What is AA

For anyone new coming and anyone referring people to A.A.

This information is both for people who may have a drinking problem and for those in contact with people who have, or are suspected of having, a problem. This page tells what to expect from Alcoholics Anonymous. It describes what A.A. is, what A.A. does, and what A.A. does not do.

What Is A.A.?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem. Learn more about who we are.
Singleness of Purpose and Problems Other Than Alcohol
Some professionals refer to alcoholism and drug addiction as "substance abuse" or "chemical dependency." Non-alcoholics are, therefore, sometimes introduced to A.A. and encouraged to attend A.A. meetings. Non-alcoholics may attend open A.A. meetings as observers, but only those with a drinking problem may attend closed A.A. meetings.

» Learn more about the different types of meetings you can attend.
What Does A.A. Do?
  1. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or "sponsorship" to the alcoholic coming to A.A. from any source.
  2. The A.A. program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol. Also see the Twelve Traditions and Twelve Promises.
  3. This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
    • Open speaker meetings - open to alcoholics and non-alcoholics. (Attendance at an open A.A. meeting is the best way to learn what A.A. is, what it does, and what it does not do.) At speaker meetings, A.A. members "tell their stories." They describe their experiences with alcohol. how thy came to A.A., and how their lives have changed as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous.
    • Open discussion meetings - one member speaks briefly about his or her drinking experience, and then leads a discussion on A.A. recovery or any drinking-related problem anyone brings up. (Closed meetings are for A.A.s or anyone who may have a drinking problem.)
    • Closed discussion meetings - conducted just as open discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective A.A.s only.
    • Step meetings (usually closed) - discussion of one of the Twelve Steps.
    • A.A. members also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
A.A. members may be asked to conduct the informational meetings about A.A. as a part of A.S.A.P. (Alcohol Safety Action Project) and D.W.I. (Driving While Intoxicated) programs. These meetings about A.A. are not regular A.A. group meetings.
What A.A. Does Not Do
A.A. does not:
  1. Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover
  2. Solicit members
  3. Engage in or sponsor research
  4. Keep attendance records or case histories
  5. Join "councils" of social agencies
  6. Follow up or try to control its members
  7. Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses
  8. Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalization, drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment
  9. Offer religious services
  10. Engage in education about alcohol
  11. Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other welfare or social services
  12. Provide domestic or vocational counseling
  13. Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-A.A. sources
  14. Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials
Members From Court Program and Treatment Facilities
In recent years, A.A. groups have welcomed many new members from court programs and treatment facilities. Some have come to A.A. voluntarily; others, under a degree of pressure. In our pamphlet "How A.A. Members Cooperate," the following appears:

We cannot discriminate against any prospective A.A. member, even if he or she comes to us under pressure from a court, an employer, or any other agency.

Although the strength of our program lies in the voluntary nature of membership in A.A., many of us first attended meetings because we were forced to, either by someone else or by inner discomfort. But continual exposure to A.A. educated us to the true nature of the illness... Who made the referral to A.A. is not what A.A. is interested in. It is the problem drinker who is our concern... We cannot predict who will recover, nor have we the authority to decide how recovery should be sought by any other alcoholic.

Proof of Attendance at Meetings

Sometimes a referral source asks for proof of attendance at A.A. meetings.

Groups cooperate in different ways. There is no set procedure. The nature and extent of any group's involvement in this process is entirely up to the individual group.

Some groups, with the consent of the prospective member, have an A.A. member acknowledge attendance on a slip that has been furnished by the referral source. The referred person is responsible for returning the proof of attendance.

This proof of attendance at meetings is not part of A.A. procedure. Each group is autonomous and has the right to choose whether or not to sign court slips. In some areas the attendees report on themselves, at the request of the referring agency, and thus alleviate breaking A.A. members' anonymity.
Literature
Both A.A. Conference-approved and non-approved literature is available in multiple languages. To request one free meeting schedule, please contact us and provide your name and address.
FAQs
See our FAQs for frequently asked questions About AA, For the New Comer and About Alcoholism.

To learn more, please choose an option below that best describes who you are:

For the family member or friend of someone who has a drinking problem
For the professional or if you need to refer someone to A.A.
  • Read more how A.A. members can help professionals.
  • If you are in Northeast Ohio you can contact specific committees, including: Members of the clergy, medical professions, legal professions, Correctional Facilities, Treatment Facilities, and general inquiries.
  • If you are anywhere outside Northeast Ohio and are a health care professional, correctional or treatment facility professional, media/news professional, employee assistance professional, educator, member of the clergy, counselor, social worker or student contact our General Service Office and they will direct your inquiry accordingly.