Every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting follows a structure. A chairperson – an unpaid, untrained alcoholic AA member – will open the meeting by saying their name, that they are an alcoholic, and the specific name of the group. The chair will then ask a volunteer to read aloud the AA preamble.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination or politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
The chair will then ask a second volunteer to read some or all of the opening of the “How It Works”chapter from the Big Book.
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it — then you are ready to take certain steps.
At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold onto our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
Remember that we deal with alcohol — cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power — that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
At that point the chair will ask the second volunteer to continue or ask for a third to recite or lead the group in reciting the Twelve Steps (reproduced elsewhere in this series.) After reciting the Steps, sometimes collectively in unison, a fourth volunteer will be called upon to read the Twelve Traditions (also reproduced elsewhere.) If there are new members present, the chair or another volunteer will read aloud the AA Support Group Guidelines.