Going to Your First 12-Step AA Meeting

Going to Your First 12-Step AA Meeting

Attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for the first time can be overwhelming. You must sit with strangers. You can also meet somebody known to you. It’s normal to feel stressed, as we all do at a new place. However, if you have made up your mind to quit drinking and improve your lifestyle, nothing should stop you.

Here is a glimpse of what you can expect in your first AA meeting in New York.

Just before the meeting

Experts suggest arriving at the meeting place on time, maybe a bit early, so that you can familiarize yourself with the place.

Usually, meetings are held at the church basement, community halls, parks, or any other such place.

You can find people entering the place. Some of them may be making coffee or chatting with each other. You can simply find yourself a seat and settle there. There is no compulsion to mingle with others if you don’t feel like it.

Whether you attend a meeting in New York or any other place, every meeting has a chairperson and one or two volunteers. People sit in a semi-circle fashion so that everybody can face each other.

Opening of the meeting

Once all are seated in place, the chairperson asks everybody to have a moment of silence or to pray for a minute. Praying is not compulsory. If you do not believe in God, it’s perfectly fine. The members say a Serenity Prayer. Every meeting has its own way of opening.


Thereafter, newcomers introduce themselves. This, too, is not mandatory. If you don’t feel like saying anything, simply sit silently and watch how the meeting goes. However, this is a great chance to open up as a newcomer and introduce yourselves. It is upto you how you introduce yourselves. You are not mandated to announce that you are an alcoholic. You can simply say your name.

Readings and the 12 steps

After welcoming the newcomers, the meeting enters the reading session. Things like AA preamble, the 12 traditions of AA, and so on are read here. As a first-timer, you must listen to these readings, as it will help you know what AA is all about.

Every participant must undergo 12 steps, which are crucial for sustained recovery. People complete the steps at their pace, there is no hurry or deadline of completion. But, experts insist to go step by step; please do not jump steps or skip any step.

During the reading session, people read out the step which they must work on.


Now comes the sharing part. This varies with meetings. Sharing is not compulsory. If, as a newcomer, you feel like not sharing anything about your life, you can simply refuse. When your turn arrives, you can just tell your name and say, “Today, I just want to listen.” Nobody will force you to share.

During the meeting, people share a variety of things, such as how alcohol affected their lives, how they felt when they quit drinking, their struggles, and so on. Some may have relapsed and would share their story. Some may have fully recovered and want to share how they did it. Some might want to share the wrongs they did under the influence. Others may want to share something inspiring or any motivational incident in their life that encouraged them to quit drinking. Some others may share their experiences while completing the 12 steps.

At local AA meetings, stories are galore. Every person is unique, and his/her life is different. So, as you listen, you will be awed to know how the most hardcore alcohol addicts could become completely sober. You may also come across people who confess to making silly mistakes that led to relapse.

You can listen for as many days as you want to. However, experts at aa-meetings recommend that you start sharing as soon as possible. This contributes to healing. The more you express yourselves, the quicker you heal.


After the sharing part is over, the chairperson will make announcements, if any. It could be about a change of place of meeting. Or it could be regarding somebody’s sobriety anniversary, say, they have completed 100 sobriety days or 1 year or 6 months or so on.

Closing of the meeting

Again, every meeting has its own way of closing. In some AA meetings, the participants stand holding hands in a circle and recite a prayer (reciting a prayer is not mandatory). You can skip the entire step if you feel uncomfortable. In some meetings, people shake hands with each other. You can also skip this one if you don’t want to shake hands.

A typical AA meeting is of one hour.

Expert advice

It is recommended that you forget everything and concentrate on this one hour that can change your life. Ultimately, it is upto you. You are at a meeting because you want to quit drinking. So, if ever you doubt your decision or feel “What am I doing here?” remember your goal.

Your desire to quit drinking and change your life was what made you attend a meeting. Set it as a goal that you must achieve. You searched for “AA meetings near me” and found a meeting nearby. Now, there is no looking back.

About AA

Alcoholics Anonymous is an age-old fellowship (founded in 1935) that charges no fee to help alcoholics turn sober. Till today, the essence of AA is alive and kicking. Moreover, whatever you hear or say in the meeting stays there. People respect each other and their privacy.

Do you know AA was founded by alcoholics themselves? They came together and helped each other recover. This is how the concept of meetings was born. People who recover through the meetings continue to work for the welfare of others. This is one of the traditions of AA and is thriving even after 88 years of conception.

Searching for a meeting near you? Why not refer to the online meeting locator? Visit www.aa-meetings.com for more information.