The first AA meeting is never easy to handle. For an individual struggling to fight his addiction, opening up to a room full of strangers is obviously challenging. But, at the same time, attending AA meetings is necessary to stay sober. They provide you with the right kind of guidance and support during the initial weeks of recovery. So, if your nerves are all over the place on the eve of your first meeting, it’s quite natural.
The benefits of AA
Combining a residential treatment program with membership of AA improves the likelihood of long-term abstinence from alcohol and drugs – by up to 66 percent.
A ten-year study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that, after eight years, people with alcoholism who were part of both residential treatment and an AA group had a better chance of staying alcohol-free for the first three years of study. By the end of the eight years, those who received both had a much higher rate of abstinence.
The study found that AA’s effectiveness may not be due to its specific content or process, rather in its ability to provide free, long-term, easy access and exposure to recovery-related common therapeutic elements, the frequency of which, can be self-regulated according to the person’s own need.
Other benefits of AA are:
- Meetings are free
- There is no obligation to join
- You can go as often as you wish to any meeting, in any location
- There are no intrusive questions or obligations
- You can retain anonymity
- Open to everyone regardless of race, religion or beliefs
- It creates a network of support
Different benefits for men and women
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s study also found that the therapeutic benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were different for men and women. According to the study, men find that Alcoholics Anonymous helps them build a network of socially supportive friends who can assist them in staying alcohol-free in high risk situations (for example, parties), whereas for women it helps them deal with the negative emotions that may cause relapse.
How can you prepare yourself for your first AA meeting?
Alcoholics Anonymous endorses and encourages its members to follow the 12 traditions of AA. These are upheld during its meetings which are organized all across the country. So, you should be able to find an AA meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, close to your home.
You can also use an AA meetings locator to get the accurate locations of the venues. Once you have found a meeting near your home, you need to prepare yourself emotionally. The main purpose of attending an AA meeting is to recover from alcoholism to stay committed to sobriety. AA encourages you to use a sobriety calculator to help you achieve this.
- When you step into a meeting for the first time, you will probably know nothing about a sobriety calculator or how a session is conducted. You should only try to reach the venue ahead of time and wait for other members to arrive.
- During the first meeting, your only job is to listen. You must remember that AA members have gone through this experience, too, and no one will force you to speak up. All you have to do is show up. Instead of trying to accomplish a lot in the first meeting, simply relax and be attentive.
- Remember that showing up is a big achievement in itself. It is not easy for an alcoholic to admit his drinking problem, let alone seek help for it. You have to be vulnerable to admit that you have a problem. Being able to open up about your problems will take a while. As you get used to attending local AA meetings and listening to others share their experiences, you gain the confidence to talk. You will eventually find the courage to share your story.
- While an AA meeting hardly has any strict rules to conform to, you should be careful not to cross-talk. This means when a member is talking about something, you must not interrupt or contradict him. You should also not comment on his speech while he is speaking or engage in a conversation with another member. This is considered to be highly disrespectful to the speaker.
- Just like you must not engage in cross-talking, you must refrain from passing judgment on what others are saying. AA meetings are not places for debates; they are platforms to help addicts find solutions to their problems. When you comment on someone’s behavior or pass a judgment, you end up making that person feel ashamed. This slows down his recovery process.
- To ask a pertinent question, you can always raise your hand first and take permission. The meeting chairperson informs you when the time is right for you to ask a question or share a thought.
Keep in mind these simple guidelines, and you should be just fine attending AA meetings in Pennsylvania. There is really nothing by way of preparations for a meeting; you only have to be present for it.
To find local AA meetings near you visit https://www.aa-meetings.com/aa-meeting/