About A.A.

1What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, non-denominational, 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.
2How does A.A. help the alcoholic?
Through the example and friendship of the recovered alcoholics in A.A., new members are encouraged to stay away from a drink "one day at a time," as the A.A.s do. Instead of "swearing off forever" or worrying about whether they will be sober tomorrow, A.A.s concentrate on not drinking right now - today.

By keeping alcohol out of their systems, newcomers take care of one part of their illness - their bodies have a chance to get well. But remember, there is another part. If they are going to stay sober, they need healthy minds and healthy emotions, too. So they begin to straighten out their confused thinking and unhappy feelings by following A.A.'s "Twelve Steps" to recovery. These Steps suggest ideas and actions that can guide alcoholics toward happy and useful lives.

To be in touch with other members and to learn about the recovery program, new members go to A.A. meetings regularly.
3What 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.
  3. This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
4What doesn't A.A. 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
5Why is A.A. interested in problem drinkers?
Members of A.A. have a selfish interest in offering a helping hand to other alcoholics who have not yet achieved sobriety. First, they know from experience that this type of activity, usually referred to as "Twelfth Step work," helps them to stay sober. Their lives now have a great and compelling interest. Very likely, reminders of their own previous experience with alcohol help them to avoid the overconfidence that could lead to a relapse. Whatever the explanation, A.A.s who give freely of their time and effort to help other alcoholics seldom have trouble preserving their own sobriety.

A.A.s are anxious to help problem drinkers for a second reason: It gives them an opportunity to square their debt to those who helped them. It is the only practical way in which the individual’s debt to A.A. can ever be repaid. The A.A. member knows that sobriety cannot be bought and that there is no long-term lease on it. The A.A. does know, however, that a new way of life without alcohol may be had simply for the asking, if it is honestly wanted and willingly shared with those who follow.

Traditionally, A.A. never “recruits” members, never urges that anyone should become a member, and never solicits or accepts outside funds. If the newcomer is satisfied that he or she is an alcoholic and that A.A. may be able to help, then a number of specific questions about the nature, structure, and history of the movement itself usually come up. Here are some of the most common ones.
6What does the Twelve Steps do?
A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.

Many people, nonalcoholics, report that as a result of the practice of A.A.'s Twelve Steps, they have been able to meet other difficulties of life. They see in them a way to happy and effective living for many, alcoholic or not.
7How did A.A. get started?
Alcoholics Anonymous had its beginnings in Akron, Ohio, in 1935 when a New Yorker on business there and successfully sober for the first time in years sought out another alcoholic. During his few months of sobriety, the New Yorker had noticed that his desire to drink lessened when he tried to help other drunks to get sober. In Akron, he was directed to a local doctor with a drinking problem. Working together, the businessman and the doctor found that their ability to stay sober seemed closely related to the amount of help and encouragement they were able to give other alcoholics.

For four years, the new movement, nameless and without any organization or descriptive literature, grew slowly. Groups were established in Akron, New York, Cleveland, and a few other centers.

In 1939, with the publication of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, from which the Fellowship derived its name, and as the result of the help of a number of nonalcoholic friends, the Society began to attract national and international attention.

A service office was opened in New York City to handle the thousands of inquiries and requests for literature that pour in each year.

For more information, see History of A.A.
8What is the story behind the Circle and Triangle logo?
aa circle triangleThe Circle and Triangle symbol has long been connected to the A.A. Fellowship. It was adopted as an official A.A. symbol at the International Convention in St. Louis in 1955, and from that point on was widely used in the Fellowship. For the Fellowship, the three legs of the triangle represented the Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity and Service, and the circle symbolized the world of A.A. In Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Bill W.’s 1955 speech, in which he describes the adoption of the symbol, is printed:

"Above us floats a banner on which is inscribed the new symbol for A.A., a circle enclosing a triangle. The circle stands for the whole world of A.A., and the triangle stands for A.A.’s Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity, and Service. Within our wonderful new world, we have found freedom from our fatal obsession. That we have chose this particular symbol is perhaps no accident. The priests and seers of antiquity regarded the circle enclosing the triangle as a means of warding off the spirits of evil, and A.A.’s circle and triangle of Recovery, Unity, and Service has certainly meant all of that to us and much more." (p. 139)

Nevertheless, in the early 1990s, A.A.W.S. decided to phase out the use of the Circle and Triangle symbol on its literature, letterhead and other material. It was decided to phase out the "official" or "legal" use of the Circle and Triangle symbol, and in 1994 the General Service Conference resolved that the logo be discontinued on all Conference-approved literature. However, the symbol is still associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (and other kinds of 12-Step recovery fellowships) and has a special meaning for AA members all over the world.

For the New Comer

1How 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.
2How 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.
3How 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.
4If 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.
5What happens at an A.A. meeting?
If a judge, school or employer has suggested you attend an AA meeting, they may believe there is evidence that you have a drinking problem. If you have an attendance card/paper to be signed, most AA meeting secretaries will be happy to do so. Take a look at a current meeting directory. You'll see the days, times and places AA meetings are held. Meetings marked with (O) are Open Meetings - anyone can attend, while those marked with a (C) are Closed Meetings - for people who have a desire to stop drinking. AA is not affiliated with the courts, treatment centers or any medical institution.

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. To learn more, watch this helpful video: What To Expect at a First AA Meeting
6What 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.
7What 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.
8Can I bring my family to an A.A. meeting?
Family members or close friends are welcome at "Open" A.A. meetings as observers. A "Closed" meeting is for alcoholics only. Discuss this with your local contact.
9There'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 non-belief.
10Is 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!
11Why 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.
12What 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.
13Can’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.
14What 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.
15What 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.
16How long does an A.A. meeting last?
Generally, they last about an hour. In some cases, they could be as short as 15 minutes or as long as 2 hours. Usually there is free coffee, cookies and/or donuts. It's a good practice to arrive a few minutes early. If you have a paper that needs to get signed, give it to the secretary of the group before the meeting starts and you can pick it up after the meeting is over. If you like, shake some hands and introduce yourself (just your first name is fine). We find that speaking with others at a meeting is usually helpful.
17Do I have to give my name?
When you go to an AA meeting you don't have to give your full name. Some groups will ask the newcomers to introduce themselves and give "your first name only." At some meetings a sign-in sheet may be circulated for the chairperson to use during the meeting - you don't have to sign it. All participation at AA is voluntary.
18Will I have to speak?
It's not necessary to explain why you're there. Others will share but no one will think it odd if you choose to remain silent. There are many AA members who prefer to sit and listen at meetings.
19Will A.A. respect my anonymity?
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all of A.A.'s Traditions. Please respect this custom and treat in confidence who you see and what you hear. You can count on others to respect your anonymity.

About Alcoholism

1What is alcoholism?
As A.A. sees it, alcoholism is an illness. Alcoholics cannot control their drinking, because they are ill in their bodies and in their minds (or emotions), A.A. believes. If they do not stop drinking, their alcoholism almost always gets worse and worse.

Both the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, chief organizations of doctors in those countries, also have said that alcoholism is an illness.

Physical Allergy - Any time you put alcohol what so ever into your system, it develops an actual physical craving which makes it virtually impossible for you to stop drinking after you've once started. Because of that allergy, which produces that physical craving, you'll never be able to safely drink alcohol again.

Obsession of the Mind - An idea that overcomes all other ideas to the contrary. It really doesn’t make any difference how badly you want to stop drinking. From time to time, your obsession of the mind to drink will be so strong, it will overcome any ideas not to drink and your mind will actually lead you to believe it's ok to drink.

Then you'll take that drink, you'll trigger that allergy and you'll be unable to stop. You can't safely drink because of your body, you can't stay sober because of your mind, therefore you've become absolutely powerless over alcohol.
2Can alcoholism be cured?
No, not yet. Alcoholism is a treatable disease, and medication has also become available to help prevent relapse, but a cure has not yet been found. This means that even if an alcoholic has been sober for a long time and has regained health, he or she may relapse and must continue to avoid all alcohol.
3Can an alcoholic ever drink normally again?
So far as can be determined, no one who has become an alcoholic has ever ceased to be an alcoholic. The mere fact of abstaining from alcohol for months or even years has never qualified an alcoholic to drink "normally" or socially. Once the individual has crossed the borderline from heavy drinking to irresponsible alcoholic drinking, there seems to be no retreat.

Few alcoholics deliberately try to drink themselves into trouble, but trouble seems to be the inevitable consequence of an alcoholic's drinking. After quitting for a period, the alcoholic may feel it is safe to try a few beers or a few glasses of light wine. This can mislead the person into drinking only with means. But it is not too long before the alcoholic is back in the old pattern of too-heavy drinking - in spite of all efforts to set limits for only moderate, social drinking.

The answer, based on A.A. experience, is that if you are an alcoholic, you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time. That leaves two paths open: to let your drinking become worse and worse with all the damaging results that follow, or to quit completely and to develop a new pattern of sober, constructive living.
4How can I tell if I am really an alcoholic?
Only you can make that decision. Many who are now in A.A. have previously been told that they were not alcoholics, that all they needed was more willpower, a change of scenery, more rest, or a few new hobbies in order to straighten out. These same people finally turned to A.A. because they felt, deep down inside, that alcohol had them licked and that they were ready to try anything that would free them from the compulsion to drink.

Some of these men and women went through terrifying experiences with alcohol before they were ready to admit that alcohol was not for them. They became derelicts, stole, lied, cheated, and even killed while they were drinking. They took advantage of their employers and abused their families. They were completely unreliable in their relations and spiritual assets.

Many others with far less tragic records have turned to A.A., too. They have never been jailed or hospitalized. Their too-heavy drinking may not have been noticed by their closest relatives and friends. But they knew enough about alcoholism as a progressive illness to scare them. They joined A.A. before they had paid too heavy a price.

There is a saying in A.A. that there is no such thing as being a little bit alcoholic. Either you are, or you are not. And only the individual involved can say whether or not alcohol has become an unmanageable problem.
5How can you tell if someone has an alcohol problem?
A good first step is to answer the brief questionnaire below, developed by Dr. John Ewing. To help remember these questions, note that the first letter of a key word in each question spells "CAGE."

  • -Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
  • -Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • -Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
  • -Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?

One "yes" answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one "yes" answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important to see a doctor or other health provider right away. He or she can determine whether a drinking problem exists and, if so, suggest the best course of action. A more thorough diagnostic questionnaire is available on this page.
6Is alcoholism inherited?
Alcoholism tends to run in families, and genetic factors partially explain this pattern. Currently, researchers are on the way to finding the genes that influence vulnerability to alcoholism. A person's environment, such as the influence of friends, stress levels, and the ease of obtaining alcohol, also may influence drinking and the development of alcoholism. Still other factors, such as social support, may help to protect even high-risk people from alcohol problems.

Risk, however, is not destiny. A child of an alcoholic parent will not automatically develop alcoholism. A person with no family history of alcoholism can become alcohol dependent.
7What are the symptoms of alcoholism?
Not all alcoholics have the same symptoms, but many - at different stages in the illness - show these signs: They find that only alcohol can make them feel self-confident and at ease with other people; often want "just one more" at the end of a party; look forward to drinking occasions and think about them a lot; get drunk when they had not planned to; try to control their drinking by changing types of liquor, going on the wagon, or taking pledges; sneak drinks; lie about their drinking; hide bottles; drink at work (or in school); drink alone; have blackouts (that is, cannot remember the next day what they said or did the night before); drink in the morning, to relieve severe hangovers, guilty feelings and fears; fail to eat and become malnourished; get cirrhosis of the liver; shake violently, hallucinate, or have convulsions when withdrawn from liquor.

It's March Pledge Drive! Give a token of gratitude for the blessings found in A.A. Your contribution helps change the lives of suffering Alcoholics.