The AA meeting is at the heart of all we do. Each meeting is autonomous and is organised and run by its members. Most meetings are held in the evenings, typically starting at 7:30 or 8.00 pm. In general, meetings are 90 minutes long but there are a few that are just 60 minutes. Daytime meetings are available but mainly in the larger towns. The meetings vary a little in format but all those present share the same desire as the newcomer to stay sober. Meetings are informal and new members are always warmly welcomed. They need only sit and listen to get identification about their drinking. There is often a short break and there is always a cup of tea or coffee and time for an informal chat.
Many groups have monthly ‘Open’ meetings. This is where friends, family, professionals and interested parties can attend one of our meetings. They may wish to accompany a suffering alcoholic, or attend in order to better understand our recovery program. Otherwise, meetings are ‘Closed’ for alcoholics or those who think they have a drink problem.
Confidentiality, is stressed at every meeting and introductions are always on a first name only basis. We take our own anonymity seriously and encourage all new members to do the same.
The Importance of Anonymity
In the early days of A.A., when more stigma was attached to the term “alcoholic” than is the case today, this reluctance to be identified – and publicised – was easy to understand. As the Fellowship grew, we came to realize also that many problem drinkers might hesitate to turn to us for help if they thought their problem might be discussed publicly, even inadvertently, by others; and that much of our relative effectiveness in working with alcoholics might be impaired if we sought or accepted public recognition.
While each member of A.A. is free to make his or her own interpretations of A.A. traditions, no individual is ever recognized as a spokesperson for the Fellowship locally, nationally, or internationally. Each member speaks only for himself or herself.
Displayed prominently in every A.A. meeting, to reinforce the concept of anonymity is the ‘Yellow Card’ which is shown above.