Frequently Asked Questions
A word about A.A. Meetings…. Anyone can attend an Open Meeting, however Closed Meetings are restricted to those who have or think they may have a problem with alcohol. While in one sense all Meetings are the same, sharing the same formats, structure and purpose, Meetings can also be quite different from one another beyond whether they are Open or Closed – in terms of demographics, style, and emphasis. We encourage Newcomers to try lots of different Meetings. It is important to find Meetings where you feel both comfortable and welcome.
The Open Meeting has a chairperson, who conducts the progress of the meeting.Those who take part in the meeting have been chosen beforehand, so a newcomer need not feel intimidated.
Meetings in Toronto generally begin with a moment of silence, followed by The Serenity Prayer. The chairperson or someone s/he has chosen then reads What is AA, qualifies briefly as an alcoholic, notes the importance of anonymity, and may mention that AA is a spiritual, as distinct from a religious, program of recovery.
Someone then reads How it Works, someone else The Twelve Traditions, and, in the Toronto Area , Yesterday Today and Tomorrow is often read. Some groups may add additional readings such as The Promises. After some meeting business (the secretary’s announcements, handing out of chips to mark milestones in early sobriety), one or more people tell their story, which usually takes about 30 minutes. Each group is autonomous and may order the events in any way the group’s conscience sees fit. However, most open meetings generally last about an hour, although attendees are encouraged to stick around, have coffee and talk to people for a while afterward.
Open meetings are a good place to get literature about AA, including the Beginner’s Pamphlet containing the famous “20 Questions,” other AA pamphlets, the city-wide list of meetings, and hard-cover publications such as “Alcoholics Anonymous” (The Big Book) and “12 Steps and 12 Traditions” (the “12 ‘n’ 12”).
Closed meetings may take many forms. The most common are 12-Step discussion meetings where attendees discuss the Steps, ask questions, or share how they’ve used each Step in their daily lives and what results they got when they did. Many “Step discussion” meetings will have multiple rooms with a “Step 1-2-3” room appropriate for beginners; and another rotating step room. Many groups read each step before discussing it and it’s often useful to have a copy of the book, “12 Steps and 12 Traditions,” available from many open meeting library tables throughout the city.
Other closed meeting formats include “Open Topic” discussions, where attendees may discuss the Steps, or raise any topic they feel may affect their sobriety. Here, too, the meeting is a mixture of questions and sharing of experiences.
“Big Book Study” discussion meetings focus on the contents of the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous” from which the organization takes its name. It’s useful to bring a dictionary to these meetings as well as a copy of the Big Book so you can read along.