What to Expect from Your First AA Meeting

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You’ve probably already seen AA meetings featured in TV shows and movies, painting the image that these meetings are held in dark, secluded basements with cheap coffee. However, 12-step meetings are a bit different from what you see on television. Knowing what to expect from these meetings can help you prepare accordingly and ease some of your uncertainties.

Let’s learn more about what to expect at your first AA meeting.

Arriving at the Meeting

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are based on the 12-step philosophy. The 12 steps are a series of organized steps that you should follow as you build a life of sobriety. While each person’s recovery is unique, the 12 steps work for most people because they offer hope, instill accountability and build a supportive network.

12-step meetings are usually held in community centers, churches and other public spaces. When you arrive, members from the group will likely be standing around waiting for the meeting to begin. Some will be by themselves, while others will talk quietly with other members. You can choose to sit wherever you’re most comfortable.

Most of the time, AA meetings have folding chairs set up in a circle, with the meeting chairperson sitting in the middle of it.

Preamble and Prayer

When the meeting starts, the chairperson will read the AA preamble and then recite a short version of the Serenity Prayer. Afterwards, different members from the group will read sections of AA literature, including parts of The Big Book.

At this time, the chairperson may ask if there are any newcomers or first-timers at the meeting. You do not have to raise your hand if you don’t want to. However, this may be a good time to introduce yourself without pressure. Remember, you only need to share your first name.

Sharing and Discussion

This part of the meeting differs depending on what you are discussing on this day. For example, ‘step meetings’ discuss a specific step, while a discussion meeting is more of an open discussion.

During the meeting, members will share their experiences and offer encouragement to other members. The chairperson may ask you to share, but if you’re not ready, just let them know. Some people do better listening than sharing, and that’s definitely okay when you’re new.


After the discussion portion of the meeting has ended, the chairperson will make any announcements and recite a prayer. Some meetings will also pass along a basket where you’re welcome to make a donation. Please know that participating in prayer or donating money are not required.

AA meetings may seem intimidating at first, but they get easier and more comfortable in time. If you’re looking for a 12-step meeting in your area, ask your doctor, therapist or treatment center in Arizona for a recommendation.