For the New Comer
What is a sponsor?
A sponsor is an alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A.
When we first begin to attend A.A. meetings, we may feel confused, sick and apprehensive. Although people at meetings respond to our questions willingly, that alone isn't enough. Many other questions occur to us between meetings; we find that we need constant, close support as we begin learning how to "live sober."
So we select an A.A. member with whom we can feel comfortable, someone with whom we can talk freely and confidentially, and we ask that person to be our sponsor.
For further information, read the official A.A. "Questions and Answers on Sponsorship" (PDF). The pamphlet describes uses shared A.A. experience to answer 34 questions likely to be asked by persons seeking sponsors, persons wanting to be sponsors, and groups planning sponsorship activity.
What advice do you give new members?
In our experience, the people who recover in A.A. are those who: (a) stay away from the first drink; (b) attend A.A. meetings regularly; (c) seek out the people in A.A. who have successfully stayed sober for some time; (d) try to put into practice the A.A. program of recovery.
Can I bring my family to an A.A. meeting?
Family members or close friends are welcome at "Open" A.A. meetings. Discuss this with your local contact.
There's a lot of talk about God, though, isn't there?
The majority of A.A. members believe that we have found the solution to our drinking problem not through individual willpower, but through a power greater than ourselves. However, everyone defines this power as he or she wishes. Many people call it God, others think it is the A.A. group, still others don't believe in it at all. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and nonbelief.
Is A.A. a religious organization?
A.A. is not a religious organization.
Perhaps the alcoholic in your life thinks that A.A. is an evangelical organization, heavy on religion and preaching. Again, the facts are different.
A.A. has been described as, basically, a spiritual program. To be sure, it does not offer any material help, as a welfare department would. But A.A. is certainly not a religious organization. It does not ask its members to hold to any formal creed or perform any ritual or even to believe in God. Its members belong to all kinds of churches. Many belong to none. A.A. asks only that newcomers keep an open mind and respect the beliefs of others.
A.A. holds that alcoholism, in addition to being a physical and emotional illness, is also a spiritual disorder to some degree. Because most alcoholics have been unable to manage things on their own, they seem to find effective therapy in the decision to turn their destiny over to a power greater than themselves. Many A.A.s refer to this power as "God." Others consider the A.A. group as the power to be relied upon. The word "spiritual" in A.A. may be interpreted as broadly as one wants. Certainly, one feels a certain spirit of togetherness at all A.A. meetings!
How much does A.A. membership cost?
There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership. An A.A. group will usually have a collection during the meeting to cover expenses, such as rent, coffee, etc., and to this all members are free to contribute as much or as little as they wish.
How do I join A.A.?
You are an A.A. member if and when you say so. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking, and many of us were not very wholehearted about that when we first approached A.A.
Why do A.A.s keep on going to meetings after they are cured?
We in A.A. believe there is no such thing as a cure for alcoholism. We can never return to normal drinking, and our ability to stay away from alcohol depends on maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual health. This we can achieve by going to meetings regularly and putting into practice what we learn there. In addition, we find it helps us to stay sober if we help other alcoholics.
How can this help me with my drinking problem?
We in A.A. know what it is like to be addicted to alcohol, and to be unable to keep promises made to others and ourselves that we will stop drinking. We are not professional therapists. Our only qualification for helping others to recover from alcoholism is that we have stopped drinking ourselves, but problem drinkers coming to us know that recovery is possible because they see people who have done it.
What happens at an A.A. meeting?
An A.A. meeting may take one of several forms, but at any meeting you will find alcoholics talking about what drinking did to their lives and personalities, what actions they took to help themselves, and how they are living their lives today.
What happens if I meet people I know?
They will be there for the same reason you are there. They will not disclose your identity to outsiders. At A.A. you retain as much anonymity as you wish. That is one of the reasons we call ourselves Alcoholics Anonymous.
If I go to an A.A. meeting, does that commit me to anything?
No. A.A. does not keep membership files, or attendance records. You do not have to reveal anything about yourself. No one will bother you if you don't want to come back.
Can’t an A.A. member drink even beer?
There are, of course, no musts in A.A., and no one checks up on members to determine whether or not they are drinking anything. The answer to this question is that if a person is an alcoholic, touching alcohol in any form cannot be risked. Alcohol is alcohol whether it is found in a martini, a Scotch and soda, a bourbon and branch water, a glass of champagne — or a short beer. For the alcoholic, one drink of alcohol in any form is likely to be too much, and twenty drinks are not enough.
To be sure of sobriety, alcoholics simply have to stay away from alcohol, regardless of the quantity, mixture, or concentration they may think they can control.
Obviously, few persons are going to get drunk on one or two bottles of beer. The alcoholic knows this as well as the next person. But alcoholics may convince themselves that they are simply going to take two or three beers and then quit for the day. Occasionally, they may actually follow this program for a number of days or weeks, Eventually, they decide that as long as they are drinking, they may as well "do a good job." So they increase their consumption of beer or wine. Or they switch to hard liquor. And again, they are back where they started.
What is an 'open' meeting?
An open meeting of A.A. is a group meeting that any member of the community, alcoholic or nonalcoholic, may attend. The only obligation is that of not disclosing the names of A.A. members outside the meeting.
A typical open meeting will usually have a "leader" and other speakers. The leader opens and closes the meeting and introduces each speaker. With rare exceptions, the speakers at an open meeting are A.A. members. Each, in turn, may review some individual drinking experiences that led to joining A.A. The speaker may also give his or her interpretation of the recovery program and suggest what sobriety has meant personally. All views expressed are purely personal, since all members of A.A. speak only for themselves.
Most open meetings conclude with a social period during which coffee, soft drinks, and cakes or cookies are served.
What is a 'closed' meeting?
A closed meeting is limited to members of the local A.A. group, or visiting members from other groups. The purpose of the closed meeting is to give members an opportunity to discuss particular phases of their alcoholic problem that can be understood best only by other alcoholics.
These meetings are usually conducted with maximum informality, and all members are encouraged to participate in the discussions. The closed meetings are of particular value to the newcomer, since they provide an opportunity to ask questions that may trouble a beginner, and to get the benefit of "older" members' experience with the recovery program.