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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Published on August 3, 2021
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship that helps people with a drinking problem maintain abstinence. AA provides a supportive environment to share experiences, maintain sobriety, and improve quality of life through a twelve-step program

However, AA is not a replacement for professional treatment, including detox, rehab, medication, and therapy.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous?

AA is a self-supporting 12-step program that helps people maintain abstinence from alcohol. AA is open to all ages and accepts all social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. 

The only requirement for AA membership is that you want to stop drinking. The primary purpose of AA is to maintain abstinence and help others who are recovering from alcoholism. 

AA encourages the use of a higher power, the Twelve Steps, and helping others to maintain long-term sobriety.

History Of Alcoholics Anonymous

AA began in 1935 in Akron, Ohio with just two members, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Both members found they were able to maintain abstinence by helping other people with alcoholism (also known as alcohol use disorder). 

The textbook Alcoholics Anonymous also referred to as “the Big Book”, was first published in 1939. The textbook contains the experiences of the fellowship’s first members and the philosophy of AA, known today as the twelve steps. 

Learn more about The Big Book Of AA

AA began growing quickly and the Twelve Traditions was created as a set of guidelines for the fellowship. Today, AA has about two million members worldwide and has helped people maintain abstinence and improve their quality of life. 

The Twelve-Step Program

The founders of AA discovered through the help of a doctor that alcoholism is a disease of the mind, body, and emotions. AA members believe people with alcoholism have a sensitivity to alcohol and an obsession to drink. 

People who struggle with alcohol use disorder cannot stop drinking using willpower. According to AA member’s experiences, sobriety can be achieved through reliance on a power greater than themselves. 

AA is not associated with any particular religion and some members do not believe in the existence of a God. You are only encouraged to keep an open mind and interpret your own personal “higher power.” 

The Twelve Steps

The Twelve Steps are a group of spiritual principles that help remove the obsession to drink and can improve well-being. It is believed that by applying the steps in daily life, individuals can learn to maintain sobriety. 

The Twelve Traditions

The Twelve Traditions are a set of principles that help the fellowship maintain unity and healthy relationships between AA groups. 

What To Expect From An AA Meeting

AA meetings are free and anyone who wants to stop drinking can attend. 

Here is how you can find local meetings:

There are open meetings that allow family members, spouses, or relatives to attend. Closed meetings are reserved for AA members. 

Learn more about How To Find An AA Meeting Near You

There are numerous different meeting formats within open and closed meetings, including:

Attending different types of meetings can help you find the right fit for you. Although there is no official rule, attending several meetings a week early in recovery may be beneficial. 

AA Literature

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. has published a wide range of literature on AA, how it works, and its history. 

AA literature is extensive but includes:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous book
  • Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book
  • Daily Reflections book, which includes spiritual readings
  • various pamphlets and flyers

The Grapevine is an international journal produced by AA members. Although it is not official AA literature, it is widely accepted as a print version of an AA meeting. It is a diverse publication that encompasses the experiences of fellow AA members. 

AA In Treatment Centers

Alcohol addiction is a complex disease and affects everyone differently. Some people may also have co-occurring mental illnesses that require medication and/or therapy. AA cannot replace professional treatment but should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment program. 

AA support groups often use substance abuse treatment centers as a way to reach other people suffering from alcohol addiction. In fact, 74% of AA members found their way to an AA program through their treatment provider.

Many treatment centers find support groups to be an important part of the recovery process. Treatment centers may hold AA meetings or similar 12-step group meetings. Hearing a person who is sober and well but with similar experiences can be encouraging during early recovery. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, help is available. Contact our helpline to learn which of our treatment facilities is best for you. 


Are You Allowed To Go To AA If You’ve Been Drinking?

AA meetings welcome anyone, even if they have been drinking and are under the influence. Some people may attend several meetings while drinking before they have the willingness to stop or attend detox. 

However, some meetings may restrict you from sharing if you are intoxicated. If you become disruptive during the meeting, they may ask you to leave. In this case, other members of the group may share their experiences with you over the phone or in-person outside the meeting. 

To learn more, read Can You Go To AA Meetings If You’ve Been Drinking

What Does The AA Logo Look Like?

The original AA logo featured an equilateral triangle positioned inside a circle, often with the text UNITY, RECOVERY, SERVICE, and AA.

However, this symbol has been discontinued on all official AA materials since the mid-1990s.

Learn more about The Origin & History Of AA’s Logo

Does Alcoholics Anonymous Have A Hotline?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a 24/7 hotline you can call during your time of need. If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one or searching for general information, don’t hesitate to call.

To learn more, read 7 Reasons To Call An Alcoholics Anonymous Hotline

What Are Some Alternatives To AA?

Some alternatives to AA include SMART Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery, Women For Sobriety, behavioral therapy, chat rooms, and online meetings. 

To learn more, read 7 Alternatives To Alcoholics Anonymous

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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