs, you will be thankful that you have access to such a supportive and understanding group to fall back on.
One way to help get over your inertia towards attending your first AA meeting is to attend with someone who is familiar with AA. If you struggle to locate such a person, you can contact your local AA meeting organiser and ask to be put in touch with a volunteer or ‘sponsor’. This person will help you through the initial meeting and inform you about the workings of AA.
John Gillen - Author - Last updated: 24th February 2022
John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience in providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John is also the co-author of the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.
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