What Is The Primary Purpose Of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? Steps, Meetings, Support?

Updated: Mar 18

The primary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help people with a drinking problem. It’s as simple as that, and they suggest a simple spiritual program to help you get and stay sober.


What is the purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous?

I am a grateful member of a twelve-step program and have been in recovery for a couple of years.


The primary purpose of AA is to help alcoholics that have a drinking problem through the implementation of the following recovery pillars:

  • Meetings

  • Sponsor

  • Step Work

  • Service

  • Higher Power

There will be no recovery, spiritual growth, or freedom from active addiction without action.

Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA as it is fondly known, has been helping alcoholics change their lives since the 1930s. AA will not magically change the alcoholic. Rather the alcoholic magically changes themselves by following the suggested things that worked for millions before them.

The Primary Purpose Of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

The primary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is to carry the message to people who have a drinking problem, who are in the grip of continuing disease. The disease of addiction. The only requirement to join AA is the desire to stop drinking. The message is one of recovery and hope by following a simple spiritual program called Alcoholics Anonymous.

Sounds pretty simple? As millions of alcoholics and addicts can attest, it’s not that simple, but through a program that offers you tools to recover, it’s possible! The most important part of any alcoholic's recovery is accepting that they are powerless against their disease.

It doesn't matter your background story, how much you drank, or the full extent of the damage you caused yourself and others; if you want recovery, then AA can help. Three indispensable attributes are required:

  • Honesty

  • Open-mindedness

  • Willingness

The basic text of AA, known as The Big Book, presented the AA recovery program and was first published in 1939. The book shows other alcoholics how the first hundred people of AA got and stayed sober. Give yourself a break and read it sometime.

The members of AA, or other twelve-step groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), all share a common problem that either involves:

  • A drinking problem.

  • A substance abuse problem is typically referred to as drug addiction.

AA membership through AA meetings is free, and there are no dues to pay. All AA groups are self-sustaining, relying on their own contributions, and will decline all outside contributions. In these room's you will find people living a spiritual, not religious program, called Alcoholics Anonymous.

It's inside of these rooms that hundreds of thousands of addicts have found recovery because one addict helping another is without parallel. Let us discuss why AA works if you work it!

AA Meetings

I remember my first AA meeting like it was yesterday. I was so extremely nervous, didn't know what to expect, what type of people would be there, no clue what-so-ever. When I arrived at the meeting, I was met by a friendly bunch, greeted with a hug or two, offered some coffee, and, although uncomfortable, was made to feel very welcome.

The journey of recovery often starts with regular meeting attendance. In the beginning, a meeting attendance of ninety meetings in ninety days may be suggested to a newcomer. Meetings are where the magic happens; it's where you get to see how the AA program has turned people with the same disease of addiction into productive members of society.

AA started as a fellowship of men by Bill Wilson (Bill W. as he is known in the fellowship) and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935. Today it's a fellowship of people that spans more than 2,000,000 active recovering alcoholics, with over 100,000 support groups, for anyone struggling with alcohol addiction.

When finding AA meetings close to you, the search for a suitable sponsor can begin. Oh, did I mention that some fellowship members will become life-long friends? You can start saying goodbye to your old friends, those still in active addiction, as there is no room in your life for old triggers:

  • People

  • Places

  • Things

Common Types Of Meetings

  • Closed meetings are meetings for recovering alcoholics only, or those wishing to recover from alcohol addiction.

  • Open meetings are meetings where non-alcoholics can join to see what AA is all about.

Common Meeting Formats

  • Speaker meetings – these meetings will have fellow AA members share their experience, strength, and hope regarding their recovery journey.

  • Discussion/Topic meetings – these meetings will have more member interaction/ shares on a specific topic of recovery or any drinking-related issue brought up by the group.

  • Step work meetings are for smaller groups working through the AA program's steps.


Finding A Sponsor

The term sponsor refers to a more senior AA member who has completed the twelve steps with his sponsor and has been sober for a year or more. Nobody understands a newcomer better than a sponsor, the feelings they are experiencing, their fears, and general apprehension for what lies ahead.


The main function of a sponsor is to guide the newcomer through the steps and be there when one struggles with the new way of living that newcomers generally don’t have a clue about. Having a person to share the recovery journey with is priceless, as this relationship often leads to freedom from active addiction and maintenance of sobriety.


Finding a sponsor that you relate to, and feel comfortable with, is suggested as this is the person you need to be 100% honest with. My sponsor knows me better than I know myself and will call me out when my recovery is waning, usually by noticing old behaviors creeping into my day-to-day life.


The Twelve Steps Of AA

When you find yourself in the dark hole of addiction, the only way out is by fighting tooth, hand, and nail. Alcohol is a cunning, baffling, and very powerful enemy, and it takes brutal honesty, willingness, and open-mindedness to arrest its continuing assault on one’s life.

As it states on page 58 of the Big Book: “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.”

Step One

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable,”

Without the true acceptance of this step, admitting total powerlessness when it comes to alcohol, your life will continue to be unmanageable in all areas.


Total surrender is the first step towards freedom from active addiction. Half measures at this stage of the fight will avail you of nothing. The gift of desperation, commonly known as "rock-bottom," makes the first step easier for some.

Step Two

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

One common trademark when an alcoholic arrives at the doors of AA is that we are spiritually, emotionally, and physically bankrupt. We are self-reliant, self-absorbed onto ourselves, super selfish, our own god. The very idea of a power greater than ourselves can be overwhelming, believing in it even more so, as we believe in nothing but ourselves.


Luckily, we are free to choose our own Higher Power, a power greater than ourselves, that can eventually restore us to sanity. A common suggestion is to view the rooms of AA as an initial higher power, as the power found in the rooms (people not drinking) is the power we seek for ourselves.

Step Three

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Addiction is often called self-will running riot. To remove our self-will, which truth be told, got us into this mess in the first place, we need to allow God (Higher Power) entry into our lives.


Faith without action can still keep a Higher Power from working in our lives because we are still firmly in our way, so the handing over process takes time and practice. The effectiveness of the AA program as a whole largely depends on what degree we can hand over our will and lives to the God of our understanding.

Step Four

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

All of us have natural desires imprinted in us that ensure our survival:

  • Sexual

  • Material Security

  • Emotional Security

  • Companionship

Problems start to arise when these natural instincts begin to dominate us, intent on ruling (ruining is a better word) our lives. When we allow our desires to rule, they can start to tyrannize our daily lives, to the point where we can't function as normal human beings.

Participating in a fearless moral inventory of ourselves will ultimately highlight our character defects so that we become aware of them and get the chance to start dealing with this destructive behavior that keeps on repeating in our lives.

Step Five

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Working the steps with brutal honesty is suggested. Admitting to God, another human being, and ultimately ourselves the exact nature of what we have become is scary. But also uplifting, freeing, and needed. Secrets keep you sick, and an alcoholic has a lot of them.

Getting them out into the light makes them lose their power over you, and some of the reasons we drink are to forget them in the first place. I remember that I was filled with guilt and shame when I did my step 5, only to be told by my sponsor that he did much worse things than me.

Freedom from our past allows us to live in the present.

Step Six

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Many of us had been beaten to a pulp by our addiction to alcohol, totally miffed and distraught as to why we were trying to kill ourselves, as it goes against our self-preservation nature. Yet, there we were, destroying ourselves, our families, and everything we came into contact with.

Our character defects made for a dangerous ally in our quest for destruction. No human intervention could rid us of our chemical dependency until the God of our understanding took away our obsession to drink.

Step 5 is the step that separates the men from the boys because any man willing to face himself and try earnestly to become a better version of himself is a man in my book.

Step Seven

“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Humility is a characteristic that the world lacks at the best of times, even more so an alcoholic who believes the world should evolve them. When approaching this step, you must try and do so without pride and arrogance getting in the way, as a modest or low view of one’s importance is required.

I have found that without humility, I can still find myself utterly unhappy while being sober for a long time. The humility to ask your Higher Power to remove your bad parts is both liberating and egoless in principle.

Step Eight

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all."

Every human being has hurt somebody physically, emotionally, or even spiritually during their lifetime. The family members of an alcoholic usually bore the brunt of the hurt caused by the hurricane that is the active alcoholic.

Listing the persons we had harmed acknowledges our part in the pain we caused to others, and if we are willing to make things right, we are smack in the middle of recovering without baggage.

Step Nine

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except where to do so would injure them or others.”

When we start our recovery process, we want to automatically make amends to such people we have caused harm to. It's a natural response, as we are in a position for the very first time actually to mean what we say.

It's the duty of our sponsors to guide us through this process and decide to whom we need to make direct amends and to those we should not. Causing more hurt for the sake of seeking forgiveness is not the AA way. Changing behavior going forward is amends in itself.

Step Ten

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Putting AA to practical use in our daily lives requires self-evaluation of our assets and liabilities on a regular basis. As alcoholics, we struggled with hangovers, which essentially ruined our days.

For us not to experience a different kind of hangover, an emotional one, we often inspect our way of living and acknowledge and rectify errors as they happen. We enjoy life more when no amends are owed.

Step Eleven

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

When we pray, we chat to God; when we meditate, God speaks to us! Conscious contact with our Higher Power gives us strength in our recovery. Including the God of our understanding in our way of existing can lead to a satisfying life, as we are on a spiritual path that forms part of our transformation and recovery.

Step Twelve

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

The last step involves love. Love for oneself, a Higher Power, and the alcoholic who is still in active addiction. The gift of recovery has armed you with experience, knowledge, and hope.

All of these gifts can be freely given to the newcomer, as it was given to me, helping a fellow to attain sobriety, and in the process achieving emotional sobriety for yourself.

Being Of Service

Being of service to other alcoholics is very important for your own recovery and the newcomer looking for a better life. Attending meetings where you share your experience can help the newcomer fight for his life.


Sponsoring that newcomer is being of service, where you give your time to help another as your sponsor did for you. One addict helping another is the glue that keeps us together as a fellowship.


Taking up a service position at a meeting is a great way to keep the doors of AA open and keep your sobriety.

Higher Power

The opposite of addiction is connection. When in active addiction, we tend to isolate ourselves from the world. When we are introduced to recovery, we soon start to see that together we can, alone, we can't.


The relationship between our Higher Power and us is the most important in recovery!

Conclusion

"It works if you work it, so work it; you're worth it!"

References:

Alcoholics Anonymous - A Support Group For Alcoholism (alcoholrehabguide.org)

Alcoholics Anonymous: 12-Steps of AA Recovery Program | Recovery.org

Alcoholics Anonymous - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Have a problem with alcohol? There is a solution. | Alcoholics Anonymous (aa.org)