Twelve-step meetings are an integral part of recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. The fellowship, support, and confidentiality these groups provide those in recovery instill the motivation and strength needed to keep moving forward in sobriety, one step at a time. However, when you mention AA to those early in recovery they may be hesitant. Besides the overtly spiritual tones of the foundations of AA, images of dingy church basements and stale coffee may give some people pause. However, it is important to focus on why you are there instead of the surroundings.
Despite common perceptions, AA provides variety and flexibility in its meeting formats, in order to accommodate every alcoholic. Depending on who is chairing the meetings, an AA meeting can take on different tones and flavors. In this article, the different types of AA meetings will be explained; however, it is important to note the structure upon which AA is based.
The Foundation of an AA Meeting
AA meetings are voluntary meetings designed for those who identify themselves as alcoholic or for people who have lost control of themselves and their drinking. Regardless of the focus or format, AA meetings usually last for about 60 minutes and have a core group of volunteer members who perform certain duties or roles. Ultimately, all who attend meetings are committed to anonymity. Many AA members are introduced to AA while in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.
Smith goes on to explain that all meetings revolve around introductions, the reading of selected AA literature, sharing anniversary dates, a request for newcomers to identify themselves (if they so choose), and the meeting itself.
Different Types of AA Meetings
As stated earlier, meetings can be modified and changed according to whoever is chairing the meeting. The following are some common types of AA meetings :
- Topic/Discussion—these types of meetings are led by a person who is normally chosen by the group and the size of the group itself can range anywhere from 5 to about 60. In these groups, the leader will pick a topic that will be the focus of the meeting and may talk about the topic for a few minutes or so before the group opens for sharing. The topic may revolve around a specific AA reading or may come from a canned “meeting starter” list.
- Speaker—these meetings are usually large and can have up to 300 people in attendance. These meetings are considered open meetings, and those who don’t identify themselves as alcoholic may be in attendance, such as Al-Anon members. These meetings are generally very structured and feature a key speaker who relates his/her addiction story, often impactful.
- Big Book Study —the “Big Book” refers to the main text of AA. Big Book groups often organize participants in order to read and discuss the book. Each member will read a paragraph in turn, and the book gets read sequentially for several pages — perhaps a half chapter at a time. After a reading, members share their experience or thoughts on the material
- 12 Step Studies—these groups will study a particular Step or Tradition from the book of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.
In addition to the groups described above, there are also other groups in existence that may better serve the needs of unique populations or groups. Some of these groups include men’s groups, women’s groups, LGBTQ groups, agnostic groups, atheist groups, old timers’, and beginners’ meetings. There is an AA group dedicated to almost any population.
If you are seeking help, contact the Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Organization (G.S.O.). If you are seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, call the Palm Beach Institute today at 855-534-3574.
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