Leading an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? Wonder what topic to discuss? Here's a quick guide to the Sober Speak Meeting Topics we like. Of course, there are many more; these are just a few we love to hear about.
1. Spiritual Awakening- It's fun to hear about everyone's experience with the personality change that brings about recovery from alcoholism in Alcoholics Anonymous. The spiritual awakening is also known as the spiritual experience. There's an explanation of it in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book Appendix II. Appendix II is where the famous quote appears by Herbert Spencer that says "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance--that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
2. Step 1- Step 1 meetings bring us back to the beginning of recovery, or for newcomers, introduce them to recovery. The first step reads:
STEP 1: WE ADMITTED WE WERE POWERLESS OVER ALCOHOL, THAT OUR LIVES HAD BECOME UNMANAGEABLE.
Some AA meeting attendees may have been in a treatment center, others come from churches or a friend told them about Alcoholics Anonymous. It's always fun to hear stories about how members of Alcoholics Anonymous surrendered.
3. Slogans - Keep It Simple, Easy Does It, Live and Let Live, Think, etc. We've heard these in AA meetings or perhaps they are printed and framed in a black frame on the AA meeting room walls. If you've attended AA meetings, you've certainly used these terms or heard them spoken by long-time AA members. A good way to lead off with this topic is to ask how do the slogans help you with sobriety and life in general?
KEEP IT SIMPLE
EASY DOES IT
LIVE AND LET LIVE
BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD
4. Serenity Prayer - The Serenity Prayer is recited at most AA meetings. Sometimes during the opening and sometimes during the closing.
GOD, GRANT ME THE SERENITY
TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE
THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN
AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
This topic opens up the discussion of how this prayer helps each individual. Many times, AA members will have personal stories of reciting the prayer during stressful situations, or when they lost hope. This can be another powerful discussion.
5. Willing to go to any lengths - Willing to go to any lengths comes directly from the AA Big Book in Chapter 5 How It Works:
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.
The topic can go in a few directions for meeting attendees. Some may discuss the steps and how we must be willing to do the steps. Or perhaps someone will bring up what lengths they went to get alcohol, and how they probably use to do anything to get the next "fix". In sobriety, we do the same thing, but instead, we do anything to stay sober.
6. Dealing with difficult people - This is fun, right? Well, it's a fact of life. We will deal with difficult people. I know I have. This is a great topic to learn how others handle this challenge in life. The discussion can go a few ways such as the Serenity Prayer, we can only change ourselves. Or the slogan, live and let live. Again, we can only focus on our own recovery. There is a story in the back of the Big Book called Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict and in it, this story says:
WHEN I AM DISTURBED, IT IS BECAUSE I FIND SOME PERSON, PLACE, THING OR SITUATION - SOME FACT OF LIFE - UNACCEPTABLE TO ME, AND I CAN FIND NO SERENITY UNTIL I ACCEPT THAT PERSON, PLACE, THING OR SITUATION AS BEING EXACTLY THE WAY IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE.
7. Gratitude - Gratitude as an AA meeting topic is an old stand-by. An AA Grapevine article from November of 1957 states that “gratitude and serenity are two sides of the coin of sobriety." It is often said that a grateful alcoholic is a sober alcoholic.
Gratitude is typically brought up in an AA meeting as a topic during the month of November because that month is considered "Gratitude Month" in AA circles but the topic can be used any time of the year.
8. Tradition 3 -
The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Most alcoholics, including myself, feel very fortunate that the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to quit drinking. Thank goodness no one told me the only requirement for membership was that I had to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself and then go out and make direct amends to such people wherever possible would injure them or other people. :) Also, I'm glad that there were no societal status or financial requirements. Do you remember when Tradition 3 resonated with you for the first time?
Ultimately, there is an infinite number of meeting topics for AA meetings. These are just a few to get you started and thinking. A good way to come up with a topic is to have a discussion about what you are working on in your own recovery, or what you'd like to learn about.
9. One Day at a Time - Heading up a beginners meeting or just interested in Getting Back to the Basics? One Day at a Time is always a fan favorite in Alcoholics Anonymous or any other recovery program. Many newcomers can feel overwhelmed considering life without alcohol. The term One Day at a Time is found in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous on page 85. The phrase is used to remind all of us in recovery that we are not "cured" of our illness and that God simply grants us a reprieve One Day at a Time.
Dr. Bob and Bill W used the term when attempting to sober up Bill D (Alcoholic #3) because Bill D was overwhelmed with the thought of stopping drinking "forever." Bill and Bob said to the man "you can quit for 24 hours, can't you?"
Bill D is the "Man in the Bed" portrayed in a painting created for the Grapevine in 1955. Bill D remained sober until the day he died 19 years later.
10. Humility - Humility is closely tied to Step 6 as a topic in AA.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
If it were me, I would probably narrow down the topic and be pointed regarding the topic. Below are some examples.
Is humility the same as humble? What's the difference?
What does it mean to humbly ask?
What are examples of humility you have witnessed both in AA and outside AA?
How do you practice humility in recovery?
How does humility relate to recovery?
What does the Big Book say about humility?
What does humility mean in regards to Step Six of Alcoholics Anonymous?
That should get you started on discussing the subject of humility.
11. Serenity Prayer Full Version – Most of us only know the short version of this prayer. Here is the full version.
God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change...
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
How does this version expand on how we see the prayer? Is it wise just to use the short version?
12. The Promises – We know these so well. We hear them at every meeting and might even know them off by heart.
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change, fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these unrealistic promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will materialize if we work for them.”
Have all of these promises become true for us or only some? Remember that they will materialize if we work for them. There are conditions for these promises to be fulfilled, what are they?
13. Step 9 – This was certainly the scariest step for me.
Step 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
The fear of rejection and opening old wounds is, for most of us, terrifying. We may have apologized in the past only to let people down again. Understandably, the people we are trying to make amends to would be cynical. This applies even more so when you are dealing with family members.
Do we have an unreasonable expectation of what can happen?
Merriam-Webster defines amends as “compensation for a loss or injury.”
Did we steal and how will we offer to repay it?
The other big question in this step is how we will decide if making amends will injure the person we want to make amends to, or if it will hurt others.
And of course, are we just using that as an excuse to avoid conflict?
If they say something, can we practice restraint of tongue?
14. Step 5 – Step 4 is intimidating as we make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Now in step 5, we have to admit it. This takes rigorous honesty.
Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
While step 9 is the scariest step, step 5 is the one where we face humiliation. The person we confess to will probably be our sponsor – how should they handle this? What if something you admit to offends them.
Given all of this, we have to ask why is this step necessary and what does it do to help us on road to sobriety.
15. Too Busy for Meetings – Sometimes we say we are too busy for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I have to say I believe that when you least want to go to a meeting that is when you most need to go.
What effect does this have on our sobriety?
Meetings are a place where we can share our own experiences and listen to the experiences of others.
When we feel too busy for support groups then is our sobriety at risk?
16. Triggers – It is vital to know what triggers a desire to drink. When the triggers strike what do we do?
Phone calls are one of the first things we should think of. Should the next right thing be to look for a meeting because such meetings can help us refocus?
17. Tradition 11 - Attraction is often the way new members are drawn to their first A.A. meeting. The eleventh tradition reads:
Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films
The long version says more:
Our relations with the general public should be characterized by personal anonymity. We think A.A. ought to avoid sensational advertising. Our names and pictures as A.A. members ought not to be broadcast, filmed, or publicly printed. Our public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion. There is never a need to praise ourselves. We feel it better to let our friends recommend us.
18. Service – Service is at the heart of recovery.
So, what service can we do? How does it help the recovery process?
19. Online Meetings – Many of these are open meetings. We use these more in these days of Covid, but for a long time, they have been possible for people far away from meeting places or have a physical disease.
How are they better than face-to-face meetings and how are they worse? Does technology improve or weaken the meeting experience?
20. Maintaining Sobriety – The A.A. preamble states
Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
How do we maintain sobriety and how does the A.A. program help? How do we contribute to others overcoming their alcohol addiction? Consider Bill W’s visit to Doctor Bob when he was battling to avoid a drink.
21. Identify, Don’t Compare – We hear so many stories and there is a danger in that particularly for new members. If we compare, we start to say we weren’t that bad or wonder at how “mild” someone’s alcohol abuse was and that makes us question whether we need to attend A.A. groups at all.
22. God of My Understanding – What do we understand our Higher Power to be? We need to have an open mind when considering this topic. The various ideas of people's higher powers are fascinating.
How do we understand God? Why is the idea of the God of My Understanding important?
23. Step 10 – Recovery is a lifelong process
Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
If we are sober now, isn’t that enough? Explore why it needs to be an ongoing process and what might happen if we stop this constant review. How can we make it part of our daily reflection?
24. The Still Suffering Alcoholic – Why should we bother? The world teaches us to look after number one, but in A.A. the primary purpose is to help others achieve sobriety. Is there anything special we can do in a beginners meeting to ensure those with an alcohol abuse problem want to come back?
25. Addictive Personality – I think that alcoholics are for the most part addictive personalities. A large number engage in drug abuse and are also members of Narcotics Anonymous so they can deal with their drug addiction.
Is the A.A. recovery program enough to help the addictive personality across a spectrum of possible addictions?
26. Mental Illness – A.A. acknowledges that there are those who have mental illnesses and says:
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.
How can we deal with people who may have depression, PTSD, or even schizophrenia?
How can we reach out and bring them into a safe place?
More so when they are new members. Remember that it is very different from physical illness.
27. Sponsorship – This is the greatest service we can render the recovering alcoholic. What are the qualities of a good sponsor and how should they go about being a sponsor? How long should a sponsor have been a member of A.A.?
28. A New Freedom and A New Happiness – We had a drinking problem. Now we can have fun sober. Bill W called this the fourth dimension of existence.
How dark it is before dawn! In reality that was the beginning of my last debauch. I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.
Is this how we feel? Are we filled with the joy of living? If we are then why and if not, why not?
29. Altered Attitudes – In comparison to our past, we changed dramatically, and our attitudes have been altered. If we have become sober but our attitudes are unchanged then we might be what is called a dry drunk. We need to achieve emotional sobriety as well.
Have our attitudes altered or not?
If not, why not and how can we ditch the emotional hangover?
How does this affect our interactions in the real world?
30. How It Works – The steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were the first time that step recovery was used. It is now used for other types of substance abuse, but how does it all fit together?
How does each step logically follow the previous one?
Which are the most important steps or are they all equally important?
Summing Up – These are just a few topic suggestions. Many other possible ones can help make any A.A. meeting a wonderful experience. The A.A. big book is a rich source of possibilities.
For example, I mentioned only two of the twelve traditions, so there are another ten topics right there.
Note: All quotes are from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as the Big Book.