What Is Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous is a community of men and women who have found a solution to their drinking problem. We are:
- Anonymous – no personal information, no last names
- Nonprofessional – no paid counselors
- Self-supporting – no cost except what we choose to put in the basket
- Inclusive – everyone is welcome
- Non-political – we don’t take sides
- Non-sectarian – not promoting any religion
- Available almost everywhere in the U.S. and world-wide
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is recognized by doctors as a medical condition – it is not caused by moral failure or weak will, anymore than cancer or diabetes is. The two primary symptoms of alcoholism are:
- Abnormal physical reaction to alcohol in any form – our bodies don’t process alcohol the same as normal drinkers. Taking a drink or two causes a powerful craving for more, leading to another binge.
- Mental obsession that tells us we can someday drink like normal people if only we try. This leads to progressively desperate attempts at control.
A.A.’s proven program can eliminate the obsession so we don’t take the first drink and the vicious cycle is broken.
There are a lot of secondary indicators that are typical of alcoholics:
- DUI arrests and wrecked cars
- problems at work, loss of jobs
- relationship problems including divorce
- hiding bottles
- lying about drinking
- morning drinking to settle the “shakes”
Some of us had been living on the street while some of us still had jobs, homes and cars when we decided we needed help. To help you make up your own mind, download this pamphlet with some questions only you can answer:
A.A. Groups conduct meetings, usually weekly, where we share our experience, strength, and hope. Portland area meetings are listed on the Meetings page by day, time, and location.
The two most common kinds of A.A. meetings are:
OPEN MEETINGS: Open to alcoholics and their families, anyone who thinks they may have a drinking problem, as well as anyone curious about A.A.
CLOSED MEETINGS: Limited to those with a desire to stop drinking, they provide an opportunity for sharing on problems related to alcoholism and discussion of solutions found in the recovery program.
What Happens at an A.A. Meeting?
Some meetings are specific to men, women, LBGTQ, and speakers of minority languages – this will be shown in meeting list. There is often some socializing before the meeting begins. Meetings commonly begin with a short prayer or moment of silence followed by a few readings from A.A. literature.
Following announcements the basket is passed; typical contributions are a dollar or two but are not required. The money collected is used for coffee, rent for the meeting space, A.A. literature purchases, and support of local, state, and national A.A. services, such as this website. Large donations are actively discouraged.
Common meeting formats include:
- Speaker – one person relating their personal experience with alcoholism and recovery
- Group discussion of a topic chosen by the chairperson
- Step Study meeting where one or more of the 12 Steps are discussed
In keeping with A.A.’s primary purpose, discussion is generally focused on recovery from alcoholism.
The meeting is typically ended with a prayer, usually the Serenity Prayer or the Lord’s Prayer, often with the group forming a circle and holding hands. Participation in the prayer is optional. More socializing typically follows the close of the formal meeting, and members may gather afterward at a nearby coffee shop.
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS® is a fellowship of people 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 achieve sobriety.
© Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, used by permission
How A.A. Is Organized
In 2006, 1,867,212 members in 106,202 AA groups were reported worldwide. The Twelve Traditions informally guide how AA groups function, and the Twelve Concepts for World Service guide how AA is structured globally. A member who accepts a service position or an organizing role is a “trusted servant” with terms rotating and limited, typically lasting one month to two years and determined by group vote. No member, regardless of service position, has any authority over another member. Each group is a self-governing entity with AA World Services acting only in an advisory capacity.
AA is served entirely by alcoholics, except for seven “nonalcoholic friends of the fellowship” out of twenty-one members of the AA Board of Trustees. AA groups are self-supporting and not charities, and they have no dues or membership fees. Groups rely on voluntary member donations, typically $1-2 collected per meeting in the U.S., to pay for expenses like room rental, refreshments, and literature. No one is turned away for lack of funds. Beyond the group level, AA may hire outside professionals for services that either require specialized expertise and/or are full time responsibilities; as of 2007 GSO in New York employees 40 or so such workers.
AA receives proceeds from books and literature which constitute more than 50% of the income for the General Service Office (GSO), which unlike individual groups is not self-supporting and employs a small salaried staff. It also maintains service centers which coordinate activities like printing literature, responding to public inquiries, and organizing conferences. They are funded by local members and responsible to the AA groups they represent. In contrast to usual business or governmental organizations, A.A. is an “upside down triangle”, with the groups in charge of the fellowship through elected representatives.