Back To Basics: A Guide to the AA Beginners Meetings and the 12 Steps
Back To Basics - The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners Meetings "Here are the steps we took..."
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction and want to find a way out, you may have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a worldwide fellowship of people who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other to solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. AA is based on a set of 12 steps that guide members through a process of personal transformation and spiritual awakening.
Back To Basics - The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners Meetings "Here are the steps we took..."
But where do you start? How do you join AA and begin your journey of recovery? One option is to attend a beginners meeting, a special type of AA meeting that focuses on introducing newcomers to the program and helping them take the first steps towards sobriety. In this article, we will explain what are the beginners meetings, how they originated, how they work, what are their benefits and challenges, how you can find and join one, what you can expect and how you can prepare for one, how you can follow up and continue with the program, and how you can practice the 12 steps in the beginners meetings.
The history and origin of the beginners meetings
The beginners meetings are not a new invention. They date back to the early days of AA, when the founders realized that they needed a more structured and systematic way of teaching newcomers the principles and practices of the program. They also noticed that many newcomers were overwhelmed by the large and diverse groups of regular AA meetings, where they felt lost and confused.
So they decided to create separate meetings for beginners, where they could receive more attention, guidance, and support from experienced members who had already gone through the steps. These meetings were usually held once a week for four or six weeks, and each session covered one or two of the steps. The newcomers were encouraged to attend all the sessions and complete all the steps in order, before joining the regular meetings.
The beginners meetings proved to be very effective and popular, and soon spread across the country and the world. They helped thousands of alcoholics to achieve and maintain sobriety, and to become active and productive members of society. They also helped to preserve and transmit the original message and spirit of AA, as it was intended by the founders.
The format and structure of the beginners meetings
The beginners meetings are usually held in the same venues as the regular AA meetings, such as churches, community centers, hospitals, or schools. They are open to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, or background. They are free of charge and do not require any membership or registration.
The beginners meetings are led by a chairperson, who is an experienced AA member who has completed the 12 steps and has been sober for at least a year. The chairperson welcomes the newcomers, explains the purpose and rules of the meeting, introduces the topic of the session, and invites other members to share their experience and insights on the topic. The chairperson also provides some practical advice and encouragement to the newcomers, and answers any questions they may have.
The beginners meetings are usually divided into two parts: a lecture part and a discussion part. In the lecture part, the chairperson or another designated speaker gives a brief presentation on one or two of the steps, explaining their meaning, importance, and application in daily life. The speaker also shares some personal stories and examples of how they worked the steps and how they benefited from them.
In the discussion part, the newcomers are invited to participate in a group conversation, where they can ask questions, express their doubts, share their feelings, or relate their own experiences with alcohol and recovery. The discussion is guided by the chairperson, who ensures that everyone has a chance to speak and that the conversation stays on topic and respectful. The discussion is also an opportunity for the newcomers to connect with other members, make friends, and receive support and feedback.
The benefits and challenges of the beginners meetings
The beginners meetings have many benefits for newcomers who want to start their recovery journey with AA. Some of these benefits are:
They provide a safe, friendly, and supportive environment where newcomers can feel comfortable and accepted.
They offer a clear, simple, and practical introduction to the 12 steps, which are the core of the AA program.
They help newcomers to understand their problem, admit their powerlessness over alcohol, and develop a willingness to change.
They help newcomers to establish a connection with a Higher Power of their own understanding, which can give them hope, strength, and guidance.
They help newcomers to identify and overcome their character defects, make amends for their past harms, and improve their relationships with themselves and others.
They help newcomers to develop a new way of living that is based on honesty, responsibility, service, gratitude, and spirituality.
They help newcomers to avoid relapse by providing them with tools and strategies to cope with cravings, triggers, stressors, and challenges.
They help newcomers to integrate into the AA community, where they can find fellowship, mentorship, sponsorship, friendship, and fun.
However, the beginners meetings also have some challenges that newcomers should be aware of and prepared for. Some of these challenges are:
They require a commitment of time and effort from the newcomers, who have to attend all the sessions and complete all the steps in order.
They require an open mind and a humble attitude from the newcomers, who have to be willing to listen, learn, follow suggestions, and try new things.
They require an honest self-examination from the newcomers, who have to face their fears, regrets, guilt, shame, anger, and resentment.
They require a trust in a Higher Power from the newcomers, who have to let go of their ego, control, and self-will.
They require a willingness to change from the newcomers, who have to accept their responsibility, make amends, and adopt new values and behaviors.
How to find and join a beginners meeting
If you are interested in attending a beginners meeting, you can easily find one near you by using one of these methods:
location, day, time, or type of meeting. You can filter the results by selecting "Beginners" as the meeting type.
You can call the AA hotline number in your area and ask for information about the beginners meetings. You can find the hotline number on the AA website or in the local phone directory. The hotline operators are usually AA members who can answer your questions and direct you to a suitable meeting.
You can attend a regular AA meeting and ask for a list of the beginners meetings in your area. You can also ask for a recommendation from other members who have attended or led a beginners meeting before. They can share their experience and advice with you and help you find a meeting that suits your needs and preferences.
Once you have found a beginners meeting that you want to join, you can simply show up at the designated time and place. You do not need to make a reservation or bring anything with you. You only need to have a desire to stop drinking and a willingness to learn and participate.
What to expect and how to prepare for a beginners meeting
If you have never attended a beginners meeting before, you may feel nervous or anxious about what to expect and how to prepare for it. Here are some tips and suggestions that can help you have a positive and productive experience:
Arrive early and introduce yourself to the chairperson and other members. They will welcome you warmly and make you feel comfortable. They will also explain the format and rules of the meeting and answer any questions you may have.
Bring a notebook and a pen to take notes during the lecture and discussion parts. You may also want to bring a copy of the AA Big Book, which is the main text of the program and contains the 12 steps and other useful information. You can buy one at the meeting or online, or borrow one from another member.
Listen attentively and respectfully to the speaker and other members who share their stories and insights. You may learn something valuable from them that can help you with your own recovery. You may also relate to their experiences and feel less alone and isolated.
Participate actively and honestly in the discussion part. You can ask questions, express your doubts, share your feelings, or relate your own experiences with alcohol and recovery. You do not have to agree with everything that is said, but you should keep an open mind and a humble attitude. You should also respect the anonymity and confidentiality of other members and not disclose their names or details outside the meeting.
Be prepared to face some emotional discomfort or resistance as you work on the steps. The steps may challenge some of your beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors that have been keeping you stuck in your addiction. They may also bring up some painful memories or feelings that you have been avoiding or suppressing. Do not be afraid or ashamed of these reactions. They are normal and natural parts of the healing process. Trust that the steps will help you overcome them and lead you to a better life.
Seek support and guidance from other members, especially from those who have completed the beginners meetings and the 12 steps. They can offer you their experience, strength, and hope, as well as their practical advice and encouragement. They can also become your friends, mentors, sponsors, or accountability partners.
How to follow up and continue with the beginners meeting program
The beginners meetings are not meant to be a one-time event or a quick fix for your alcohol problem. They are meant to be a starting point for your long-term recovery journey with AA. Therefore, it is important that you follow up and continue with the program after completing the beginners meetings. Here are some ways to do that:
Attend regular AA meetings as often as possible, preferably at least once a week. The regular meetings will help you maintain your sobriety, deepen your understanding of the program, expand your network of support, and enrich your spiritual life.
Review and practice the 12 steps on a daily basis. The 12 steps are not something that you do once and forget about. They are something that you live by every day. They will help you grow as a person, cope with life's challenges, improve your relationships, and serve others.
Read AA literature regularly, especially the Big Book, which contains the basic text of the program, as well as personal stories of recovery from various members. You can also read other books, pamphlets, magazines, or online materials that are approved by AA and that can enhance your knowledge and inspiration.
Get a sponsor, who is an experienced AA member who has completed the 12 steps and has been sober for at least a year. A sponsor can guide you through the steps, answer your questions, give you feedback, support you in times of trouble, and hold you accountable for your actions.
Join a service or a committee within AA, such as greeting newcomers, setting up chairs, making coffee, distributing literature, answering phone calls, organizing events, or carrying the message to other alcoholics. Service will help you stay involved and committed to the program, as well as develop your skills, confidence, and self-esteem.
Reach out to other alcoholics who are still suffering and offer them your help and hope. You can do this by sharing your story at meetings, visiting hospitals or prisons, sponsoring newcomers, or inviting them to join a beginners meeting. Helping others will help you stay sober, grateful, and humble.
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and how they are practiced in the beginners meetings
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are the core of the program and the basis of the beginners meetings. They are a set of spiritual principles that guide members through a process of personal transformation and spiritual awakening. They are not religious dogmas or moral codes, but rather suggestions that anyone can apply to their own situation and belief system.
The 12 steps are as follows:
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
This is the first and most important step, as it lays the foundation for the rest of the program. It requires us to face the reality of our addiction and its consequences, and to acknowledge our inability to control or stop it by ourselves. It also requires us to recognize that our lives have become chaotic, dysfunctional, and unhappy as a result of our drinking.
In the beginners meeting, we learn about the nature and symptoms of alcoholism, such as denial, obsession, compulsion, tolerance, withdrawal, physical deterioration, mental confusion, emotional instability, social isolation, legal problems, financial troubles, family conflicts, and spiritual emptiness. We also hear from other members how they came to realize their powerlessness over alcohol and how they decided to seek help from AA.
We are then asked to honestly examine our own drinking history and behavior, and to see if we can relate to any of the signs of alcoholism. We are also asked to reflect on how our drinking has affected our lives and the lives of those around us. We are encouraged to share our findings with the group or with another member.
By doing this step, we begin to break through our denial and rationalization, and to accept our condition as alcoholics. We also begin to develop a willingness to change and to seek a solution.
Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
This is the second step, which introduces us to the concept of a Higher Power, which is central to the AA program. It requires us to open our minds and hearts to the possibility that there is a source of wisdom, love, and healing that is beyond our human understanding and that can help us recover from our addiction. It also requires us to admit that our thinking and behavior have been distorted and irrational as a result of our drinking and that we need to restore our sanity and balance.
In the beginners meeting, we learn about the different ways that members understand and relate to their Higher Power, such as God, nature, the universe, the AA group, or their own inner voice. We also hear from other members how they came to believe in a Higher Power and how they experienced its guidance and support in their recovery. We are then asked to consider our own beliefs and experiences with spirituality, and to see if we can find a Higher Power that makes sense to us and that we can trust. We are also asked to reflect on how our drinking has affected our sanity and judgment, and how we can benefit from a Higher Power's help. We are encouraged to share our thoughts with the group or with another member.
By doing this step, we begin to overcome our skepticism and pride, and to develop a faith and hope in a Higher Power. We also begin to recognize our insanity and irrationality as alcoholics, and to seek a new way of thinking and living.
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
which builds on the previous two steps and prepares us for the rest of the program. It requires us to make a conscious and deliberate choice to surrender our will and our lives to the care of our Higher Power, as we understand Him. It also requires us to let go of our ego, control, and self-will, and to trust in our Higher Power's will and plan for us.
In the beginners meeting, we learn about the meaning and implications of this step, such as giving up our old ideas, attitudes, and behaviors that have been keeping us stuck in our addiction, and adopting new ones that are in alignment with our Higher Power's guidance and principles. We also hear from other members how they made this decision and how it changed their lives for the better.
We are then asked to consider if we are ready and willing to make this decision ourselves, and to see what benefits and challenges it may bring to us. We are also asked to reflect on how our will and our lives have been affected by our drinking, and how we can improve them by turning them over to our Higher Power. We are encouraged to share our decision with the group or with another member.
By doing this step, we begin to experience a sense of freedom and relief from our addiction, as well as a sense of direction and purpose in our lives. We also begin to develop a relationship with our Higher Power, based on trust, cooperation, and gratitude.
Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
This is the fourth step, which marks the beginning of the action part of the program. It requires us to make a thorough and honest examination of ourselves, our character, our actions, and their consequences. It also requires us to identify and acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, our assets and liabilities, our virtues and vices.
In the beginners meeting, we learn about the purpose and method of this step, such as discovering and understanding ourselves better, recognizing and accepting our reality, taking responsibility for our choices, learning from our mistakes, and preparing for change. We also hear from other members how they did this step and how it helped them grow as individuals.
We are then asked to follow a simple format to make our own inventory, which consists of four columns: (1) Who or what we resent or fear; (2) Why we resent or fear them; (3) How it affects us; (4) What is our part in it. We are also asked to include ourselves in the inventory, as we may have resentment or fear towards ourselves. We are encouraged to write down everything that comes to mind, without censoring or judging ourselves.
By doing this step, we begin to face and release our negative emotions, such as resentment, fear, guilt, shame, anger, and self-pity. We also begin to recognize and correct our character defects, such as selfishness, dishonesty, pride, envy, greed, lust, and sloth.
Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This is the fifth step, which complements and completes the fourth step. It requires us to share our inventory with our Higher Power, with ourselves, and with another person who is trustworthy and understanding. It also requires us to admit our wrongs and mistakes and to accept our responsibility and accountability for them.
In the beginners meeting, we learn about the benefits and challenges of this step, such as relieving our guilt and shame, clearing our conscience, gaining a new perspective, receiving feedback and support, building trust and intimacy, and strengthening our relationship with our Higher Power, with ourselves, and with others. We also hear from other members how they did this step and how it changed their lives for the better.
We are then asked to choose a person to whom we can confide our inventory, such as a sponsor, a friend, a counselor,