The right AA meeting for a beginner?
August 16, 2005 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Which Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is best for a newcomer?

I have recently decided that my drinking is out of control and I need help to deal with it. After weighing my options I think AA is the best choice at this time. I have a list of meetings in my area but there are so many different types listed I'm not sure which is best for a beginner. Steps/Traditions? As Bill Sees It? Open Discussion? Closed? There are one or two meetings specifically for beginners but they are a bit further away from me than I can manage right now. I need something close by or I won't be able to get there on a regular basis. I know that anyone with a desire to stop drinking is welcome at any AA meeting but is there any particular type that I would be better off approaching?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)
The best one is the one you actually go to. Go to one of the beginner's meetings a few times, hen pick one closer to home.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:35 PM on August 16, 2005

At this point, I'm sure you will benefit from any of them, but you might want to give them a call and ask which is recommended.
posted by Specklet at 3:56 PM on August 16, 2005

Go to one close to your house to start with, preferably "closed", which means that outside observers aren't allowed. Also, there are many "men/women-only" groups which are very helpful for some. Just go to one which looks good, sit through it, and if it doesn't work for you there are likely hundreds more meetings in any reasonably sized city. They all have different atmospheres, so sample some until you find one which feels like home. No one will care if you float from meeting to meeting, it is very normal.

Ignore the quoted study, which is mostly irrelevant and self-evident, as it merely studies the behavior of extreme newcomers, which is hardly representative of the treatment community. I'm not apologizing for AA, I just find these sorts of studies unconvincing, due to the complexity of the subject and the necessity to focus the scope of the study. Basically, if you think AA can help you, by all means go for it.
posted by Invoke at 4:03 PM on August 16, 2005

I left AA at the end of May after about a year in it. In my experience, I got more out of Step or Big Book meetings than open ended ramble-on sessions. The Step and Big Book meetings will actually get you through AA itself. The open ended meetings tend to derail into accounts of what x person did this week and mostly go nowhere. The more structured the meeting, the better. Once I was comfortable with what AA was, then I was able to sit through a topic/open discussion meeting.

I do have a lot more info and advice about AA in general, but I'll refrain from posting as I've already answered the question at hand. My email is in my profile.
posted by pieoverdone at 4:03 PM on August 16, 2005

I have nothing to contribute factually to your answer, but I do wish you the best of luck, and commend you both for your bravery and self-awareness.
posted by WCityMike at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2005

closed", which means that outside observers aren't allowed.
No, it means closed to all “willing to have a desire to quit” or acknowledge, “‘Name” an alcoholic.”

Open meeting are for everyone, non-alcoholics too.

Closed men’s or women’s groups are the better ones to attend.
Then there are the step classes to help in doing your step work.

There should be a key to the AA meetings which tell you which meeting times are "what." Like the key telling if the meeting is non-smoking, smoking or both.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:01 PM on August 16, 2005

outside observers aren't allowed.
Not sure what you meant by outside.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:03 PM on August 16, 2005

Closed meetings are for people in AA only. No parents, spouses, significant others, or med student observers. Some meetings are gender specific, and these can be open or closed. If the gender specific meetings are 'open' then they are only open to visitors of the same gender.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:07 PM on August 16, 2005

If you smoke try not to have your first couple of meetings at a non-smoking meeting.

Also your not limited to just one group, I'd say the majority of people attend more than meeting and some even attend a meeting 5-6 times a week each time with a different group. If your used to going out drinking several nights a week the meeting can give you somewhere to go while you are getting your mind readjusted.
posted by Mitheral at 5:30 PM on August 16, 2005

I don't have direct experience with AA but I dated a man who was active in the organization. Also, I know about meetings from my alanon days (sister organization for friends and family of alcoholics).

First, congratulations on taking the first step to recovery.

Second, call the anonymous aa number in your white pages and speak to the volunteer who is manning the phone that hour. this person will share valuable information with you. they may direct you to a meeting that fits you best, for starters. perhaps you are young, and you would benefit most from a meeting that has mostly teens. perhaps you live in a certain area, and there's a meeting there later tonight that you can fit into your schedule.

Third - go to many meetings, and stick with the one that fits best with you. It may be because you feel most comfortable with the people. It may be because the stories that are shared during the meeting feel closest to your situation. It may be because the time and location are most convenient.

Some alcoholics go to a meeting every single day for the first 30 days. This is a good time to try out many meetings.

Fourth - be prepared for a bit of a learning curve. Although this is a volunteer-run organization, there are books to read, precepts to learn, sayings that help, structure to follow. All these help you maintain your promise to yourself not to drink.

Fifth - to help you with meetings, structure - or just to talk at any hour of the day or night, find a sponsor. And if that relationship does not work all that well, find another sponsor. The key is to NOT DRINK TODAY. You want to align all ducks in your favour to help you achieve that one, only goal: not to drink today. Find a person in aa who will help you with this.

Sixth - work the steps. Find a group (or work with your sponsor) that will help you achieve and maintain your sobriety.

I wish you all the best, anonymous. This is a long and courageous road you are undertaking. And some moments will be tough - but it is all good. All the best to you.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:43 PM on August 16, 2005

Depending on where you are, the meetings will vary greatly. Just pick one and go. If you don't like it, find another. If you do like it, go back.

I didn't like meetings of minority groups within AA (gay, women, whatever) except for language minorities (French speaking, Spanish speaking, etc.). YMMV.
posted by QIbHom at 5:56 PM on August 16, 2005

Whichever meeting you decide to go to don't become discouraged or turned off if you don't find what your looking for immediately. Some AA meetings absolutely suck. A big part of success is finding the meetings that work for you. A lot depends upon who else attends.
posted by Carbolic at 7:02 PM on August 16, 2005

Ok well I HATED the women only meetings, total yuck. I also have never noticed much difference between open and closed meetings. I do think that step meetings are more productive for a newcomer, but as it's been said any meeting is better than none and if you don't like one try another until you find one that fits.
posted by yodelingisfun at 7:25 PM on August 16, 2005

The reason "open" meetings are often not as preferred is that sometimes a significant-other "shepherds" the person with the problem. They may be trying to help, but what they are accomplishing is:

1) (Definitely) Making the newcomer - the one with the problem - less likely to tell the truth.
2) (Often) Continuing to take responsibility for the alcoholic. Either he wants to get sober or he doesn't. No "helpful" spouse or parent is going to change that.
3) (Sometimes) Adding bad, judgmental "vibes" to the meeting.

A closed meeting can help the alcoholic shuck that unwelcome shepherd. Convenient, and better vibes.
posted by Invoke at 8:36 PM on August 16, 2005

Newcomer/Beginner meetings. Although where I live any type of meeting will become a Beginner meeting once you tell them that it's your first meeting. They usually ask if there is anyone there for the first time at the beginning of any meeting. Best thing is to tell someone right before the meeting.

Beginner meetings will focus on what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now for the members attending. Chances are you will relate to a lot of it. I did.

#1 go to a meeting
#2 talk to some people after the meeting.
posted by thimk at 6:13 AM on August 17, 2005

Any. Just go. Take a friend if needs be. I suggest any because sometimes a therapeutic environment is less about the people and location (at least to begin with) and more about making the effort, choosing to let go of alcohol and disciplining yourself to stay at a meeting for the hour or 2. The hardest part is making that decision and turning up. You're doing that so a large part of the problem is solved by putting your backside on a seat and simply listening. It doesn't matter tooooo much at first what you hear. You've made the choice and you are already on your way. Good luck.
posted by peacay at 6:29 AM on August 17, 2005

There are one or two meetings specifically for beginners but they are a bit further away from me than I can manage right now.

There is always someone who is more than willing and happy to give you a ride. The point is, get to a meeting and don't expect it to take hold of you overnight. It may well take months for the "lights to go on" but, it will and the rewards are limitless. It will change your life.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 6:43 AM on August 17, 2005

I've been a member since 1979 and I can honestly tell you there is no right answer for this. The meeting you should attend is the one which you can get to that night. Since you are just starting out, I do recommend the 30x30 (thirty meetings in thirty days). Some will say 90 in 90 but that can be a bit daunting. See how you like it and if at all possible, hit the same meeting as much as possible. Aside from meeting formats (step, traditions, leads, topic) you will find a unifying theme is all of them: a genuine warmth and comraderie that can really give you the boost you need to stay sober. Bottom line - get to as many meetings as possible. They used to tell me "Bring your ass and the mind will follow" and now I know what that means. Best of luck to you and feel free to email me if you have questions, thoughts, etc.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:10 AM on August 17, 2005

Which Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is best for a newcomer?

Go to ones that fit your own personal biases and prejudices and when you get a bit longer in tell others to avoid meetings you don't like ....especially the ones with those nasty people that tell the truth.
Remember - anyone below the level of middle class is not working the program of alcoholics anonymous.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:19 AM on August 23, 2005

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