If you’re a newcomer to the AA program you may feel like you are in outer space. You’re probably scared, maybe nervous and don’t know what to expect. Like any social situation, there are rules and traditions which people practice to keep things running smoothly.
These AA meeting customs have developed during the 80-plus years that the AA program has been in existence. Like most social etiquette traditions, they help the meetings to run smoothly and stay focused on the goal of the meeting. The primary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is for AA members to stay sober and help others to achieve sobriety.
Sharing in AA Meetings: A Few Helpful Guidelines
The group usually sets a time limit for sharing to allow more people to have a chance to share. Invariably there’s somebody in the meeting who ignores the time-limit and talks on and on. You will see people’s eyes begin to glaze-over with boredom during these long shares, though usually, nobody will tell the talker to be quiet.
It is a very good idea to limit your share to the time allowed. Also, sharing about the topic is good, though sometimes you may need to share about something off-topic and that’s okay too. Try to limit your sharing to topics related to alcoholism.
During an AA open talk, somebody may say something you want to respond to directly. Never interrupt somebody who is speaking. do not talk to somebody else directly during their sharing time. This is called ‘cross-talking’ and it’s against the rules.It’s less of a faux pas but also a questionable practice to address that person directly during your sharing time. You can always say something to that person after the meeting or during the break.
It is also bad form to talk about sensitive topics such as politics and religion in AA, except as these topics are directly related to your personal experience with alcoholism. AA members come from different social and political backgrounds. We share a common problem with alcoholism; meetings should stay focused on how to remain sober and help others to achieve sobriety.
Texting During Meetings is Rude
We all know people who are never really present no matter the occasion. They live in cyber-space, and no matter what they’re supposed to be doing, whether it’s driving, sharing a meal with others, watching a show, or even during meetings and on the job they are constantly on their phone.
This does not make you seem so popular or important that you simply cannot be present in a group. It just makes you look rude. If it’s a true emergency, you should leave the room quietly to use your phone. Otherwise, show respect to the group by turning your phone off or setting it to vibrate.
AA Anonymity: Respecting the Privacy and Safety of Other AA Members
You may see somebody at an AA meeting who is famous, either locally or worldwide. You may hear somebody share something that would make an interesting story to talk about after the meeting. There’s a temptation to violate the rule of anonymity by gossiping about what you see and hear at a meeting.
It’s crucial to remember that people who attend AA are struggling and need support. If people cannot feel safe going to AA meetings they may die of alcoholism. Every member of AA has a network of family, friends, neighbors, and pets, other drivers on the road, employers, and many others who are affected by their drinking in a negative way. If you can keep this in mind, maybe it will be less tempting to violate somebody’s anonymity by gossiping about who you see or what you hear at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The 12 Steps of AA: A Path to Spiritual Healing and Freedom
While none of us wants to work the steps at first and nobody does so perfectly, those of us who stay sober usually find that working the steps is a huge blessing and we actually become grateful that our alcoholism forced us to take this journey of growth and healing. Learning to put others first at AA meetings and to abide by the customs that experience has shown are most helpful to all is very good practice for growing less self-centered and more focused on the needs of people around us.