What to Expect at Your First AA Meeting

Picture of people during alcoholics anonymous meeting

If you’re about to start attending alcoholics anonymous, you’re probably wondering what to expect. We give you the lowdown on what you’re likely to experience in your first AA meeting.

Are you considering attending your first AA meeting?

Alcoholics Anonymous is an international group of men and women who struggle with alcohol addiction.

The organization has over 2 million members worldwide and is praised for its success. In fact, there have been over 130 similar 12 step programs modeled after the principals of AA.

If you’re contemplating attending alcoholics anonymous, you’re probably wondering what to expect. Continue reading for the low down on what you’re likely to experience at your first AA meeting.

Prepare to Share Your Story

First and foremost, you are going to want to be prepared to share your story. While the personal details are up to you, this may include such things as:

  • When you started heavily drinking
  • What made you realize that it has become a problem
  • Who do you feel your drinking is hurting

This is often the part of AA meetings that can produce the most anxiety for newcomers. The group understands that this can be a very vulnerable and intimidating story to share with others. Do your best to minimize the pressure and only share details you feel comfortable with at the time.

Remember that each and every person is there for the same reason. And, most importantly, the majority of people there know exactly how you are feeling and how difficult this situation may be for you.

If you are too uncomfortable with the idea of sharing your story you can simply “pass” on your turn. Instead, state that you would prefer just to listen at this time. No one will ever force you to speak when you don’t want to.

No “Crosstalk”

No crosstalk is a rule that is taken very seriously in all AA meetings.

Crosstalk is defined as “providing direct advice to someone in the meeting”.

While members are encouraged to speak about their own experiences, giving direct advice to a fellow member or providing your opinion is prohibited.

An example would be a woman talking about how her boyfriend is abusive which encourages her to drink. Rather than telling her that she needs to break up with her boyfriend immediately, it’s encouraged to share a relatable experience. Instead, explain to her that you have also been in a similar situation and you found it helpful to stay with a friend during those times.

Rather than providing direct advice, sharing your own relatable story and experience is preferred. This provides advice to the fellow member without directly telling them what to do. This is a great way to show support without breaking the “crosstalk” rule.

Sense of Humour

While AA is, of course, a meeting dealing with very serious and sometimes emotional issues, there is also room for humor.

While there’s nothing funny about addiction, you’ll notice that many members use humor to deal with the realities of their past or current addictions. For example, members may joke about visiting different liquor stores throughout the city to avoid being seen at the same one every day.

While these are not necessarily topics that alcoholics feel comfortable joking about with others, this is something you may find comfortable in AA meetings.

You may at first also be shocked by the stories members are willing to share so openly and with humor. This could include instances of blacking out to wetting the bed.

While the idea of discussing your addiction with humor may seem far away, it may be comforting to know that you can get to the point in poking fun at your addition.

After all, part of the joy in recovery is the ability to look at the pain of your addiction and know that it may soon be a part of your past.

Introductions and Phone Numbers

For newcomers attending their first AA meeting, many are taken back at the closeness of the community.

When you introduce yourself as a newcomer, prepare for the fact that you will experience may personal introductions and exchanges once the meeting is over. Remember, AA is a community and the majority of members enjoy meeting other like-minded people and providing support.

If you feel that your personal space is being invaded, just remember that the more seasoned members are doing their best just to make you feel more comfortable.

Consider that they have been exactly where you are now and they are familiar with how it feels. They understand the potential intimidation that may ensue in attending your first meeting and how isolating newfound sobriety can feel.

Prepare for members to offer you their phone numbers or invite you to other events the members partake in. This could be anything from sporting teams to weekly coffee meet-ups.

Fast-Tracked Intimacy

AA meetings can range from moments of uncontrollable laughter to moments of uncontrollable tears.

These are moments that become more and more common as you begin to get more comfortable with the group. AA is anything but a regular group meeting. In reality, it’s a group of people that become to form close and intimate bonds based on one common ground.

While many think the majority of AA is members talking about the joys in sober lifestyle, the reality is actually very different. Members come together to also discuss the harsh realities in the difficulty of staying sober.

And, so, when you’re having a bad day in your journey toward sobriety, know that you will soon be comfortable coming to the meetings and discussing your struggles openly with new friends.


AA meetings in movies are often characterized by groups of pre-dominantly old and disheveled looking men. The truth, however, could not be further.

When you step into your first AA meeting, you may initially be surprised by the groups of people that make up the meeting. AA meetings are exceptionally diverse places and comprised of all sorts of people and contributing members of society.

Be prepared to see mothers you recognize from school drop-offs, that Starbucks employee who makes your morning cup of joe or even your dentist.

The fact of the matter is, you may experience meeting with people whom you know and may never have considered to attending such a meeting.

Are You Ready for Your First AA Meeting?

If you feel that you might be suffering from an alcohol addiction, attending your first AA meeting can be a great step to overcome your addiction.

If you feel that your addiction has developed to a potentially dangerous situation, you may want to consider a treatment facility in addition to AA meetings. Programs such as this rehab center help to support lifelong recovery and addiction prevention.

There’s no denying the intimidation that comes with facing your addiction. But, being prepared for what’s ahead of you is sure to minimize this intimidation.

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