AA Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship of people who have had an issue with drinking. Their aim is simple: To stay sober and support other alcoholics who want to stop drinking.

Alcoholics Anonymous is an apolitical, secular, and non-professional community group. Community groups like AA provide a shared sense of purpose, values, and belonging, plus a community of like-minded people to encourage you on your journey to recovery.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in the United States. There are many Alcoholics Anonymous chapters in the UK. Membership is completely anonymous: Members remain anonymous in the press, on social media, and in public. This allows members to feel safe while working through their issues with alcohol.

AA focuses on the recovery and continued sobriety of alcoholics who seek help. Their approach is to cooperate with but not provide opinions on alcoholism. Most importantly, it is freely available to anyone – regardless of class, ethnicity, religion, race, sexuality, or gender.

The 12 Steps

The 12 steps are the guiding principles of AA and provide a guideline to help members overcome alcohol addiction.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practise these principles in all our affairs

How does AA work?

The only requirement needed to join AA is a desire to stop drinking. Regular meetings are an important part of AA.


AA is a fellowship. This means group meetings are facilitated by members who hold each other accountable for their actions through weekly meetings. Members can take different roles, including treasurer and secretary.
Meetings can be held in person, online, or on the phone. Group members decide when, where, and how often they will meet. During the meeting, you will spend your time listening to other people’s stories about their problems and recovery from alcohol.

There are two types of meetings:

  • Open meetings: These are open to anyone interested in AA’s programme. This is also open to nonalcoholics.
  • Closed meetings: These are only open to AA members or to those who have a drinking problem and want to become sober.

There are some common meeting formats associated with a typical AA meeting.

  • Discussion: An AA member serving as ‘leader’ or ‘chair’ opens the meeting and selects a discussion topic. This could come from AA literature, such as the Big Book, Twelve Steps, and Twelve Traditions.
  • Speaker: Members can be selected to speak beforehand to share their experience. While not a general rule, some groups prefer members with a minimum period of continuous sobriety.
  • Beginners: This type of meeting is run by a group member who has been sober for a while and seeks to help new members.
  • Step, Tradition, or Big Book: The big book is considered a foundational aspect of AA – some meetings will be devoted to studying each step in rotation.

What happens at AA meetings?

The chair will open the meeting with an AA statement and a few remarks, followed by the serenity prayer. New members can also introduce themselves to the group. Part of AA’s appeal is its anonymity. However, individual participants can decide whether they’d like to introduce themselves.

Proof of attendance at meetings is not strictly part of AA procedure. Each group has rules and the right to choose whether to provide proof of attendance.

What are the benefits of joining AA?

AA meetings are associated with various psychological, emotional and social benefits. AA provides a safe meeting place to take accountability and grow. The benefits of joining AA have been discussed in many academic journals, with many highlighting its success in supporting alcohol-dependent individuals. Further, a Harvard study also found these procedures helped more people achieve sobriety.

Some of the benefits of joining AA can include:

  • Social reinforcement and strong support networks: Studies have shown that peer recovery support groups have demonstrated increased treatment retention, reduced relapse rates, and improved relationships.
  • Open communication: Openly communicating with others through the 12 steps was more effective than CBT for increasing abstinence.
  • Prioritised recovery: AA is a volunteer-run group, with many volunteers recovering from addiction themselves. You’ll be working with people who have experienced alcoholism, too.

Testimonial from a current member

The AA UK website has many testimonials from current members who have worked hard to continue their recovery journey.
Take Annie, who saw her life fall apart before her very eyes thanks to her addiction to alcohol. Thanks to the intervention of AA, she was able to change her life for the better;

“I went to a meeting near me, started going to others, started working the steps. After a short time, the desire to drink left me and has not returned. My life has changed in ways that are beyond belief.”

The Alcoholics Anonymous map – Local support

The AA UK website has a meeting finder tool to help you find your nearest AA meeting.

You won’t have to fill in a form or pay a fee. Importantly, you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. If you feel the urge to relapse, a meeting schedule and contact numbers for meeting members will be provided.

After your first meeting, you’ll also be given a starter pack. It will contain several pamphlets with support and guidance that you can use whenever you like.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction and need rehabilitation or treatment, we’re here to help. Contact us today.

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Is AA a religious organisation?
AA is not affiliated with any religion. Although some AA literature references a ‘higher power’, a ‘higher power’ can be interpreted as a relationship with God, with nature, or with the power of healing.
Who can join AA?
The only requirement to join AA is the desire to stop drinking. Anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation, can join AA. There are numerous chapters in the UK and even more worldwide. You can find your nearest AA meeting here.