New To AA? Here’s How It Works

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.”

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

Am I an alcoholic?

If you repeatedly drink more than you intend or want to, if you get into trouble, or if you have memory lapses when you drink, you may be an alcoholic. It’s a matter of whether your drinking is stopping you from leading the sort of life you want to lead. If you want to control your drinking but can’t, then alcoholism is a definite possibility. But as far as AA is concerned whether you’re an alcoholic is for you to decide. It’s not up to anyone in AA to tell you whether you are or not.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

We are a Fellowship of men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking and have found ourselves in various kinds of trouble as a result of drinking. We attempt—most of us successfully—to create a satisfying way of life without alcohol. For this we find we need the help and support of other alcoholics in AA.

What happens at an AA meeting?

An AA meeting may take one of several forms, but at any meeting you will find alcoholics talking about what drinking did to their lives and personalities, what actions they took to help themselves, and how they are living their lives today. 

How does going to a meeting help me with my drinking problem?

We in AA know what it is like to be addicted to alcohol, and to be unable to keep promises made to others and ourselves that we will stop drinking. We are not professional therapists. Our only qualification for helping others to recover from alcoholism is that we have stopped drinking ourselves. We have the ability to help problem drinkers because we are living proof that recovery is possible – we’ve done it.

Why do AAs keep going to meetings after they are cured?

We in AA believe there is no such thing as a cure for alcoholism. We can never return to normal drinking, and our ability to stay away from alcohol depends on maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual health. This we can achieve by going to meetings regularly and putting into practice what we learn there. In addition, we find it helps us to stay sober if we help other alcoholics

What advice do you give new members?

In our experience, the people who recover in AA are those who:

  • attend AA meetings regularly
  • seek out the people in AA they like who have successfully stayed sober for some time
  • put into practice the simple principles of AA’s program of recovery
  • stay away from the first drink one day at a time.


Here is One AA Member’s Story:

I was introduced to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous while still mired in a detox fog, but after a few weeks in treatment I discovered I actually enjoyed going to meetings.  There was often coffee, and cookies, and people were generally friendly.  What I kept hearing was this:

When I left treatment I took my bags home (past the liquor store I frequented each day 4 weeks before), plopped everything down, turned round and raced back out to a meeting to pick up my one month chip. I’d already joined a home group I particularly loved and where I felt comfortable.

I did not have to work hard to find a sponsor.  I went to about 15 meetings those first few days. After one of those meetings  I was invited for coffee by a friend from treatment, and there I met my first sponsor.  We began to work the steps immediately. When he assured me that working with him BOTH of us stay sober, I felt I was on my way.  I was also having fun again.

All these things were freely given to me — all I had to do was show up and be willing. The greatest gift of all is a daily reprieve from the desire to drink alcohol, if I just keep coming back and stay connected with my Higher Power and to A.A. That’s how it works.

— David P.