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. A list of recommended
pamphlets and Guidelines is given on the other side of this sheet. This 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,
nondenominational, 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.
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 A.A.
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
(Closed meetings are for A.A.s or anyone who may have a drinking
c. Closed discussion meetings—conducted just as
open discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective A.A.s only.
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.
MEMBERS FROM COURT PROGRAMS AND TREATMENT FACILITIES
In the last 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
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’
SINGLENESS OF PURPOSE AND PROBLEMS OTHER THAN ALCOHOL
Alcoholism and drug addiction are often referred to as “substance
abuse” or “chemical dependency.” Alcoholics and 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 or become A.A. members. People with
problems other than alcoholism are eligible for A.A. membership only if
they have a drinking problem.
Dr. Vincent Dole, a pioneer in methadone treatment for heroin addicts and for
several years a trustee on the General Service Board of A.A., made the
following statement: “The source of strength in A.A. is its
single-mindedness. The mission of A.A. is to help alcoholics. A.A. limits what
it is demanding of itself and its associates, and its success lies in its
limited target. To believe that the process that is successful in one line
guarantees success for another would be a very serious mistake.”
Consequently, we welcome the opportunity to share A.A. experience with those
who would like to develop Twelve Step/Twelve Tradition programs for the
nonalcoholic addict by using A.A. methods.
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 research
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
12. Provide domestic or vocational counseling
13. Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-A.A.
14. Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials,
social agencies, employers, etc.
The primary purpose of A.A. is to carry our 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.
RECOMMENDED MATERIAL AVAILABLE FROM A.A. WORLD SERVICES,
“A Member’s-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous”
“How A.A. Members Cooperate”
“If You Are a Professional, A.A. Wants to Work With You”
“Problems Other Than Alcohol”
“Let’s Be Friendly With Our Friends”
“Is A.A. For You?”
“A.A. in Treatment Facilities”
“Is There An Alcoholic in the Workplace?”
“A.A. as a Resource for the Health Care Professional”
For A.A. Members Employed in the Alcoholism Field
Cooperation With the Professional Community
Cooperating With Court, A.S.A.P., and Similar Programs
Conference-approved Literature and Other Service Material
A.A. Literature and Audiovisual Material For Special Needs
Alcoholics Anonymous—An Inside View
Young People and A.A.
Hope: Alcoholics Anonymous
A.A.—Rap with Us
It Sure Beats Sitting in a Cell
Your A.A. General Service Office, The Grapevine and the
General Service Structure
Carrying the Message Behind These Walls
Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous (American Sign Language)
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (American Sign Language)
For additional copies of this paper, or our literature
catalogs write to:
A.A. World Services, Inc., Box 459, Grand Central Station,
New York, NY 10163. Tel. (212) 870-3400.