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Walking into your first AA meeting takes a lot of courage, especially when you don't know what to expect. Fortunately, a little foreknowledge can ease your anxiety. Read a few of the 9 short articles below (pick and choose those that interest you) and you'll feel better about taking that first important step that precedes all the others – walking into a meeting for the first time.

Getting Started with AA, What You Need to Know

1. What Happens at AA Meetings?

If you’ve never attended an AA meeting, start your reading here. Addiction counselor and in-recovery expert Anna Deeds lists everything you need to know and outlines what to expect at your first AA meetings, such as:

  • Where do I find a meeting?
  • What are the different types of meetings?
  • What happens at meetings (a minute-by minute break-down)?
  • Tips for succeeding with AA.

2. How and Why AA Works

What happens at AA that helps you stay sober?

Well, after much investigation, researchers identified a number of individual helping mechanisms, for example, AA helps you: build and sustain motivation, increase coping skills, increase self confidence, facilitate a change in social networks, and more.

3. Debunking Negative AA Myths

Is AA a cult? Do you have to believe in God?....

You’ve probably heard a lot about AA – but how much of it was true? In this article, recovery expert Jim LaPierre presents and debunks 7 common AA myths. 

4. AA for Atheists - Is It Possible?

You don’t have to believe in a Christian God to work a 12 Step program – you define your ‘higher power’ and it can match with whatever spiritual beliefs you hold – even G.O.D. – the power of a Group Of Drunks.

5. At Meetings, Do You Have to Talk in Front of the Group?

Don’t let anxiety about speaking in front of a group of strangers deter you. Alcoholism expert Melissa Borlie breaks down the different types of meetings (at open meetings you won’t be asked to participate) and reminds us that you should never be pressured to contribute if you don’t want to. Different groups have different vibes, and if you’re not comfortable in one group (or are feeling unwanted pressure) there’s always another one to try.

Also read about AA donation etiquette – don’t let an in ability to pitch into the basket stop you from attending. 

6. Are You too Smart for AA?

You may be pretty smart, but arrogance and over-thinking can end your recovery efforts before they get started – and if your ways were working so well, you probably wouldn’t need help in the first place!

You don’t have to stop thinking and questioning, but in the early days, keeping an open mind opens you up to a new way of being. Read this article and prevent a high I.Q. from derailing your efforts. 

7. AA in Rehab – Why It’s Useful

Experts often use the toolbox analogy to describe addiction treatment – you go to treatment to learn new tools that you can add to your toolbox – and the more tools you have at your disposal, the better your long-term recovery odds.

Rehabs that offer 12 step facilitation offer a powerful tool for long term recovery – an introduction to the power of community-based support. Research shows that people who get introduced to the 12 steps in treatment attend more meetings post treatment and have better overall outcomes. 

8. Why Helping Others Helps You Stay Sober

To keep it, you have to give it away…

You can attend meetings, or you can attend meetings and get involved with helping out, such as by sponsoring, sharing experiences, taking on 2 month service positions, etc.

Getting involved certainly helps others, but research shows that it probably helps you even more – in fact, people who get involved with 12 steps ‘helping’ develop a stronger connection to the program and are more likely to stay sober over the long-run.

9. Don’t Worry about Making Amends!

Not at first, anyway. Making amends is an essential component of 12 step recovery, and by striving to make up for your past wrongs you free yourself from a lot of relapse-provoking guilt and shame..

However, if you’re just starting out with the steps, it’s not something you’ll have to worry about for a while – not until you’re ready. You do the steps in chronological order and it can take some people years to get to steps 8 and 9.

Never let amends apprehension deter you from getting the help you need.

Try to Keep an Open Mind

If you haven’t yet tried a meeting, what do you have to lose? They’re free, they’re everywhere and millions swear by the steps as literal lifesavers.

That being said, not everyone feels comfortable with the AA program, and there are some great alternatives, but don’t dismiss the 12 steps after a single meeting, to give it an honest try you have to go a few times and keep an open mind. You should also try out a few groups – since different groups can have very different atmospheres, and while one might feel awkward, the next might feel just right.

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Page last updated Feb 16, 2023

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