AA Newcomer FAQ

Here is a list of frequently asked questions specifically designed to help new members of AA

Q: I am not an alcoholic but have been sentenced by the Courts to attend AA meetings. What meetings should I attend?

A: If you have a desire not to drink, you may attend any closed meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Those who do not have a desire to stop drinking should attend an open meeting of AA. Court slips may be signed at closed or open meetings depending upon the group\’s decision about signing slips. Groups are not required to sign court slips but most do, in cooperation with your needs.

Q: How do I prove my attendance at AA meetings if this is part of my sentence?

A: Persons court-ordered to attend AA often track their attendance by submitting a sheet that is signed by the chairperson during the meeting. The probation department typically provides these sheets. When the donation basket is passed during the meeting, place your sheet in the basket and it will be signed and returned at the end of the meeting.

Q: What is the difference between open and closed meetings?

A:  Closed meetings are for persons who have a desire not to drink. Therefore, the only requirement to attend a closed meeting of AA is a desire not to drink. Open meetings are for persons who do not have a desire to stop drinking and anyone else with an interest in AA (students, professionals, friends and family of an alcoholic, etc).

Q: Are there any requirements to attend closed meetings?

A: The only requirement to attend a closed meeting is a desire not to drink.

Q: I noticed that many meetings are in churches. Do I need to belong to that church or believe in God to attend an AA meeting?

A: AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution. Meetings are held in churches but the church serves only as a location. The church is not associated with AA (or AA with the church) – the AA group pays rent to use the space. Meetings occur in many different places: churches, community centers, Alano Clubs, and hospitals to name a few. You do NOT need to be a member of a church or religion to participate and be welcomed by the AA community.

Q: If I attend a meeting am I required to speak?

A: No. Sharing helps you and allows others to get to know a bit about you – but it is not required. Many people attending their first AA meeting give their first name and if they desire not to speak, say “pass.”

Q: What happens at a meeting?

A: There are many different types of meetings. Some have a specific focus – like reading Alcoholics Anonymous (also referred to as the “Big Book”) – our basic textbook on how to recover. Some meetings discuss one of the twelve steps and/or traditions. There are also speaker meetings where a sober member of AA recounts his or her personal experience: what it was like, what happened, and where they are at now. Other meeting are created for specified segments of the recovery community: young people in AA, men’s meetings, women’s meetings, and gay and lesbian meetings are a few examples.

Q: What if I see someone I know at an AA meeting?

A: Personal anonymity is a founding principle of our program. When attending an AA meeting, sober alcoholics practice the saying –  “whoever you see here, whatever you say here, let it stay here.” Outside of meetings we don’t speak about who we saw or what we heard. We are not anonymous to each other, but it is important to respect every alcoholic’s right to remain anonymous.

Q: Are there any requirements for attending AA?

A: The only requirement to attend a closed meeting of AA is a desire not to drink. Anyone with an interest in AA may attend an open meeting.

Q: Are there different types of meetings?

A: Yes. Here is listing of a few different types of meetings that are found in the Lansing area:

  • (B) Beginners Meetings – Topics of discussion are suited to new arrivals in AA and typically address the basics of the AA program.
  • (C) Closed – A closed meeting is for AA members and those persons that have a desire not to drink.
  • (O) Open Meeting – Open meetings are available to anyone with an interest in AA including students, professionals, friends and family.
  • (OS) Open Speaker – A meeting in which an AA member shares his/her experience with alcoholism and recovery through the AA program.

There are many different types of AA meetings – the above list highlights only a few examples. Click here for a full listing of types of meetings in the Lansing area.

Q: How do I find a meeting?

A: There are over 290 meetings a week in the Lansing area (Ingham, Eaton, Clinton and parts of Shiawasee counties). A meeting search directory can be found here. If you have any problems, please call the Lansing Central Office at 517-377-1444 for help. The Lansing Central Office also publishes a printed meeting directory $1.50.

Q: I am already a member of a specific religion or practice a spirituality path. Will I be asked to change that?

A: No. AA is not a religious program. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution.

Q: I’m an atheist or agnostic. Can this program work for me?

A: Yes, this program can work for you. While there is direct mention of a “god” in literature and some meetings, please keep in mind that this is a “god or higher power of your understanding.” For some, that understanding favors an atheist or agnostic form of expression.

Q: Can I be kicked out of AA?

A: No. Disruptive or abusive persons may be asked to leave a meeting, but you cannot be kicked out or expelled from the AA program.

Q: Are there any fees for attending meetings?

A: There are no dues or fees for AA membership. We are self supporting through our own contributions. This means that AA supports itself solely on the contributions of its members. During a meeting, a basket is passed and people attending the meeting have the choice to donate if they wish. A typical donation is $1-$5. Donations are used to pay the meeting rent, support the local AA service center and also support the AA service structure. Meetings generally keep a prudent reserve and donate the rest to carry the message of AA.

Q: If AA is not a religious program, why are meetings held in churches?

A: A church may serve as an available location for an AA meeting to take place. An AA group that meets in a church has no direct affiliation with the church beyond a formal agreement that allows the meeting to take place. Most AA groups pay rent to use the space in which a meeting is held – this includes churches.

Q: What is an Alano Club?

A: An Alano Club is a privately-owned building that is dedicated to hosting AA and other types of recovery meetings. There are 3 Alano clubs in the Lansing area:

Q: Can I bring someone with me to a meeting?

A: Of course – it is okay to bring a friend or family member to a meeting for moral support. We would ask that you and your guest select an open meeting of AA. An open meeting (by its very definition) is open to friends, family, and people who have a general interest in the AA program of recovery. Please see the online directory to find an open AA meeting in your area.

Q: How do I start the steps?

A: If you feel ready to start your step work, it is suggested that you work the steps under the direction of a sponsor.

Q: What is a sponsor?

A: A sponsor is a sober member of AA who has already worked the 12 steps of recovery and is now available to help others in the step work process. Selecting a sponsor is a unique and individualized experience but a good starting point would be to attend meetings and listen for a member of AA that has a message of recovery and a personality style that you can identify and feel comfortable with. A sponsor will most likely lead you through the step work process that is outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (also referred to as “the Big Book”) – the basic text of the AA program.

Q: Do I need to identify myself as an alcoholic to be welcomed in an AA meeting?

A: No. This is a personal decision for you to make if and when it feels applicable.

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