For Anyone New Coming to A.A.

Information on Alcoholics Anonymous

For Anyone New Coming to A.A.
For Anyone Referring People to A.A.

This information is both
for people who may have a drinking problem and for those
in contact with people who have, or are suspected of having,
a problem. Most of the information is available in more detail
in literature published by A.A. World Services, Inc. This
sheet tells what to expect from Alcoholics Anonymous. It
describes what A.A. is, what A.A. does, and what A.A. does not do.

What Is A.A.?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of
men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional,
self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost
everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership
is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her
drinking problem.

Singleness of Purpose
and Problems Other Than Alcohol

Some professionals often refer to alcoholism and drug addiction
as “substance abuse” or “chemical dependency.” Nonalcoholics
are, therefore, sometimes introduced to A.A. and encouraged
to attend A.A. meetings. Anyone may attend open A.A. meetings,
but only those with a drinking problem may attend closed meetings.

A renowned psychiatrist,
who served as a nonalcoholic trustee of the A.A. General
Service Board, made the following statement: “Singleness
of purpose is essential to the effective treatment of alcoholism.
The reason for such exaggerated focus is to overcome denial.
The denial associated with alcoholism is cunning, baffling,
and powerful and affects the patient, helper, and the community.
Unless alcoholism is kept relentlessly in the foreground,
other issues will usurp everybody’s attention.”

What Does A.A. Do?
1. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking
help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person
service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to A.A.
from any source.

2. The A.A. program, set
forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to
develop a satisfying life without alcohol.

3. This program is discussed
at A.A. group meetings.

a. Open speaker meetings — open
to alcoholics and nonalcoholics. (Attendance at an open A.A.
meeting is the best way to learn what A.A. is, what it does,
and what it does not do.) At speaker meetings, A.A. members “tell
their stories.” They describe their experiences with
alcohol, how they came to A.A., and how their lives have
changed as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous.

b. Open discussion meetings — one member speaks
briefly about his or her drinking experience, and then leads
a discussion on A.A. recovery or any drinking-related problem
anyone brings up. (Closed meetings are for A.A.s or anyone
who may have a drinking problem.)

c. Closed discussion meetings — conducted just as open
discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective A.A.s

d. Step meetings (usually closed) — discussion of one
of the Twelve Steps.

e. A.A. members also take meetings into correctional and
treatment facilities.

f. A.A. members may be asked to conduct the informational
meetings about A.A. as a part of A.S.A.P. (Alcohol Safety
Action Project) and D.W.I. (Driving While Intoxicated) programs.
These meetings about A.A. are not regular A.A.
group meetings.

What A.A. Does Not Do
A.A. does not:
1. Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover

2. Solicit members

3. Engage in or sponsor

4. Keep attendance records
or case histories

5. Join “councils” of
social agencies

6. Follow up or try to control
its members

7. Make medical or psychological
diagnoses or prognoses

8. Provide drying-out or
nursing services, hospitalization, drugs, or any medical
or psychiatric treatment

9. Offer religious services

10. Engage in education
about alcohol

11. Provide housing, food,
clothing, jobs, money, or any other welfare or social services

12. Provide domestic or
vocational counseling

13. Accept any money for
its services, or any contributions from non-A.A. sources

14. Provide letters of reference
to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies,
employers, etc.

Members From Court Programs
and Treatment Facilities
In recent years, A.A. groups have welcomed many new members
from court programs and treatment facilities. Some have come
to A.A. voluntarily; others, under a degree of pressure. In
our pamphlet “How A.A. Members Cooperate,” the
following appears:

We cannot discriminate against any
prospective A.A. member, even if he or she comes to us under
pressure from a court, an employer, or any other agency.

Although the strength of our program lies in the voluntary
nature of membership in A.A., many of us first attended meetings
because we were forced to, either by someone else or by inner
discomfort. But continual exposure to A.A. educated us to
the true nature of the illness…. Who made the referral
to A.A. is not what A.A. is interested in. It is the problem
drinker who is our concern…. We cannot predict who will
recover, nor have we the authority to decide how recovery
should be sought by any other alcoholic.

Proof of Attendance at Meetings
Sometimes, courts ask for proof of attendance at A.A. meetings.
Some groups, with the consent of the prospective member, have
the A.A. group secretary sign or initial a slip that has been
furnished by the court together with a self-addressed court
envelope. The referred person supplies identification and mails
the slip back to the court as proof of attendance.

Other groups cooperate in different ways. There is no set procedure.
The nature and extent of any group’s involvement in this
process is entirely up to the individual group.
This proof of attendance at meetings is not part of A.A.’s
procedure. Each group is autonomous and has the right to choose
whether or not to sign court slips. In some areas the attendees
report on themselves, at the request of the referring agency,
and thus alleviate breaking A.A. members’ anonymity.

A.A. Conference-approved literature is available in French
and Spanish. For additional copies of this paper, or for a
literature catalog please write or call the General Service

The A.A. Grapevine, a monthly international journal — also
known as “our meeting in print”
— features many interesting stories about recovery from alcoholism written
primarily by members of A.A. It is a useful introduction and ongoing link to
A.A.’s diverse fellowship and wealth of recovery experience. The Spanish-language
magazine La Viña, is published bimonthly.

For Grapevine information or to order a subscription to either
the AA Grapevine or La Viña: (212) 870-3404; fax (212)
870-3301; Web site:

The primary purpose of A.A. is to carry its message of
recovery to the alcoholic seeking help. Almost every alcoholism
treatment tries to help the alcoholic maintain sobriety. Regardless
of the road we follow, we all head for the same destination,
recovery of the alcoholic person. Together, we can do what
none of us could accomplish alone. We can serve as a source
of personal experience and be an ongoing support system for
recovering alcoholics.

A.A. World Services, Inc.,
Box 459, Grand Central Station,
New York, NY 10163
Tel. (212) 870-3400.