AA Home Group: what it is and why it is important

Reasons people are put off Alcoholics Anonymous

AA Home Group: what it is and why it is important

Many people who try going to Alcoholics Anonymous quickly decide that it is not for them. Why is this when it is known that it helps many people to get and stay sober?  The answer is usually that the individual has attended the AA meeting when they are intoxicated, they have no idea of  what is going on, they think their drinking is not as bad as anyone else  and they probably want to leave and go and have a drink.  Many go just to keep their families off their back – to indicate that they are doing something about their drinking, even if their intention is to carry on drinking as before.

The origins of AA and the 12 Step Programme

AA began in 1935 when two men (Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith), in Ohio, America, formed a support group for others who were also struggling with Alcoholism or Alcohol Disorder.  The 12 Steps of AA followed, basically uncomplicated steps for an individual to understand and take in order to get well. The first Step is an inner acceptance of the problem and a desire to change and the last Step is about helping others to find Recovery and maintain sobriety.  The concept worked and the AA modality and meetings spread worldwide and became a proven and effective model. 

Is AA religious?

Although AA has been around for more than 8 decades, the wording of the 12 Steps  has never been changed.  This has led to a further judgemental attitude as the word God is used 4 times in the steps leading people to insist that it is a religious programme. It is not: if religion could save us, we could all simply go to a place of worship each week. 

How does AA work?

AA and  the 12 Step programme  work as they are based on social interaction with members giving one another emotional support as well as a degree of direction on how to remain sober.  Everyone attending these meetings usually has the same goal of “one day at a time” of not drinking and remaining sober and not relapsing.  On the other hand, those that come out of residential treatment for their addiction and choose to not attend these 12 Step support groups and decide they know better and what they need to do to remain sober  without going to AA usually relapse within weeks – and that is fact.    

Finding an AA meeting and selecting a ‘home’ meeting

AA meetings can be found local to anyone’s home address by inputting  their postcode into the AA website.  Attendance at meetings will vary and usually people will try 3 – 5 AA meetings a week but one meeting is better than no meetings.  All meetings also vary in style as the people attending influence this. All, though, will have the same format.  It is encouraged that people try different meetings and see if there is one that they enjoy more than others. They then choose that as their “home meeting,” which they continue to attend on a regular basis. 

Getting involved in AA

It is important to interact with the people at an AA meeting by getting to the meeting early and having a coffee or tea and conversation with others as a means of breaking the ice. Another way is to volunteer to help with the washing up after the meeting has ended.  That way people get to know each other.  Attending AA is not about turning up, sitting on a seat, not interacting and rushing out of the door as soon as the meeting ends.  People are also advised to get a ‘service position’ at a home meeting – making the tea and coffee, saying hello to other people as they arrive (being a ‘greeter’), being in charge of the literature etc. All these activities get people involved – and help others to be made to feel welcome at the meeting.

One of the key factors of being admitted into a professional  addictions rehab such as The Haynes Clinic for the recommended residential addictions treatment period of 28 days, is that everyone will have lectures and facilitated group meetings and written work around at least the first 3 Steps. They will attend AA support groups close to the residential addiction clinic with others in treatment,  and will gain a complete understanding of AA meetings and the concept of Alcoholics Anonymous.  This makes it so much easier to then attend meetings after being discharged from treatment with a knowledgeable confidence.  Finding and attending a home group will also help to build up trust with the people that you will be seeing on a regular basis. This will also start to bring further structure back into your life.  Trust is very important and through trust we will be able to share with others in Recovery.  This new found trust will have been established during treatment and can be extended to our home AA meeting. 

Getting an AA sponsor

However, at AA meetings your thinking and behaviour will not be challenged as it was when you were attending facilitated group therapy. What you say and share will largely go unchallenged. It is therefore important to seek out a “temporary” Sponsor who is of the same sex, has been sober for more than two years and will give you feed back, help and direction with any struggles you face coming back into the real world. This sponsor will also help with further understanding of the Steps including any not completed in treatment.  The sponsor may need to be “temporary” if they are also sponsoring a number of others and find it difficult to find the time to help – but on an initial temporary basis they might be able to do so.  It should also be easier to find a sponsor from within your home group. Changing sponsors is completely normal and acceptable but getting a Sponsor at a very early stage is critical in early Recovery. It is one of the things that we can easily put off when it should be at the top of the list of “things to do.”

The importance of a home AA meeting

One of the struggles for anyone leaving treatment is to maintain the change in their thinking and behaviour until over time the changes become natural; it is the same in terms of attending AA meetings.  People do not like change so initially they have to work at it to maintain it. Having a home AA meeting makes attending easier as it would be odd to not see everyone we have come to know. They expect to see us so opting to stay home because it is raining, for example, becomes a less attractive option.  Our Recovery and the important facets of it in terms of AA meetings, following the programme and having a sponsor, becomes part of our new daily life’s structure.