12 Questions About the 12-Steps: AA Membership

2 min read · 3 sections



How do you join AA or another 12-Step group? It’s simple.

You just show up.

Seriously, that’s it. You go to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. There are no speeches, dues, or paperwork to sign. You don’t have to take a pledge or provide your personal information. You won’t receive a membership card or a certificate. There’s no orientation. You don’t have to go to a certain number of meetings first.

The only requirement for membership, straight from the AA website, is “a desire to stop drinking.”

With AA, as James says in the video, “You’re a member because you say you’re a member. It really is that simple.”

You may feel like a member after your first meeting. Or, it may take you some time to self-identify as a member of AA, and that is okay too. To be successful in AA, you need to find a group that makes you feel welcome or comfortable. Since each group’s dynamic depends on its members, every group is different. Even if the first group you attend doesn’t feel right, don’t give up!

The Perks of Membership

Even though there aren’t any requirements to be a member of AA, there are perks.

The first Alcoholics Anonymous book was published in 1939. Since then, AA has helped millions of people struggling with addiction. As an AA member, you are a part of an enduring, global community of people working to overcome addiction and maintain long-term recovery.

You will always have a safe-space to share your experiences and to work through the 12-Steps with others who understand where you’ve been.

Guidelines of Membership

Although there are no official rules for AA, there are some basic guidelines to follow. Of course, respecting other members’ anonymity is very important. Anything discussed in an AA meeting shouldn’t be discussed outside an AA meeting, especially with non-AA members. Turn off your cellphone before the meeting starts. Don’t talk over other people if it’s an open discussion. Since each group is independent, the format of each group may differ slightly. Is there a specific time to ask questions? When can you speak? Do people chip in a little money for snacks and refreshments? Either before or after the meeting starts, try to ask another member what to expect.

Alternatives to AA

If AA does not appeal to you, but you do want to work on the 12-Steps after treatment, you have other options. Recovery is ongoing, so once you leave a treatment facility, it’s wise to keep actively working on recovery whether in AA or another organization.

One thing all of these organizations have in common, to become a member all you need is a desire to stop drinking or using.Narcotic’s Anonymous (NA): NA uses the 12-Steps as its core tenants as well. NA is open to anyone struggling with addiction, including alcohol.

SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training): SMART describes itself as a “self-empowering addiction recovery support group.” The program is based on the SMART Recovery 4-Point Program to help people recover from a variety of addictions.

Women for Sobriety: Women for Sobriety Inc. is a non-profit organization for women struggling with alcoholism and other addictions. Their self-help “New Life” Program, based on a Thirteen Statement Program, helps women achieve sobriety and continued recovery.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS): SOS is a nonprofit network of local groups, dedicated to helping people achieve and maintain sobriety from addiction.

LifeRing Secular Recovery: LifeRing is an abstinence-based, worldwide network of people working on addiction recovery. As the LifeRing website sums it up, the organization is “sober, secular, and self-directed.”

You can learn more about each of these programs and other alternatives to AA here.

No matter which group you join, membership and participation in AA or another similar group can help you on your way to long-term recovery. Remember, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking or using.

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