Information for the Newcomer
History of AA:
Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a meeting between a New York stock broker, Bill W., and a well-known surgeon, Dr. Bob. Both of them had a severe case of alcoholism and were destined to become co-founders of the AA fellowship. They successfully carried the message to the man who would become AA person #3 (picture in the hallway), cementing the system of one alcoholic talking to another to bring about recovery. The Big Book was written in 1939 and is still used today.
A.A. has a solution. That isn't an empty promise. A.A. has been helping alcoholics recover for more than 80 years. A.A.'s program of recovery is built on the simple foundation of one alcoholic sharing with another. If your drinking is out of control, A.A. can help.
A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a set of spiritual principles. When practiced as a way of life, they can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to recover from alcoholism.
The Twelve Traditions apply to A.A. as a whole. They outline how A.A. maintains its unity and relates itself to the world around it.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous describes the A.A. program of recovery. It also contains stories written by the co-founders and stories from a wide range of members who have found recovery in A.A.
Read More Here: The Start and Growth of A.A. | Alcoholics Anonymous (aa.org)
85+ years of helping alcoholics
Still one alcoholic talking to another alcoholic.
Program for those who want it, not necessarily those who need it.
Number of members/groups: Houston (SETA) 15,000/2500.
Worldwide 2.2 million/65,000.
Read More Here: SMF-53 EN - Estimates of A.A. Groups and Members (aa.org)
Meeting Types and Schedules:
Closed – for those who have a problem with alcohol only.
Open – for those who have a problem with alcohol and others who may be interested. Only those who think they have a problem with alcohol should share at these meetings.
Men’s, Women’s, Language specific, and Other specified meetings – attendance based on the description of the meeting; i.e. men only or women only. May be closed or open meetings.
Meeting schedules – Meeting directories are available. AA Intergroup is listed in the phone book and on the internet. Meetings can be searched by zip code or by meeting type. Local websites are: www.aa.org or www.aahouston.org.
Key Points Relating to Meetings:
The Preamble is read at the start of every meeting expressing AA’s intent:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Anonymity and its importance
Many people who feel they are in need of help for alcoholism may be ashamed or embarrassed and don’t want others to know. AA seeks to honor those feelings by providing a safe place where only first names are used, and no one will share outside of a meeting who they saw at a meeting. Anonymity also serves another purpose and that is to keep our egos in check, create a level field for everyone, and ensure AA’s survival. The anonymity statement reads as follows:
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. Remember who you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here.
Other Key Points:
At the start of the meeting, it will be asked if there are any newcomers and if there are any visitors. Newcomers and visitors should introduce themselves.
You only need to use your first name.
It is not mandatory for you to sign in or give your phone number.
There is no cross-talk which is defined as giving unsolicited advice or talking to another person directly.
Please limit your sharing to 3-5 minutes in order to allow others to have time to share also.
Confine your discussion only to alcoholism.
Opening and Closing the Meeting:
The meeting will start with a moment of silence followed by the Serenity Prayer. The meeting will close with the Lord’s Prayer.
How do You Know if You are an Alcoholic?:
As defined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous on page 44, “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have no control over the amount you drink, you are probably alcoholic."
Troubles are caused by drinking – DWI, PI, fights, stealing drinks, blackouts.
Denial about drinking – lying to yourself and others
Guilt and remorse – about our behaviors
Progression – things never thought possible start to happen
** Only you can determine for yourself if you are an alcoholic.
We Have a Solution:
AA owns the original 12 steps and has loaned them to over 250 recovery programs. In the Foreword of the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” (12 & 12) states: “AA’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”
Some of the spiritual principles include, but are not limited to the following: Honesty, Faith, Willingness, Discipline, etc.
Note that this program is based on progress not perfection and is worked “one day at a time."
Who is your Higher Power? God? What is your concept of a Higher Power? AA is a program of spirituality not religion. We do not define your Higher Power. We are not here to instruct in religion. You do not have to agree with “my” concept of a Higher Power. You must be willing to find a Higher Power of your own understanding.
What AA Does and Does Not Do:
It does provide a program of recovery – one on one sponsorship.
It is not a treatment facility
It does not provide any social, legal or medical services
It does not run any hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, etc.
It is not part of the judicial system, and does not work with or answer to the courts or the police.
What is sponsorship? It is one alcoholic having gone through the steps helping another alcoholic to recover by mentoring and guiding her/him through the 12 steps and to live a sober life following the 12 principles. Sponsor and sponsee meet as equals.
How does sponsorship help the newcomer?
It assures the newcomer that there is at least one person who understands the situation fully and cares. Someone to turn to without embarrassment when doubts, questions or problems linked to alcoholism arise. It is also a bridge to meet other alcoholics in a home group and in other groups visited.
How should a sponsor be chosen? When you hear someone share during a meeting and that share rings true to you and this person has what you want, i.e. sobriety, stability, positive experience, etc., then approach her/him and ask if they are available for a few one on one meetings to discuss AA and possible sponsorship. It is suggested that women seek women as sponsors and men seek men. There are no specific rules, but a good sponsor should probably be a year or more away from their last drink and should seem to be enjoying sobriety. Remember, the most important thing that a sponsor and sponsee have in common is alcoholism and recovery in AA. We recommend that you attend an open meeting or a newcomers’ meeting as this will increase the possibility of finding an experienced compatible sponsor. It is suggested that the newcomer have one (1) sponsor to avoid the precarious practice of the newcomer seeking advice they want to hear. We are always free to select another sponsor with whom we feel more comfortable. What does a sponsor do and not do?
A sponsor does:
Underscore the fact that the AA recovery program – not the sponsor’s personality or position – is the important focus.
Provide you with honesty.
Everything within the limits of their personal experience and knowledge to help the newcomer get sober and stay sober through the AA program.
Know your whole story.
Hold you accountable for how you work your program.
Keep the focus on how the Steps apply to your life.
Show by present example and drinking history what AA has meant in their life.
Encourage and help the newcomer to attend a variety of AA meetings to get a number of viewpoints and interpretations of the AA program.
Suggest keeping an open mind about AA.
Introduce the newcomer to other AA members.
Introduce the newcomer to AA literature in particular the Big Book and the 12 & 12. Other literature such as the Grapevine will be introduced also.
Make themselves available to the newcomer when the latter has special problems, and assist the newcomer in learning the step that apply to those special problems.
Go over the meaning of the Twelve Steps and emphasize their importance.
Urge the newcomer to join group activities and provide service to others as soon as possible.
Impress upon the newcomer the importance of all our Traditions.
Explain the AA program to relatives of the newcomer if this is useful and refer them about Al-Anon.
Quickly admit “I don’t know” when that is the case and help the newcomer find a good source of information.
A sponsor does not:
Take the newcomer’s inventory except when asked.
Try to impose personal views on the newcomer.
Pretend to know all the answers.
Offer professional services such as those provided by counselors, or legal, medical or social work communities.
Chip System – Desire Chip and Sobriety Chips
Birthday Night – Equally important for you as it is for the alcoholic behind you to see your success
Home Group – Once the newcomer has visited multiple groups, they will associate with one group that they feel most comfortable with that group will become their home group.
Inventory – In order to break the cycle of addiction and pursue a healthier and happier future, newcomers need to reflect upon their past with unflinching honesty, identify the changes you want to make, and commit to making those changes.This is done with the help of a sponsor and is an importance step toward recovery. For more on this please see step four in the twelve step program.
Pink Cloud – There's a lot of talk in AA meetings about the pink cloud, a state that is generally defined as seemingly irrational happiness in a time of despair—usually among newcomers, but not always.
On the Beam – This term relates to working the steps in AA and continuing to live a sober life following the AA principles
Wet Drunk and Dry Drunk – members who are drinking and members who are not drinking but also not working the program.
Retread/slip – members who have been through the program, had a relapse and then came back into the program
Steps vs. Traditions – The Twelve Steps are an outline for a way of life that leads to recovery. The Twelve Traditions of twelve-step programs provide guidelines for relationships between the twelve-step groups, members, other groups, the global fellowship, and society at large. Questions of finance, public relations, donations, and purpose are addressed in the Traditions. They were originally written by Bill Wilson after the founding of the first twelve-step group, Alcoholics Anonymous.
Group Conscience – Each group has a Group Conscience that meets monthly to discuss the direction the group will take. These meetings are open to anyone who considers themselves to be a member of the group.
Expect a Miracle (and Accept a Miracle)