Public Speaking

Sharing Your Story Publicly

What a great opportunity to tell your story so that others can learn from your experience and maybe follow that same path into AA, to get the same benefits that we all got.

Experience tells us that we should consider some practical safety when sharing our experience, strength and hope publicly to protect our and our family’s anonymity. Alcoholics are very open when sharing at meetings, however its not always beneficial to share all of this personal “stuff” publicly. You may use a pseudonym which does not take away from your story.

Potential Questions: Mayo Community Radio

1, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family background?
2, When did you first start drinking?
3, how long were you drinking?
4, What was your lowest point with alcohol?
5, When did you decide to seek help and why?
6, Why did you seek help from the AA?
7, Can you explain your initial time recovering from addiction, what helped you get through the initial stages?
8, What advice would you give to help those who are about to seek help with addiction?
9, Can you explain the process for people seeking help from the AA?
10, Do you think rural Ireland in particular has a drink culture? And if so, what needs to happen to change that culture?
11. Was it worth cutting out alcohol from your life?
12. Does stopping drinking alcohol take anything away from your life?

Useful Contact Information

Connaught Intergroup Phone:(089) 210 9824
Galway Area Phone: (085) 753 7100
National Website:
Al Anon: (01) 873 2699
Al Anon Web:Al

I am responsible… When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.

The following is an Extract from the pamphlet. Speaking at non-AA events with permission.

An A.A. group makes its own decision regarding the desirability of supplying A.A. speakers for such meetings in general, or for any particular meeting. It is entirely in keeping with the A.A. Traditions for an A.A. member to speak at non-A.A. meetings about A.A. and our recovery program if a few simple precautions are observed.

Groups in many areas consider this type of speaking to be one of the cornerstones of a constructive A.A. public information program. They believe that it provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our willingness to be “friendly with our friends,” to inform the public concerning the role of A.A. in the community, and above all, to carry the message of our recovery to alcoholics.

Who is qualified?

In seeking to carry the message, by speaking at non-A.A. meetings, A.A. members therefore assume a serious responsibility. Even though they are careful to explain that they are not speaking for A.A., many members of the audience will base their good or bad opinion of the Fellowship on what is said and how it is said. The reaction of non-alcoholic listeners and their consequent referring or failure to refer alcoholics to A.A. may someday mean the difference between life and death to still-suffering alcoholics.

Profound as these considerations are, they do not imply that the responsibility should be restricted to A.A.s trained as professional speakers or to “elder statesmen and women.” An A.A. member who has been sober in A.A. for a sufficient length of time to discuss our recovery program — the Steps, Traditions, and service — intelligently should be capable of a good job.

What to talk about?

In talking to non-A.A. groups, A.A. members can draw upon a wealth of information from their own experience, what they learned from the experience of others, and various pamphlets and other literature available from the General Service Office. Their problem is one of selection. Some pamphlets and material recommended as a primary source of information are:

  • “A.A. in Your Community”
  • “A.A. Membership Survey”
  • “Understanding Anonymity”
  • “If You Are a Professional”
  • “A Brief Guide to A.A.”
  • “How A.A. Members Cooperate with Professionals”
  • “A.A. Fact File”
  • “A Member’s-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous”
  • “Information on Alcoholics Anonymous”

One question frequently asked is, “Should I tell my story?”

Those who have had experience in speaking to non-alcoholic audiences have learned that the average person wants to know what Alcoholics Anonymous is, what it does, and what he or she can do to cooperate, rather than to hear the personal-history type of talk that a member might give at an A.A. meeting. On the other hand, experienced speakers have found that it is helpful to relate incidents from their own drinking history to illustrate a point. Citing the progressive nature of alcoholism or summarizing your case history can lend conviction to the rest of your talk. Starting on below of this pamphlet, you will find a list of questions that are usually asked by non-A.A. audiences. The number of questions you cover will depend on the speaking time you are allotted and whether there will be a question-and-answer period after your talk. The topics that you will select for discussion may also depend, to some degree, on the particular audience that you are addressing. For example, you may wish to lay more stress on certain points in talking to an audience of doctors or members of the clergy than you would to a group of high school students. Here are some suggestions concerning what you should know about your audience.

General information

  • What is their occupation?
  • If they are members of an organization, what does it do? What does it stand for?

3. Why is the organization holding a meeting?

Specific information

  • What are the organization’s primary interests at present?
  • What are its distinctive characteristics?
  • On what do its members pride themselves?
  • Why was A.A. invited to talk?

Let’s keep our amateur standing In talking to non-A.A. groups

A.A. members are careful to preserve their amateur standing. They do not claim to be experts on the medical, physiological, or psychological aspects of alcoholism. Yet some questions about alcoholism, as distinct from A.A., are invariably asked at these meetings. As a practical matter, A.A. speakers try to give answers that will be intelligent and, without being dogmatic, will satisfy the curiosity of the non-alcoholic. It is for this reason that some questions and suggested answers about “alcoholism” and “alcoholics” are included in this pamphlet.

Talking to specialized groups

When you have occasion to speak before certain very specialized groups (lawyers, law-enforcement officials, industrial groups, doctors, to name a few), you may wish to refer to pamphlets specifically designed for such audiences. For example:

  • members of the clergy — “Members of the Clergy Ask About A.A.”;
  • doctors — “A.A. as a Resource for the Health Care Professional.”

You may suggest that these pamphlets be sent for or take a supply to the meeting. Added to both categories above should be

“A.A. in Your Community” (how the Fellowship is geared to work in the community to help alcoholics),

A brief outline for a talk

1. Introduction Identification as an alcoholic (first name only, usually); request that anonymity be respected, giving reasons — “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” Thus, we respectfully ask that A.A. speakers and A.A. members not be photographed, videotaped, or identified by full name on audiotapes or in any published or broadcast reports of our meetings, including those reports on the Internet or other new media technologies. The assurance of anonymity is essential in our efforts to help other problem drinkers who may wish to share our recovery program with us. And our Tradition of anonymity reminds us that A.A. principles come before personalities. You may even wish to distribute these cards to the audience.

2. Alcoholics Anonymous

  • What A.A. is (Preamble — on the inside front cover of this pamphlet)
  • Twelve Steps (how they worked for us)
  • Twelve Traditions d. Explain meetings (open, closed, and public meetings)

3. Personal Recovery Story

  • Drinking pattern and experience
  • Why you decided to seek help
  • What you found in A.A. that helped you
  • How you feel and what your life is like today

4. How We Can Work Together

  • How to contact A.A.
  • What we can do (see pamphlet “How A.A. Members Cooperate with Professionals”)
  • What we can’t do (see “A.A. in Your Community” and “Problems Other Than Alcohol”)
  • Why knowledge about alcoholism and A.A. is important

Twenty questions most frequently asked at non-A.A. meetings

These questions were determined by the survey previously described. (The answers to many are covered more amply in the “Frequently Asked Questions About A.A.” pamphlet and other A.A. literature.) A.A. members always make it clear that they do not speak for A.A. as a whole — but are expected to answer these, or any other questions, on the basis of their personal interpretations and experiences and in their own words.

1. What is Alcoholics Anonymous? The Preamble is the definition used most often. A.A. now has more than two million members in more than 180 countries.

2. How did A.A. get started? A New York stockbroker who sobered up late in 1934 realized that efforts to help other drunks helped him to stay sober. On a business trip to Akron in 1935, he was put in touch with an alcoholic surgeon. When the doctor also recovered, the two sought out other alcoholics. The movement spread and acquired its name with the publication of the book Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939.

3. How does A.A. work? Chiefly through local meetings, where alcoholics help one another to use the A.A. program of recovery.

4. What are the Twelve Steps? Principles based on actual recovery experiences of early members. Not just a means of staying dry, but a suggested program for living.

5. What is an open meeting? A group meeting that anyone — alcoholic or non-alcoholic — may attend. Usually, a leader opens and closes the meeting and introduces the speakers. They tell about their lives before and after joining A.A. and may give personal views on its program.

6. How is A.A. organized? Very informally. Groups elect officers to serve — not to govern — for limited periods. Each group may elect a representative who takes part in area meetings and helps to elect an area delegate to (Intergroup and) the General Service Conference — the groups’ link with the General Service Board of trustees. Conference members and trustees, too, serve the Fellowship but do not govern it.

7. What are A.A. Traditions? Suggested principles to ensure the survival and growth of groups and A.A. as a whole.

8. How does a person join A.A.? Simply by attending meetings of a local group. Newcomers may call a local phone number, or be guided to A.A. by a friend, a relative, or a professional. But the decision to join is up to the alcoholic alone. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

9. What does membership in A.A. cost? Nothing.

10. How is A.A. supported? Voluntary contributions — accepted from members only — support groups and help support national and international A.A. services.

11. Are there many women alcoholics in A.A.? The latest survey indicates that 38% of members are women.

12. How successful is A.A.? The latest survey indicates that 50% of members have been sober more than five years, and 24% have been sober between one and five years.

13. Why doesn’t A.A. seem to work for some people? It works for those who really want to stop drinking and are able to keep that resolve foremost in their minds.

14. Is A.A. affiliated with any other organization? No. But it cooperates with other efforts to help alcoholics.

15. Is A.A. a religious society? No. It includes people of many faiths, agnostics, and atheists.

16. Is A.A. a temperance movement? No. As a society, A.A. has no opinion at all on such outside issues as whether or not other people should drink. Its members simply know that they themselves cannot handle alcohol safely.

17. What is alcoholism? A.A.s see it as an illness, not a moral failing; as a progressive illness, which worsens as drinking continues; as an incurable, threefold illness — physical, mental, and spiritual — that can be arrested by practicing the A.A. program.

18. Who is an alcoholic? Absolutely any type of person may have this illness, as the unlimited variety of A.A. members indicates. If drinking has an unfavourable effect on any part of a person’s life, and that person still cannot stop drinking, then he or she — in the opinion of most A.A.s — is an alcoholic.

19. What signs should people look for to determine if they have a drinking problem? Based on A.A. experience, these are some of the signs commonly associated with a drinking problem:

  • Drinking to relax when you have problems.
  • Drinking when you get irritated, frustrated, unhappy or angry.
  • Drinking alone.
  • Having trouble at work or school that is related to drinking.
  • Failing to control the number of drinks you have once you start.
  • Drinking in the morning.
  • Guzzling drinks.
  • Forgetting what happened when you were drinking.
  • Lying about drinking.
  • Getting in trouble when you drink.
  • Getting drunk, even when you don’t want to.
  • Thinking it is good to be able to drink a lot.

20. What can the non-alcoholic do to help? The answer to this query will be based on your knowledge of the particular interest of the group. If, for example, they are professionals — doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, or members of the clergy — you know sick alcoholics and their families come to them for help. If they are a nonprofessional group, they still may have a sick alcoholic as a friend, acquaintance, relative, neighbor, etc. Or they may suspect a problem in themselves. Thus, you will wish to leave with them the importance of their role as the person who reaches the sick alcoholic with the knowledge that alcoholism is an illness and that hope for recovery is in A.A.

You may also refer your audience to a local Al-Anon Family Group. Al-Anon Family Groups are not affiliated with A.A., but they contribute greatly to increased understanding of alcoholism as it affects the family.

Some suggestions for non-alcoholic to follow — you will have more — indicate that they may do their part…

  1. By offering to help the sick alcoholic get in touch with A.A. through the telephone listing or other means available, explaining that this will entail no obligation to become a member. Give them local A.A. and Al-Anon phone numbers.
  2. By offering to attend A.A. open meetings with the alcoholic for informational reasons. They are welcome.
  3. c. By explaining to individuals that only they themselves know whether they are really alcoholics and suggesting a talk with someone from A.A. to help clarify the problem.
  4. By talking to the sick alcoholic always in terms of suggestion, avoiding threats or duress, since the decision must and can be made only by the alcoholics themselves.
  5. By acquiring a better personal understanding of A.A. through attending some A.A. open meetings and reading A.A. literature.
  6. By passing the Big Book and other A.A. literature along to the sick alcoholic as interesting and worthwhile reading matter.
  7. By using their influence in the community to help other non-alcoholic toward a better comprehension of the problems and needs of the alcoholic and of the help that is available in A.A.
  8. By calling A.A. any time they can be of help.

What precautions should A.A. members take when telling their personal recovery stories at non-A.A. meetings?

1. They mention the fact that they speak for themselves only, not for A.A. as a whole.

2. If they are known in the community as members of A.A., their membership might be revealed by the press, even though the members may not have stated their full names. To prevent this, A.A. members clarify the A.A. Traditions of anonymity with the people arranging the meeting. The A.A. or the meeting chairperson may read the Traditions before the talk and ask that they be respected.

3. If there is publicity involved, caution is taken not to link the A.A. name with the activities of other agencies.

4. If A.A. members have any doubts about the wisdom of speaking at a specific non-A.A. group, they consult the local groups or sponsor before accepting the invitation.

Responsibilities of A.A. for keeping people informed

 The 1956 Conference approved the following brief statement of A.A.’s Movement-Wide Public Information Policy: “In all public relationships, A.A.’s sole objective is to help still-suffering alcoholics. Always mindful of the importance of personal anonymity, we believe this can be done by making known to still-suffering alcoholics, and to those who may be interested in their problem, our own experience as individuals and as a Fellowship in learning to live without alcohol.

“We believe that our experience should be made available freely to all who express sincere interest. We believe further that all our efforts in this field should always reflect our gratitude for the gift of sobriety and our awareness that many outside of A.A. are equally concerned with the serious problem of alcoholism.”

In 1960, in amplification of the above statement, the board of trustees approved certain guidelines to be followed by the Public Information Committee in the release of information about A.A. to news sources. Among these principles, which may also be adapted to public speaking, are the following: “The release must be factual; boasting, disparagement of other groups concerned with the problem of alcoholism, or engagement in controversy in any form, whether by direct representation or by implication, must be carefully avoided. “We should recognize that our experience to speak about alcoholism is limited in subject matter to Alcoholics Anonymous and its recovery program; hence, any statement in reference to other or broader aspects of the problem of alcoholism should be accurately attributed to authoritative sources outside the movement, identified by name.”

Speaking at non AA meetings pamphlet .

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