Are you or a loved one looking for a sober living program? Give us a call! 424-327-4614

Are you or a loved one looking for a sober living program?  Give us a call!

What is AA? How it Works, History & Types of Meetings

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

What is AA? How it Works, History & Types of Meetings  

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a globally recognized support group that assists individuals struggling with alcohol addiction.

It was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Its primary mission is to help those suffering from alcohol addiction achieve and maintain sobriety.

How Does A.A. Work?

AA works through a mutual support model where individuals struggling with alcohol addiction share their experiences, challenges, and triumphs.

It’s a fellowship built on honesty, self-reflection, and mutual assistance.

Central to its operation are the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, which provide a structured path to recovery.

Members attend AA meetings to discuss their struggles, receive support, and offer support to others, creating a nurturing and empathetic community dedicated to achieving and maintaining sobriety.

Who are A.A. Members?

AA members, often referred to simply as “members,” are individuals from various walks of life who have acknowledged their alcohol use disorder and are committed to quitting drinking.

AA membership is open to anyone with a drinking problem and a genuine desire to stop drinking. There are no age or education requirements needed to participate.

What is the History of Alcoholics Anonymous?

The history of Alcoholics Anonymous traces back to the 1930s when two alcoholics, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, met in Akron, Ohio. Both were battling severe alcohol addiction.

Here’s a brief history of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc:

  • In 1935, Bill W. and Dr. Bob met in Akron, Ohio, marking the beginning of AA.
  • The foundational text of AA, “Alcoholics Anonymous” (The Big Book), was published in 1939, introducing the Twelve Steps.
  • The Saturday Evening Post’s articles in 1941 brought national attention to AA and led to its expansion.
  • The Twelve Traditions, guiding AA’s structure, were introduced in 1946.
  • Today, AA is a global support network for individuals battling alcohol addiction, emphasizing mutual support and recovery.

What is the History of Alcoholics Anonymous

What are the Different Types of Meetings Offered by Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous offers various types of meetings to cater to the diverse needs of its members, including:

Types of AA Meetings

Open vs. Closed Meetings

  • Open Meetings: These are accessible to anyone interested in understanding AA, including family members, friends, and healthcare professionals. Open meetings aim to provide insight into AA for those who may not have a drinking problem but want to learn more or offer support.
  • Closed Meetings: Closed meetings are exclusively for individuals who want to stop drinking. They provide a safe and confidential space for those actively seeking recovery. Closed meetings foster a sense of unity among those facing similar challenges.

Speaker Meetings

Speaker meetings feature one member, often with significant recovery time, sharing their journey of addiction and recovery.

These meetings offer inspiration, hope, and a connection with someone who has successfully overcome alcoholism. They work well for newcomers seeking motivation and guidance.

Big Book Meetings

Big Book meetings focus on AA’s foundational text, “The Big Book.” In these gatherings, members explore the book’s contents, which include the Twelve Steps and personal stories of recovery.

These meetings provide a deeper understanding of AA’s principles and can benefit individuals who resonate with the book’s teachings.

Discussion Meetings

Discussion meetings encourage open dialogue among participants on various aspects of recovery. Topics can range from personal experiences to the challenges of sobriety.

These meetings foster a sense of community and allow members to learn from one another’s insights. They are suitable for those who value shared experiences and mutual support.

Online vs. Offline Meetings

Online Meetings: AA has adapted to offer meetings through online platforms in the digital age. These meetings are convenient for individuals with mobility issues, who live in remote areas, or who prefer the anonymity of virtual gatherings.

Offline Meetings: Traditional face-to-face meetings continue to be the core of AA. They offer a physical space for members to connect, share, and support one another. Offline meetings can be vital for those who benefit from in-person interactions and a sense of physical presence.

Specialized Meetings

Specialized meetings cater to specific demographics or needs within the AA community. Examples include meetings for young adults, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, or professionals.

These meetings create tailored support networks, ensuring members feel understood and supported within their unique circumstances.

What are the Different Types of Meetings Offered by Alcoholics Anonymous

What is The Big Book, the Twelve Steps, and the Twelve Traditions?

The Big Book is the foundational text of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), published in 1939. It contains the Twelve Steps and personal stories of recovery, providing guidance and inspiration for those seeking to overcome alcohol addiction.

The Twelve Steps is a structured program outlined in The Big Book, designed to lead individuals from acknowledging their powerlessness over alcohol to achieving spiritual awakening and maintaining sobriety. They are the heart of AA’s approach to recovery.

The Twelve Traditions were introduced in 1946, guiding AA’s structure and unity. They emphasize anonymity, humility, and group cohesion, ensuring AA’s continued effectiveness and longevity in helping individuals with alcohol use disorder.

How is AA Organized and Financed?

AA is organized and financed through a decentralized structure with local AA groups and a general service office.

It operates primarily on contributions from its members and does not accept external funding to maintain autonomy and preserve its primary purpose of helping individuals achieve and maintain sobriety.

AA groups are self-supporting and rely on voluntary donations from members to cover expenses for literature, meeting spaces, and administrative costs at various levels of the organization.

This financial model reinforces Alcoholics Anonymous’ commitment to self-sufficiency and its primary focus on recovery.

What Does Confidentiality Mean for AA members?

Confidentiality in AA means members are encouraged to remain anonymous within the fellowship.

This principle ensures a safe and non-judgmental environment for sharing. AA members use only their first names, and the personal stories and discussions in AA meetings are meant to remain within the group.

This confidentiality fosters trust, honesty, and openness among members, enabling them to share their struggles and experiences without fear of exposure or judgment from the outside world.

What Does Confidentiality Mean for AA members

What Is the Role of Spirituality in Alcoholics Anonymous, and How Does It Support Recovery?

Spirituality plays a significant role in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) by offering individuals a framework for recovery, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

The concept of a higher power is central in AA and is left to each member’s interpretation. Here’s how spirituality supports recovery:

  • Personal Belief: AA allows individuals to define their higher power according to their personal beliefs, whether it’s a traditional deity, the fellowship of AA itself, nature, or a force for good. This flexibility accommodates diverse spiritual perspectives.
  • Moral Compass: Spirituality in AA often involves taking a fearless moral inventory and making direct amends for past wrongs. This process encourages self-reflection and personal growth, promoting healthier behavior patterns.
  • Support in Times of Weakness: Belief in a higher power can provide solace and strength during challenging moments in recovery. It offers guidance and comfort when individuals are struggling with their alcohol addiction.
  • Community and Fellowship: The collective belief in a higher power creates a sense of community and shared values among AA members. This camaraderie fosters accountability and mutual support, essential elements of recovery.
  • Long-Term Recovery: Many AA members report experiencing a spiritual awakening through working the 12 Steps. This awakening often marks a turning point in their recovery journey, helping them maintain long-term sobriety.

While spirituality is an integral aspect of AA, it is not imposed on members.

Individuals are free to interpret and embrace the spiritual dimension in a way that aligns with their beliefs and values.

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.’s inclusive approach acknowledges that spirituality can be a powerful tool in helping individuals overcome alcohol addiction, but it does not prescribe a specific religious doctrine or require adherence to any particular faith.

Are AA Meetings Spiritually Inclined?

AA meetings can be spiritually inclined, but they are not inherently so. The degree of spirituality in an AA meeting largely depends on the group’s format and the preferences of its members.

Some AA meetings may incorporate spiritual elements, such as opening or closing prayers, discussions about the role of a higher power in recovery, or the exploration of the spiritual principles embedded in the 12 Steps. These meetings are likely to have a more pronounced spiritual focus.

However, many AA meetings emphasize the practical aspects of recovery, such as sharing personal experiences, discussing challenges, and offering mutual support.

These meetings may have a less overt spiritual dimension and include individuals with various beliefs or those who do not identify with spirituality.

Which Countries Have the Most Members in AA?

The specific countries with the most members of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services are difficult to track as AA does not maintain centralized records of worldwide membership statistics.

However, AA has a significant presence in countries where alcohol addiction is widespread, and the organization has been established for many years. These countries often include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and various European nations.

How Does Alcoholics Anonymous Interact or Collaborate with Other Institutions?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) interacts or collaborates with other institutions to provide vital support and resources to individuals grappling with alcoholism and alcohol abuse.


AA often conducts hospital meetings, serving as an essential part of alcohol treatment programs. Patients with a drinking problem can attend AA meetings to find guidance and encouragement to quit drinking and stay on track with their sobriety journey.


AA meetings offer inmates a structured path toward sobriety inside correctional facilities or prisons. These meetings are instrumental in helping individuals remain sober while incarcerated and achieve sobriety upon release.

United States Court Rulings

In some cases, U.S. court rulings will recommend or mandate a person to attend AA meetings as part of sentencing or rehabilitation for alcohol-related legal issues. However, AA maintains its autonomy and does not involve itself in legal matters.

United States Treatment Industry

While AA operates independently, the treatment industry sometimes incorporates AA’s Twelve Steps and principles into its programs. This synergy between AA and professional treatment facilities aims to provide comprehensive support for individuals seeking recovery.

How Effective Is Alcoholics Anonymous in Achieving Sobriety?

The effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in achieving sobriety has been a subject of study and discussion over the years. Still, due to its anonymous and voluntary nature, AA’s success cannot be measured with exact statistics.

However, several factors contribute to its perceived effectiveness:

  1. Most AA meetings provide a supportive community of individuals who share their experiences and offer encouragement.
  2. The Twelve Steps of AA provide a structured path for individuals to work on their recovery.
  3. The spiritual aspect of AA allows members to find a higher power or a source of strength that resonates with them.
  4. AA’s commitment to anonymity creates a safe environment for members to share their struggles openly.
  5. AA promotes continuous abstinence from alcohol, emphasizing that even one drink can lead to a relapse.
  6. Interacting with others who successfully stay sober can be inspiring and reinforce the belief that recovery is possible.
  7. AA meetings are widely available, with many AA meetings occurring globally.

Remember that while AA has been instrumental in helping numerous individuals achieve sobriety, it’s important to note that it may not be equally effective for everyone.

Some people may benefit from a combination of AA and professional alcohol treatment, including addiction medicine and therapy.

Ultimately, AA’s effectiveness is subjective and varies from person to person. Many find it a valuable resource in their journey to sobriety, while others may seek alternative approaches or a combination of methods to address their alcohol abuse and addiction.

What Criticisms Has Alcoholics Anonymous Received?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), despite its widespread support and success stories, has faced several criticisms and challenges over the years, such as:

  • AA’s success lacks empirical data due to its anonymous and voluntary nature, making it hard to gauge effectiveness.
  • Critics contend that AA’s spiritual aspects alienate those preferring secular recovery methods.
  • AA’s structured Twelve Steps may not suit everyone’s recovery needs.
  • AA isn’t a substitute for professional treatment, potentially neglecting medical and psychological aspects.
  • AA’s anonymity principle complicates tracking outcomes or providing concrete success statistics.
  • Some view AA as slow to adapt to societal changes, potentially excluding certain groups.
  • AA’s lack of centralized governance may lead to varying meeting quality and support.
  • Critics argue that solely relying on AA meetings might not address the complexity of addiction sufficiently.
  • AA’s focus on continuous abstinence can stigmatize relapses, affecting those on the recovery path.

How Can Individuals Find and Participate in Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings in Their Area?

Individuals can find and participate in A.A. meetings in their area by:

  • Visiting the AA website and using the meeting finder tool to locate nearby meetings.
  • Checking the local phone directory for AA listings or contacting the local AA central office or helpline.
  • Asking healthcare providers, therapists, or counselors for information on local AA meetings.
  • Inquiring with friends or family if they know about AA meetings in the area.
  • Looking for virtual AA meetings online through various platforms or social media groups.
  • Contacting local community centers, churches, or religious institutions for meeting information.
  • Checking classified ads or event listings in local newspapers.
  • Downloading AA-related apps for meeting schedules and resources.
  • Attending a meeting to receive support and information for their recovery journey.

Extend Your AA Journey with Design for Recovery Sober Living Home in Los Angeles

If you’re already on the path to recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and seeking a supportive environment to continue your sobriety journey, Design for Recovery can be your next step.

Our sober living homes in Los Angeles complement the principles of AA by providing a structured and nurturing space for individuals committed to staying sober.

Why Combine AA with Design for Recovery Sober Living Home?

  • Daily Structure: As AA meetings provide structure, our sober living home offers a structured daily routine. This includes group activities, therapy sessions, and opportunities for personal growth, all in alignment with the principles of AA.
  • Community Support: Much like your AA community, at Design for Recovery, you’ll join a supportive community of individuals who share your commitment to staying sober. This camaraderie strengthens your resolve and reinforces the principles of mutual support.
  • Holistic Approach: AA focuses on personal and spiritual growth. Our program complements this approach by addressing physical, emotional, and mental well-being, ensuring a comprehensive path to recovery.
  • Professional Guidance: While AA provides peer support, Design for Recovery offers the guidance of experienced medical professionals who are dedicated to assisting you every step of the way.
  • Location Advantage: Our Los Angeles location provides access to a wide range of AA meetings, resources, and support groups, making it an ideal place to continue your recovery journey.

Combining your AA experience with the structured and supportive environment of Design for Recovery can enhance your path to sustained sobriety.

Contact us today to explore how our sober living home can complement your AA journey and help you thrive in recovery.

“History of A.A. | Alcoholics Anonymous.” History of A.A. | Alcoholics

“What to Expect at an A.A. Meeting | Alcoholics Anonymous.” What to Expect at an A.A. Meeting | Alcoholics

Donovan, Dennis M., et al. “12-Step Interventions and Mutual Support Programs for Substance Use Disorders: An Overview.” Social Work in Public Health, vol. 28, no. 3–4, Informa UK Limited, May 2013, pp. 313–32. Crossref

Tonigan, J. Scott. “Spirituality and Alcoholics Anonymous.” Southern Medical Journal, vol. 100, no. 4, Southern Medical Association, Apr. 2007, pp. 437–40. Crossref

“Estimated Worldwide A.A. Individual and Group Membership | Alcoholics Anonymous.” Estimated Worldwide A.A. Individual and Group Membership | Alcoholics

Kaskutas, Lee Ann. “Alcoholics Anonymous Effectiveness: Faith Meets Science.” Journal of Addictive Diseases, vol. 28, no. 2, Informa UK Limited, Apr. 2009, pp. 145–57. Crossref


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

We Can Help

Design for Recovery - Locations Pages Contact Form

Read More

Addiction & Recovery

Sober Living in Los Angeles - Design for Recovery

About Us

Design for Recovery empowers men struggling with addiction by providing 24/7 support, mentorship, and teaches them how to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Chat with us on Facebook
relapse prevention

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

Our advisors are waiting for your call: 424-327-4614

Reach out to us today.

Design For Recovery is committed to helping you or your loved one live a fulfilling life free from alcohol and drug addiction. Below you can find out what to expect when you contact us for help.

Call us at (424) 327-4614 or fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you soon.

Send us a message below and we will reach out to you.
Design for Recovery Contact - Popup