What to Expect During Your First AA Meeting

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first aa meeting

Are you ready for your first AA meeting?

Don’t feel bad if your answer is not an enthusiastic “Yes!” Research revealed that one in three people would completely avoid change if possible.

Big life transitions, like getting sober, can feel overwhelming. Attending meetings to choose this life change can cause major discomfort when you don’t know what to expect.

Learning the ropes ahead of time can help you ease into meetings and better succeed at your new lifestyle. Read on to know what to expect at AA meetings.


Different from rehab, you typically will not attend AA or NA meetings in a medical facility. Often, a church or community center will open its doors to Alcoholics Anonymous. Some offices and clubhouses also host meetings.

This often makes people feel more comfortable. It also takes away the worry that somebody will notice you walking into these establishments.

Not sure where to go? To find a time and location in your area, search for AA meetings by city and day of the week.


You may wonder who you will see at these meetings. This can make some people worry.

If you attend an open meeting, friends and family members of other recovering alcoholics may also show up for support. You might feel more comfortable bringing along somebody you trust as well.

At open meetings, most people will probably be there for the same reason as you. But, you might also see non-alcohol observers, like students or other people simply interested in the program.

If that makes you feel uncomfortable, then you can attend closed meetings. These are open strictly to people struggling with alcohol abuse.


There is nothing more uncomfortable than showing up at a place and not knowing whether or not they expect money. You can attend an AA meeting for free if you need help and do not have the money to spare.

However, AA is a nonprofit organization. They depend on donations to stay afloat. If you want to give something, they typically send around a collections basket at the end of each meeting.


Upon arrival, you will notice a semi-circle of chairs with one in the middle. This seating arrangement creates a comfortable group setting where everybody can listen and be easily seen and heard by the group.

The person leading your meeting will sit in the singular chair. You can choose an open seat in the semi-circle.

If you feel like you may want to slip out early, find a seat at the end nearest the exit. Even if you choose to stay, this may keep you feeling more comfortable during your first meeting.


You will notice a few formalities at the beginning of AA and Al-Anon meetings. The chairperson will open with the AA Preamble. This reminds everybody of Alcoholics Anonymous mission. After, they may recite the serenity prayer or opt for a moment of silence to help everybody get into a healing mindset. You can then expect to hear some chosen readings from the Big Book to help you better understand alcoholism and how the program works. They may or may not read from additional texts that support the topic for that meeting.

The chairperson will ask if any new members wish to introduce themselves. While you can speak up, do not feel obligated if it makes you uncomfortable.


In these meetings, people who suffer from alcoholism will share their stories. People may talk about how it all started for them, their relationship with alcohol, the things it took from them, why they chose to get sober, or their journey through sobriety.

Trigger warning, you may hear some extremely difficult shares. But, you will also get to listen to heartwarming stories about how sobriety brings lives back together.

You are not obligated to share. So if you do not feel ready, don’t worry that somebody might call on you. If you choose to share, simply speak up when somebody finishes their story. Lead by saying your name and the amount of time you have been sober. Stay on the subject of alcoholism.

Sponsorship Opportunity

At the end of each meeting, the leader may ask people who want to sponsor somebody else to raise their hands. You should go in knowing what this means so that you do not miss an opportunity.

A sponsor refers to a recovering alcoholic far enough into their journey to feel comfortable helping somebody else stay sober. They will meet with the person they sponsor and give them advice.

You do not need to choose a person at your first meeting and may want to wait until you know people a bit better. But, you can choose one at any time.


When attending these meetings, remember that they are about the recovery of everybody there. This means you need to take others into account. Do not interrupt others as they share. Think of how nervous you might feel to speak about your story. Interruptions can feel embarrassing and frustrating for a person who is making themselves vulnerable to the group. Wait for them to finish before you speak. Stick to the time limit given when sharing, so that everybody gets the opportunity to share their story. People will go over it sometimes.

But it is not respectful of everybody’s time. Nobody’s story is more important than anybody else’s regardless of the content. Turn off your phone before the meeting. Texting while other people speak Is rude and it takes away from your learning experience. Do not share other people’s names or stories outside of the group. When you leave, the session stays with you.

Give AA Meetings a Try

If you want to start living a sober life, give AA meetings a chance. Don’t let fear stop you from taking an important leap in the right direction. If you don’t like the meeting, you can always leave. But, what if you choose to stay?

We know what the struggle feels like, and understand that anybody can face it. You deserve support for your journey to sobriety. Answer more pressing questions by reading our blog.

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