AA meetings are meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which is an organization dedicated to the provision of help for alcoholics delivered by alcoholics. It is essentially a form of group self-help. AA was founded in 1933 by a stockbroker (Bill W.) and a physician (Dr Bob); regular AA meetings around the world was the eventual outcome. The basic purpose of AA meetings is that of reaching out to other alcoholics to help everyone stay sober. This philosophy derived from the personal experience of Bill W, an alcoholic, who one day, on the verge of relapse to drinking, realised that he had to speak to another alcoholic in order to stop himself from drinking. The alcoholic he found to speak to was Dr. Bob. Their rationale was published in 1939 as Alcoholics Anonymous also known as \’The Big Book\’. It established AA meetings for all alcoholics, including atheists and agnostics; indeed, AA meetings are spiritual and not religious as such. Additional insight into the mechanism of the effectiveness of AA meetings can be gained by examining various Alcoholics Anonymous slogans. These include \’One day at a time\’, \’Easy does it\’, \’Let go and let God\’,\’Keep it simple\’,\’HOW\’ (honesty, openness and willingness),\’HALT\’ (hungry, angry, lonely and tired), \’First things first\’.
People thinking about attending AA meetings but who have concerns around this should note the following:
AA meetings are spiritual and not religious; the requirement is a belief in a Higher Power, rather than a God, and atheists are welcome at groups.
There is no requirement to talk at AA meetings; members can say \’pass\’ when it is their turn.
Anonymity is protected rigorously.
Attendance of AA meetings requires only a desire to stop drinking, rather than actual sobriety.
There is no one individual in charge of AA meetings, and over the early years, meetings were often chaotic to the extent that the organisation\’s survival was threatened. In response to this some organising principles evolved which became known as the \’Twelve Traditions\’.
Outcomes for AA meetings are mixed, as with all forms of treatment for addiction. Drop-out rates are high, and approximately half those who attend AA meetings have left within three months (Anonymous, 1989). Despite this high drop-out rate, for those who remain, the abstinence rate is excellent – the average length of sobriety amongst active members is approximately six years (Anonymous, 1996). In one study of over 8000 patients attending treatment programmes in the USA, those who were also attending AA meetings at one-year follow-up were 50% more likely to be abstinent than those who were not attending AA meetings (Hoffman & Miller, 1992).