A.A. Groups conduct meetings, usually weekly, where we share our experience, strength, and hope. There are over 900 meetings a week in the Portland area; they are listed on the Meetings page by day, time, and location.
The two most common kinds of A.A. meetings are:
OPEN MEETINGS: As the term suggests, meetings of this type are open to alcoholics and their families, anyone who thinks they may have a drinking problem, as well as anyone interested in or curious about A.A. During the meeting there is discussion by members and usually a period for local A.A. announcements. A treasurer passes the hat to defray costs of the meeting hall, literature, and incidental expenses but only members may contribute.
The meeting adjourns, often followed by informal visiting over coffee or other light refreshments. Guests at A.A. open meetings are reminded that any opinions or interpretations they may hear are solely those of the speaker involved. All members are free to interpret the recovery program in their own terms, but no one can speak for the local group or for A.A. as a whole.
CLOSED MEETINGS: These meetings are limited to those with a desire to stop drinking. 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.
There are meeting groups for men, women, LBGTQ, and speakers of minority languages. Most AA meetings begin with socializing. Formats vary between meetings, for example, a beginners’ meeting might include a talk by a long-time sober member about his or her personal experience of drinking, coming to AA and what was learned there about sobriety. A group discussion on topics related to alcoholism and the AA program might follow.
In a typical meeting, the chairperson starts by calling the meeting to order and offering a short prayer, meditation, and/or period of silence (practice varies by meeting). Then, a section from the book Alcoholics Anonymous may be read aloud, usually the beginning of Chapter Five, entitled “How It Works”. Announcements from the chairperson and group members follow. Many groups celebrate newcomers, visitors, and sobriety anniversaries with rounds of applause.
Following announcements, donations are collected, usually by passing a basket around the room. There is no requirement to make a donation; typical individual donations are a dollar or two. The making of large donations is actively discouraged in AA.
Depending on the type of meeting, a talk by a speaker relating their personal experience with alcoholism and AA or a discussion session with topics chosen by the chairperson, the speaker, or the attendees follows. The “no crosstalk” suggestions, where responding to another member’s comments is discouraged, is a hallmark of AA meetings. Other meeting formats also exist where specific AA related topics are discussed in more detail. A common example is a Step Study meeting where one or more of the 12 steps are discussed at length.
In many meetings, in order to encourage identification, members confine their comments to their alcoholic drinking and recovery, following the guidelines of “what we were like, what happened and what we are like now”. This format is intended to avoid distracting the group from its primary purpose.
After the discussion period, the meeting is typically ended with a prayer, usually the Serenity Prayer or often in the US, the Lord’s Prayer. These ending prayers are sometimes undertaken by the entire group forming a circle and holding hands. More socializing typically follows the close of the formal meeting, and it is common for members to gather at a nearby coffee shop.