Are AA Meetings Free?
January 28, 2021
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups are popular networks of support for people struggling with alcohol addiction. You may have heard of them yourself, especially if you have the same struggle. A concerned family member may have told you about it. You could even know someone who has benefitted from it. And you could be thinking about joining one yourself.
As with any method associated with addiction recovery, you could be wondering how much an AA group would cost you. If you know nothing much about it, you could be reluctant to join, especially if you don’t have a huge budget to work with.
Before addressing the cost, let’s first look at what AA is.
What is AA all about?
AA groups are composed of a community of people with a common enemy, which is alcoholism. Many of them have encountered different problems as a result of their drinking habits, such as:
- Broken family relationships
- Financial troubles
- Loss of focus at work or school
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Car accidents
- Getting arrested / facing charges
- Violent behavior
In AA meetings, members learn to adopt lifestyles that are free of alcohol. They achieve this by learning from each other’s experiences and constantly sharing their struggles and successes during meetings. AA also follows 12 steps, which are integral to how the group operates. These steps are:
- Admit that you’re powerless over alcohol.
- Accept that a higher power will restore your sanity.
- Decide to turn your life over to the higher power.
- Take a moral inventory of yourself.
- Admit your wrongdoings to the higher power, to another person, and to yourself.
- Accept that the higher power will remove the defects in your character.
- Humbly ask for the higher power to remove those shortcomings.
- Identify people who have been hurt by your addiction and be willing to make amends.
- Make amends to those people, except if doing so would harm them.
- Continue taking personal inventory. When you go wrong, admit it.
- Connect with the higher power through prayer and meditation.
- Spread the word about AA to other alcoholics, and continue to practice the 12 steps in your daily life.
Why is it “anonymous”?
If you join an AA group, no record of you will be kept. They don’t keep track of attendance or membership. When you share your story, you only have to mention your first name.
They also don’t share any of your information with anyone on the outside. What you mention in each meeting stays there.
What if I meet people I know?
Your biggest fear could be other people knowing that you have an alcohol problem. And if ever there’s someone you know in the group, you could fear getting exposed.
That’s where the “anonymous” part comes in. AA groups do not reveal your identity to anyone, even those within the group.
Also, realize that if there’s someone you know in your AA group, he is there for the same reason as you are. He also wants to recover. There’s no use ratting you out, as you yourself know his secret.
What happens during AA meetings?
Different AA groups have different meeting formats. The basics are the same, though: Members share their experiences with drinking and how it has affected their lives. Also, they talk about what they did to address the problems and their current lifestyles.
You would do the same as well. There is no strict pattern of speech to follow, though. You are free to speak however you like. Just be as honest and open as you can be.
If there’s one thing that’s discouraged, it’s giving advice to other members. You’re not there to solve their problems. You’re there to learn from others and share your own story so others can learn from you.
Is AA a religious group?
While there may be mentions of God or a higher power in AA meetings, AA is not affiliated with any religion. It is open to everyone, whether you believe in God or not. In fact, many atheists have joined AA and have successfully recovered.
Originally, though, AA was founded by a person who believes in God. Thus, most of the steps of the program are based on faith. But for non-believers, they can name the AA group itself as their “higher power.” Also, there are other AA groups that are not that religious, so those are the groups that attract atheists, agnostics, and the like.
Does AA do formal rehab?
No, they don’t. AA moderators are not doctors, nurses, or mental health professionals. They don’t prescribe medications or diagnose mental health issues. If any of these are what you need, please consult a professional. But you can still join AA meetings.
Rather, AA is purely a support group for those who suffer from alcohol addiction. Despite this, AA is still effective for many people in keeping them sober.
Joining AA is sometimes part of some recovery programs. Similarly, if you’re going through formal treatment, you may opt to join AA even if your treatment program doesn’t require it.
Now that we’ve addressed some common questions about AA, let’s go to the big question from the beginning.
Is AA free?
Yes. AA does not charge membership fees at all. You can join even if you’re on a tight budget. Your only expense would be going to the meeting venue and back home.
Some AA groups do collections at the end of each meeting to cover electricity, coffee, rent, and other expenses incurred by the organizers. Members would pass around a basket or a hat for donations.
You are not obliged to give anything, but if you’re feeling generous, you can donate as much as you want to. You can also hand in a small amount if you’re inclined to give but are pressed for money.
How does AA keep operating if it’s free?
AA is completely non-profit. With that, all of its operations are funded by donations from generous members.