Closed vs. Open AA Meetings: What’s the Difference?

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open aa meetings

Are you considering attending AA meetings to help you on your sobriety journey? AA meetings can be a great tool during recovery, as they provide a support network of individuals with shared experiences.

Many people find mentors, make friends, and learn more about themselves through AA. AA meetings take place all over the world, and they’re entirely free. However, before attending an AA meeting, you first need to consider whether attending an open or closed meeting will benefit you.

What is the difference between closed and open AA meetings? Read this guide to find out.

What are Closed AA Meetings?

Closed AA meetings are hosted by an official AA group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics, or Al-Anon Family. These meetings are typically closed unless otherwise stated and are limited to members or prospective members.

Individuals can determine if they’re qualified for membership by looking at criteria from Tradition 3 of the group they are a part of. Here’s how Tradition 3 applies to each group:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous: To qualify for closed meetings with this group, you need to have the desire to stop drinking.
  • ACOA: Those interested in Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings need to desire to overcome the effects of growing up with an alcoholic family member.
  • Al-Anon Family Groups: To meet the criteria of Tradition 3 for this group, you need to have a family member or friend who has a problem with alcoholism.
  • Narcotics Anonymous: You need to have the desire to stop using drugs to qualify for Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Gamblers Anonymous: You need to have the desire to stop gambling to join Gamblers Anonymous.
  • Debtors Anonymous: You need to have the desire to stop incurring debt to join this group.

If you’re interested in attending any of the above groups’ closed meetings, it’s a good idea to check beforehand to ensure you qualify for membership.

Why Attend Closed Meetings?

Attending closed meetings can provide you with peace of mind, as you’ll know that other members of the group have the same desire to recover as you do. Additionally, while all AA meetings are anonymous, closed meetings provide an extra layer of anonymity, as you need to meet certain criteria to join them.

Closed meetings can take place in the form of discussion meetings or step meetings. During a discussion meeting, the floor is open to anyone to tell their story or discuss their problems with the group. You are not required to speak during a discussion meeting, and many people benefit from simply listening and observing.

During a step meeting, you’ll discuss one of the 12 recovery steps. Even if you’ve “worked” all 12 steps, revisiting them can benefit your sobriety journey.

What is an Open AA Meeting?

Anyone can attend an open AA meeting, including visitors from the public and the media. Open meetings are often speaker meetings, where a designated speaker tells their story regarding their journey with alcoholism and sobriety.

They’ll often go into detail about what their addiction and recovery have been like, what triggered their addiction, and where they’re at now. Speakers always know ahead of time that the meeting is open and that members of the public might be there.

Open meetings can also sometimes be discussion meetings, where anyone can share their experiences with the group. Often, these meetings focus on how non-members can support members of the group.

Why Attend an Open Meeting?

One of the biggest benefits of attending an open meeting is that your loved ones are allowed to join. This can help you feel more supported on your journey of recovery, and it can give your loved ones insight into what you’re going through.

Having social support can reduce your risk of relapse, so attending an open meeting can be very beneficial.

Closed vs. Open AA Meetings: Which is Right for You?

So, how do you decide whether a closed or open meeting is right for you? While both types of meetings can be helpful, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each.

An open AA meeting may be best for you if:

  • You’re thinking about but have not yet joined an AA group or 12-step program
  • You want to hear more from those affected by alcohol or substance abuse
  • You want support from family members or friends who are non-members
  • You want to learn more about the recovery process

A closed meeting may be best for you if:

  • You want to listen to others with similar experiences as you
  • You want to attend a meeting alone, and not with friends or family members
  • You want to share your experiences with group members
  • You’re working on a specific step and want input from others

Of course, you can always attend a mixture of open and closed AA meetings. Additionally, you can attend online meetings, which are usually held over Zoom or Google Hangouts. These meetings are especially unique, as you can connect with recovering addicts from all over the world.

Finding AA Meetings

Whether you’re looking for an open or closed meeting, conducting an online search is usually the best way to find an AA meeting in your area. Be aware that it can take some time to find a group that resonates with you. Luckily, you can attend as many meetings as you want and don’t have to attend the same one every time.

Also, remember that location, time, and day of the week can affect how many members attend a meeting. If you’re looking to learn more about AA meetings, click here.

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