What to Expect When You Go To AA Meetings: A Comprehensive Guide

AA meetings

If you are a newcomer to Alcoholics Anonymous, the prospect of attending a meeting can be intimidating. You might have a lot of questions about what happens at AA meetings and how they work. This blog post is designed to answer all your questions so that when you attend a meeting for the first time, you will know exactly what to expect!

Common Misconceptions

First of all, it is a common misconception that AA meetings are a place where people sit around and talk about their problems. Although there certainly might be some individuals who do this at your local meeting, the majority of attendees will not be discussing anything personal or intense with you if you speak to them after the meeting. Attending a meeting as a newcomer is no different than attending any other social gathering.

Another common misconception about AA meetings is that they are somehow a “cure” for alcoholism or addiction problems. However, there really aren’t any cures when it comes to substance use disorders; rather, recovery involves learning better coping skills and building a healthier lifestyle over time. While you will probably hear many people who share how the 12-step program has helped them become sober, this should not be taken as a promise of results if you attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting yourself.

What really happens in AA meetings

As far as what happens at a typical AA, most follow a similar structure. Although a few meetings might be different than what is described here, you can expect the following:

The first part of a meeting will include a “check-in” where those in attendance say how long it has been since they had a drink or used drugs. This allows members who are early  in their recovery process to get the support that they need from more experienced members who are later into sobriety. After each person speaks, they typically receive applause from the rest of the group – although some groups remain silent while people check-in.

You should know that there is no pressure to speak if someone does not want to share during a check-in.


After check-in, a group usually begins reading the 12 steps and/or the 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. These readings can take anywhere from five to 30 minutes or longer. 

Gratitude Prayer

After this section is finished, another check-in may occur if there are enough people in attendance to warrant it; otherwise, meetings typically end around an hour after they start when someone recites “The Lord’s Prayer” which was originally written by Bill W. himself back in 1939 when he created the first version of what would become known as Alcoholics Anonymous today.! While some groups pray a version of a “gratitude” prayer instead, this is a common practice among AA meetings.

Other features you might find at AA meetings:

  • Sharing from the “Big Book” or other literature that was written by AA founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob S.;
  • Who share their personal experiences with alcoholism and sobriety;
  • Discussion groups where attendees can talk about how they are applying what they have learned in Alcoholics Anonymous to their own lives; and/or
  • After a meeting has finished, which typically includes coffee or snacks while members continue talking amongst themselves before going home for the day! 

As you attend more meetings (there are many types of AA meetings), you will figure out which ones suit your personality type best.! Yet one thing that all Alcoholics Anonymous gatherings have in common is a supportive atmosphere for those struggling with substance abuse issues. Attending these meetings has helped countless individuals achieve long-term sobriety over time.



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