FAQ’s

Alcoholism and Alcoholics

What is alcoholism?

The A.A. concept is that alcoholism is a progressive illness, and alcoholics are sick people who can recover if they will follow a simple program that has proved successful for more than two million men and women.

How can I tell if I am really an alcoholic?

Only you can make that decision. There is a saying in A.A. that there is no such thing as being a little bit alcoholic. Either you are, or you are not. And only the individual involved can say whether or not alcohol has become an unmanageable problem.

Can an alcoholic ever drink ‘normally’ again?

The answer, based on A.A. experience, is that if you are an alcoholic, you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time.

Can’t an A.A. member drink even beer?

If a person is an alcoholic, touching alcohol in any form cannot be risked.

I can stay sober quite a while between binges; how can I tell whether I need A.A.?

The periodic drinker may or may not be an alcoholic. But if drinking has become unmanageable and if the periods between binges are becoming shorter, chances are the time has come to face up to the problem.

Others say I am not an alcoholic. But my drinking seems to be getting worse. Should I join A.A.?

Many members of A.A., during their drinking days, were assured by relatives, friends, and doctors that they were not alcoholics. The important decision—am I an alcoholic?—has to be made by the drinker. Only he or she—not the doctor, the family, or friends—can make it. But once it is made, half the battle for sobriety is won.

Can a person achieve sobriety all alone by reading A.A. literature?

A few people have stopped drinking after reading Alcoholics Anonymous, the A.A.”Big Book,” but the A.A. program works best for the individual when it is recognized and accepted as a program involving other people.

Won’t everyone know I am an alcoholic if I come into A.A.?

Anonymity is and always has been the basis of the A.A. program. No disclosure of the newcomer’s affiliation with A.A. can rightfully be made by anyone but the newcomer.

How can I get along in business, where I have to make a lot of social contacts, if I don’t drink?

Many who are now sober in A.A. admit that they used “business contacts” as one of several excuses for drinking. Now that they no longer drink, they find that they can actually accomplish more than they used to. Sobriety has proved no hindrance to their ability to win friends and influence people who might contribute to their economic success.

Will A.A. work for the person who has really ‘hit bottom’?

Experience has shown that A.A. will work for almost anyone who really wants to stop drinking, no matter what the person’s economic or social background may be.

Do alcoholics who are already sober ever join A. A.?

Most men and women turn to A.A. when they hit the low point in their drinking careers. But this is not always the case. While some people know that it is possible for them to stay grimly sober for considerable periods of time, they say that it is much easier for them to enjoy and strengthen their sobriety when they meet and work with other alcoholics in A.A.

Why is A.A. interested in problem drinkers?

Those A.A.s who give freely of their time and effort to help other alcoholics seldom have trouble preserving their own sobriety. A.A.s are anxious to help problem drinkers for a second reason: It gives them an opportunity to square their debt to those who helped them.

Traditionally, A.A. never “recruits” members, never urges that anyone should become a member, and never looks for or accepts outside funds.


The Fellowship of A.A.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

The common problem is alcoholism. Numerically, AA. consists of more than 2,000,000 men and women, in more than 180 countries.

How did A.A. get started?

Alcoholics Anonymous had its beginnings in Akron, Ohio, in 1935 when a New Yorker on business there and successfully sober for the first time in years was directed to a local doctor with a drinking problem. Working together, the businessman and the doctor found that their ability to stay sober seemed closely related to the amount of help and encouragement they were able to give other alcoholics.

In 1939, with the publication of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, from which the Fellowship derived its name, the Society began to attract national and international attention.

Are there any rules in A.A.?

The absence of rules, regulations, or musts is one of the unique features of A.A. as a local group and as a worldwide fellowship. There are no bylaws that say a member has to attend a certain number of meetings within a given period.

What does membership in A.A. cost?

Membership in A.A. involves no financial obligations of any kind. The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is available to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, whether he or she is flat broke or the possessor of millions. However, most local groups pass the hat at meetings to defray the cost of renting a meeting place and other meeting expenses.

Who runs A.A.?

There is no government in A.A. It is obvious, however, that even in an informal organization, certain jobs have to be done. In the local group, for example, meetings have to be arranged; someone has to arrange for a suitable venue; provision has to be made for making the tea, etc. The Society is a uniquely democratic movement, with only a minimum of formal organization.

Is A.A. a religious society?

No. A.A. is not a religious society. The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is undeniably based on acceptance of certain spiritual values. The individual member is free to interpret those values as he or she thinks best, or not to think about them at all.

Is A.A. a temperance movement?

No. A.A. neither endorses nor opposes any causes and has no relation to temperance movements.

Are there many women alcoholics in A.A.?

The number of women who are finding help in A.A. for their drinking problem increases daily. Approximately one third of present-day members are women; among newcomers, the proportion has been rising steadily. Like the men in the Fellowship, they represent every conceivable social background and pattern of drinking.

Are there many young people in A. A.?

One of the most heartening trends in the growth of A.A. is the fact that more and more young men and women are being attracted to the program before their problem drinking results in complete disaster. Today, many of the young people turning to A.A. are in their twenties. Some are still in their teens.


Group Meetings

How does a person join A. A.?

No one “joins” A.A. in the usual sense of the term. No application for membership has to be filled out. There are no initiation fees, no dues, no assessments of any kind. Most people become associated with A.A. simply by attending the meetings of a particular local group.

What is an ‘open’ meeting?

An open meeting of A.A. is a group meeting that any member of the community, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, may attend. The only obligation is that of not disclosing the names of A.A. members outside the meeting.

What is a ‘closed’ meeting?

A closed meeting is limited to members of the local A.A. group, or visiting members from other groups. The purpose of the closed meeting is to give members an opportunity to discuss particular phases of their alcoholic problem that can be understood best only by other alcoholics.

These meetings are usually conducted with maximum informality, and all members are encouraged to participate in the discussions. The closed meetings are of particular value to the newcomer, since they provide an opportunity to ask questions (either during or after the meeting) that may trouble a beginner, and to get the benefit of older members’ experience with the recovery program.

May I bring relatives or friends to an A.A. meeting?

In most places, anyone interested in A.A., whether a member or not, is welcome at open meetings of A.A. groups. It will be recalled that “closed” meetings are traditionally limited to alcoholics.

How often do A.A. members have to attend meetings?

A.A. members don’t have to attend any set number of meetings in a given period. It is purely a matter of individual preference and need. Most members arrange to attend at least one meeting a week.

Do A.A.s have to attend meetings for the rest of their lives?

The answer, again, is that no one has to do anything in A.A. There is always a choice between doing and not doing a thing—including the crucial choice of whether or not to seek sobriety through A.A.

How will I be able to find the time for A.A. meetings, work with other alcoholics, and other A.A. activities?

If the beginner is a typical alcoholic, there will be an urge to make up “lost time” in a hurry—to work diligently at a job, and to restore a home-life that was too long neglected. What else is sobriety for, the new member may ask, but to lead a full, normal life, great chunks of it at a time?

However, the men and women who find their sobriety most satisfying are those who attend meetings regularly, never hesitate to work with other alcoholics seeking help, and become involved in their groups.

Can newcomers join A.A. outside their own community?

A person is free to join an A.A. group anywhere he or she may choose. Obviously, it is more convenient to join the nearest group. It may also be the most straightforward approach to the individual’s problem.

If I come into A.A., won’t I miss a lot of friends and a lot of fun?

Many alcoholics discover that their best friends are delighted to see them face up to the fact that they cannot handle alcohol. No one wants to see a friend continue to suffer. Naturally, it is important to distinguish between friendships and casual bar-room acquaintanceships. Few members of A.A. would trade the fun that comes with sobriety for what seemed to be fun while they were drinking.


The Recovery Program

What are the Twelve Steps?

The Twelve Steps are the core of the A.A. program of personal recovery from alcoholism. They are not abstract theories; they are based on the trial-and-error experience of early members of A.A. They describe the attitudes and activities that these early members believe were important in helping them to achieve sobriety. Acceptance of the Twelve Steps is not mandatory in any sense. Experience suggests, however, that members who make an earnest effort to follow these Steps and to apply them in daily living seem to get far more out of A.A. than do those members who seem to regard the Steps casually.

What are the Twelve Traditions?

The Twelve Traditions of A.A. are suggested principles to insure the survival and growth of the thousands of groups that make up the Fellowship. They are based on the experience of the groups themselves during the critical early years of the movement.

What are slips?

Occasionally a man or woman who has been sober through A.A. will get drunk. In A.A. a relapse of this type is commonly known as a slip. It may occur during the first few weeks or months of sobriety or after the alcoholic has been dry a number of years.

Does A.A. have a basic textbook?

The Fellowship has four books that are generally accepted as textbooks:

    1. Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as the Big Book,originally published in 1939, revised in 1955, 1976 and 2001.
    2. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, published in 1953.
    3. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, published in 1957
    4. As Bill Sees It (formerly titled The A.A. Way of Life, a reader by Bill).

What is The 24hour program?

The 24hour program is a phrase used to describe a basic A.A. approach to the problem of staying sober. AAs never swear off alcohol for life, never take pledges committing themselves not to take a drink tomorrow. Tomorrow is something to worry about when it comes. My big problem is not to take a drink during this 24 hours. A.A. also emphasizes the importance of three slogans: Easy Does It,Live and Let Live, and First Things First.

What is the A.A. Grapevine?

The Grapevine is a monthly pocketsize USA magazine published for members and friends who seek further sharing of A.A. experience.

Why doesn’t A.A. seem to work for some people?

The answer is that A.A. will work only for those who admit that they are alcoholics, who honestly want to stop drinking—and who are able to keep those facts uppermost in their minds at all times.

After they have been sober a while in A.A, some people tend to forget that they are alcoholics, with all that this diagnosis implies. Their sobriety makes them overconfident, and they decide to experiment with alcohol again. The results of such experiments are, for the alcoholic, completely predictable. Their drinking invariably becomes progressively worse.


For The Newcomer

At an A.A. meeting, must I give my name? Must I say that I am an alcoholic?

No. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Will I be asked to speak at an A.A. meeting?

Those at the meeting will try to include as many as possible in the discussion, if they can, but there is no obligation or pressure to speak. Many newcomers choose to just listen.

Will A.A. help me financially?

AA exists for just one purpose, and that purpose is in no way related to material prosperity or the lack thereof.

Will A A help me straighten out my family troubles?

Newcomers who are sincere in their approach to the A.A. recovery program are usually successful in mending broken family lives. The bonds that reunite the honest alcoholic with family members are often stronger than ever before.

Experience suggests that the alcoholic who comes to A.A. solely to keep peace in the family, and not because of an honest desire to stop drinking, may have difficulty achieving sobriety. Once sober, the alcoholic will find that many of the other problems of daily living can be approached realistically and with very good chance of success.

Does A.A. operate hospitals or rest homes for alcoholics?

There are no A.A. rest homes or hospitals but A.A. meetings are held in local hospitals that treat alcoholics.

Does A.A. sponsor any social activity for members?

Most A.A.s are sociable people, a factor that may have been partially responsible for their becoming alcoholics in the first place. As a consequence, meetings of local A.A. groups tend to be lively affairs.

A.A. as a fellowship has never developed any formal program of social activities for members, since the sole purpose of the movement is to help alcoholics get sober. Members, however, entirely on their own individual responsibility, often organize sporting and social events.


What do medical authorities think of A.A.?

From its earliest days, A.A. has enjoyed the friendship and support of doctors who were familiar with its program of recovery from alcoholism. Doctors, perhaps better than any other group, are in a position to appreciate how unreliable other approaches to the problem of alcoholism have been in the past. A.A. has never been advanced as the only answer to the problem, but the A.A. recovery program has worked so often, after other methods have failed, that doctors today are frequently the most outspoken advocates for the program in their communities.

What do religious leaders think of A.A.?

Probably no lay movement of modern times has been more richly endowed than A.A. with the support of the clergy of all the great faiths. Like the doctors, mankind’s spiritual advisers have long been troubled by the problem of alcoholism. Many of these advisers have heard honest people make sincere pledges to abstain from alcohol they could not control—only to see them break those pledges within hours, days, or weeks. Sympathy, understanding, and appeals to conscience have been of little avail to the clergy in their attempts to help the alcoholic.

Thus it is perhaps not surprising that A.A.—although it offers a way of life rather than a way of formal religion—should be embraced so warmly by representatives of many different denominations.

Who is responsible for the publicity about A.A.?

The A.A. tradition of public relations has always been keyed to attraction rather than promotion. A.A. never seeks publicity but always cooperates fully with responsible representatives of press, radio, television, motion pictures, and other media that seek information about the recovery program.

A.A. is not a secret society.

It should also be noted that within A.A., at A.A. meetings and among themselves, A.A. members are not anonymous.


Based on the A.A. Pamphlets  Frequently Asked Questions About AA  and  A Newcomer Asks …   with permission