How Long Are AA Meetings? Plus More AA Questions, Answered

Here at BlueCrest Recovery Center, we believe strongly in the value of the 12-step recovery approach as a framework for understanding, managing, and overcoming addiction.

And that’s why it’s important to discuss Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, the organization that arguably invented the 12-step program and continues to provide support and resources to people recovering from alcoholism today.

If you’ve never attended an AA meeting before, you likely have some questions about what to expect and what you might experience. Rest assured, the AA method is built on community trust, mutual support, and, as the name suggests, anonymity. So rather than be intimidated by your first meeting, embrace the chance to develop a healthy recovery community that can help you maintain your sobriety.

To make your first AA meeting a little easier, we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions regarding Alcoholics Anonymous. We hope these will encourage you to take your first step towards attending a meeting and finding support for your ongoing recovery. If you need more information, visit the AA website for resources and details.

How long are AA meetings?

Though it might seem like a basic question, the length of AA meetings can actually be a major determining factor as to whether first-time members will return. Even though you’re early in your recovery, you may have work or family commitments that you need to balance alongside meetings, or you might be concerned that a long meeting will be a deterrent to actually attending.

We’re here to reassure you: AA meetings run for one hour, on average. Though participants at an in-person meeting might choose to grab a coffee or a meal after a meeting, many people will attend simply for the meeting and then depart shortly afterward. And, since all AA meetings have a moderator keeping a close eye on both individual participation and the clock, you can be confident that meetings won’t run hours past schedule.

Are there different types of AA meetings?

There are two main types of AA meetings: open and closed.

  • Open meetings welcome anyone to attend, even if they don’t currently believe they are misusing alcohol or have a loved one who is struggling with alcohol addiction. Many people attend these meetings because they want to learn more about recovery, are curious if AA is a good fit for their needs, or wonder if they or a loved one are drinking too much. Even though the meeting is open to the public, the AA ground rules still apply, meaning attendees must respect each other’s anonymity. Typically, open meetings usually include an AA member or other individual in recovery who discusses their own recovery journey with the group.
  • Closed meetings are similar, but are open only to individuals who have committed themselves to recovery from alcohol addiction. Because the group is composed only of people in recovery, closed meetings allow for a more in-depth discussion than open meetings, as well as support and sharing from members. Closed meetings vary in terms of their structure and topic. Some are open discussions, while others are more closely moderated meetings that focus on the 12 steps themselves. Closed meetings are ideal for people in active recovery because they allow for an honest and safe conversation about addiction and recovery in a safe and anonymous space.

Do I have to pay to attend AA meetings?

AA meetings are always free. AA doesn’t require members to pay membership fees or annual dues, nor does it require members to purchase any special materials or collateral. Instead, AA simply asks for donations from people who have been helped by the program, or by other organizations that want to support 12-step recovery in their community. These donations help local AA chapters pay for a space to meet in-person, support for online meetings, and anything else needed for meetings, such as coffee or snacks. As a worldwide organization, AA helps thousands of people around the world continue their recovery using this donor-funded model.

How can I find an AA meeting?

Though a few decades ago it may have been difficult to find an AA meeting near you, today nearly every region in the world has an AA presence (or an equivalent 12-step program). The easiest way to find an AA meeting is to go straight to the organization itself by visiting their meeting finder site. You can also find an AA meeting by consulting friends and family who are also in recovery and likely have attended a meeting themselves, or by asking your local addiction treatment program for recommendations. Remember that you don’t need to make an appointment or call ahead of time before attending an AA meeting—they are open to anyone who is committed to getting sober.

Are there online or telephone-based AA meetings?

Yes. If you can’t make it to an in-person AA meeting for any reason, the organization offers online or phone-based alternatives, often using popular online services like Google and Zoom. You can read more about these options at this dedicated page on their website.

How long has AA existed?

Founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the oldest addiction recovery organizations in the United States. The organization was founded by Bill W. and Bob S., two men in Ohio who were seeking a new method to manage their alcoholism.

Together, the two men gathered an initial meeting of fellow individuals struggling with alcohol abuse and eventually wrote a handbook for the organization, known today as The Big Book, which is still used as part of the program’s framework.

As the organization grew in popularity, the group created the “12 steps” in the 1940s as a way to provide more structure and support for their growing meetings. The 12 steps provide a strong foundation for individual members to continue their sobriety, including admitting they are “powerless over alcohol” and finding a belief in something “greater than ourselves” for support. Throughout the course of their recovery, AA members can turn back to the 12-step framework to help guide them through challenging moments and lessen their risk of relapse. Should they relapse, the 12 steps gives them a road map for returning back to sobriety and resuming their recovery.

At BlueCrest, we believe in the power of 12-step recovery. We encourage anyone struggling with addiction to seek out professional addiction treatment in combination with support from 12-step organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous.

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