Is AA Right for You?

Do you think you have a problem with Alcohol? Are you new to Alcoholics Anonymous?

Only you can determine if you think you have a problem with alcohol and whether or not you may need help.

Call the Chicago Area Service Office and a sober alcoholic will be on the other end of the line and will be happy to help. 312-346-1475

Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholics Anonymous

Portions of this section are reproduced from the A.A. pamphlet titled “Frequently Asked Questions About A.A.”

Several million people have probably heard or read about Alcoholics Anonymous since its beginnings in 1935. Some are relatively familiar with the program of recovery from alcoholism that has helped more than 2,000,000 problem drinkers. Others have only a vague impression that A.A. is some sort of organization that somehow helps drunks stop drinking. Included in this section are answers to many of the specific questions that have been asked about A.A. in the past. They add up to the story of a loosely knit society of men and women who have one great interest in common: the desire to stay sober themselves and to help other alcoholics who seek help for their drinking problem.

The thousands of men and women who have come into A.A. in recent years are not altruistic do-gooders. Their eagerness and willingness to help other alcoholics may be termed enlightened self-interest. Members of A.A. appreciate that their own sobriety is largely dependent on continuing contact with alcoholics.

There are many different ideas about what alcoholism really is.

The explanation that seems to make sense to most A.A. members is that alcoholism is an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured but which, like some other diseases, can be arrested. Going one step further, many A.A.s feel that the illness represents the combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol and a mental obsession with drinking, which, regardless of consequences, cannot be broken by willpower alone.

Before they are exposed to A.A., many alcoholics who are unable to stop drinking think of themselves as morally weak or, possibly, mentally unbalanced. The A.A. concept is that alcoholics are sick people who can recover if they will follow a simple program that has proved successful for more than two million men and women.

Once alcoholism has set in, there is nothing morally wrong about being ill. At this stage, free will is not involved, because the sufferer has lost the power of choice over alcohol. The important thing is to face the facts of one’s illness and to take advantage of the help that is available. There must also be a desire to get well. Experience shows that the A.A. program will work for all alcoholics who are sincere in their efforts to stop drinking; it usually will not work for those not absolutely certain that they want to stop.

Category: AA Faq

Only you can make that decision. Many who are now in A.A. have previously been told that they were not alcoholics, that all they needed was more willpower, a change of scenery, more rest, or a few new hobbies in order to straighten out. These same people finally turned to A.A. because they felt, deep down inside, that alcohol had them licked and that they were ready to try anything that would free them from the compulsion to drink.

Some of these men and women went through terrifying experiences with alcohol before they were ready to admit that alcohol was not for them. They became derelicts, stole, lied, cheated, and even killed while they were drinking. They took advantage of their employers and abused their families. They were completely unreliable in their relations with others. They wasted their material, mental, and spiritual assets.

Many others with far less tragic records have turned to A.A., too. They have never been jailed or hospitalized. Their too-heavy drinking may not have been noticed by their closest relatives and friends. But they knew enough about alcoholism as a progressive illness to scare them. They joined A.A. before they had paid too heavy a price.

And only the individual involved can say whether or not alcohol has become an unmanageable problem.

Category: AA Faq

So far as can be determined, no one who has become an alcoholic has ever ceased to be an alcoholic. The mere fact of abstaining from alcohol for months or even years has never qualified an alcoholic to drink “normally” or socially. Once the individual has crossed the borderline from heavy drinking to irresponsible alcoholic drinking, there seems to be no retreat. Few alcoholics deliberately try to drink themselves into trouble, but trouble seems to be the inevitable consequence of an alcoholic’s drinking. After quitting for a period, the alcoholic may feel it is safe to try a few beers or a few glasses of light wine. This can mislead the person into drinking only with meals. But it is not too long before the alcoholic is back in the old pattern of too-heavy drinking — in spite of all efforts to set limits for only moderate, social drinking.

The answer, based on A.A. experience, is that if you are an alcoholic, you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time. That leaves two paths open: to let your drinking become worse and worse with all the damaging results that follow, or to quit completely and to develop a new pattern of sober, constructive living.

Category: AA Faq

There are, of course, no musts in A.A., and no one checks up on members to determine whether or not they are drinking anything. The answer to this question is that if a person is an alcoholic, touching alcohol in any form cannot be risked. Alcohol is alcohol whether it is found in a martini, a Scotch and soda, a bourbon and branch water, a glass of champagne — or a short beer. For the alcoholic, one drink of alcohol in any form is likely to be too much, and twenty drinks are not enough.

To be sure of sobriety, alcoholics simply have to stay away from alcohol, regardless of the quantity, mixture, or concentration they may think they can control.

Obviously, few persons are going to get drunk on one or two bottles of beer. The alcoholic knows this as well as the next person. But alcoholics may convince themselves that they are simply going to take two or three beers and then quit for the day. Occasionally, they may actually follow this program for a number of days or weeks, Eventually, they decide that as long as they are drinking, they may as well “do a good job.” So they increase their consumption of beer or wine. Or they switch to hard liquor. And again, they are back where they started.

Most A.A.s will say that it’s how you drink, not how often, that determines whether or not you are an alcoholic. Many problem drinkers can go weeks, months, and occasionally years between their bouts with liquor. During their periods of sobriety, they may not give alcohol a second thought. Without mental or emotional effort, they are able to take it or leave it alone, and they prefer to leave it alone. Then, for some unaccountable reason, or for no reason at all, they go off on a first-class binge. They neglect job, family, and other civic and social responsibilities. The spree may last a single night, or it may be prolonged for days or weeks.

When it is over, the drinker is usually weak and remorseful, determined never to let it happen again. But it does happen again. This type of “periodic” drinking is baffling, not only to those around the drinker, but also to the person still drinking. He or she cannot understand why there should be so little interest in alcohol during the periods between binges, or so little control over it once the drinking starts. The periodic drinker may or may not be an alcoholic. But if drinking has become unmanageable and if the periods between binges are becoming shorter, chances are the time has come to face up to the problem. If the person is ready to admit to being an alcoholic, then the first step has been taken toward the continuing sobriety enjoyed by thousands upon thousands of A.A.s.

The absence of rules, regulations, or musts is one of the unique features of A.A. as a local group and as a worldwide fellowship. There are no bylaws that say a member has to attend a certain number of meetings within a given period. Understandably, most groups have an unwritten tradition that anyone who is still drinking, and boisterous enough to disturb a meeting, may be asked to leave; the same person will be welcomed back at any time when not likely to disrupt a meeting. Meanwhile, members of the group will do their best to help bring sobriety to the person if there is a sincere desire to stop drinking.

Nothing. Each meeting is self-supporting through our own donations but no donation is ever required to attend a meeting. The A.A. program of recoveryfrom alcoholism is available to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, whether he or she is flat broke or the possessor of millions. Most local groups “pass the hat” at meetings to defray the cost of renting a meeting place and other meeting expenses, including coffee, sandwiches, cakes, or whatever else may be served. In a large majority of the groups, part of the money thus collected is voluntarily contributed to A.A.’s national and international services.

A.A. has no officers or executives who wield power or authority over the Fellowship. There is no “government” in A.A. It is obvious, however, that even in an informal organization, certain jobs have to be done. In the local group, for example, someone has to arrange for a suitable meeting place; meetings have to be scheduled and programmed … responsibilities are rotated as frequently as possible. In general, the Society is a uniquely democratic movement, with no central government and only a minimum of formal organization.

A.A. is not a religious society since it requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. Although it has been endorsed and approved by many religious leaders, it is not allied with any organization or sect. Included in its membership are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, members of other major religious bodies, agnostics, and atheists. The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is undeniably based on acceptance of certain spiritual values. The individual member is free to interpret those values as he or she thinks best, or not to think about them at all.

Today, many of the young people turning to A.A. are in their twenties. Some are still in their teens. Many have never been jailed or committed to institutions. But they have seen the handwriting on the wall. They recognize that they are alcoholics, and they see no point in letting alcoholism run its inevitable disastrous course with them. Their need for recovery is just as compelling as that of the older men and women who had no opportunity to turn to A.A. in their youth.

Chicago, in particular, has a lively Young People in A.A. (YPAA) community. There are lots of meetings, conferences, and events especially for young people and the young at heart. Check the Meetings page and the Calendar for more information.

An open meeting of A.A. is a group meeting that any member of the community, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, may attend. The only obligation is that of not disclosing the names of A.A. members outside the meeting. A closed meeting is for A.A. members only, or for those who have a drinking problem and have a desire to stop drinking. Closed meetings give members an opportunity to discuss particular phases of their alcoholic problem that can be understood best only by other alcoholics.

A group of people sitting together to share their experience, strength, and hope. There are no requirements to attend Open meetings and the only requirement to attend Closed meetings is a desire to stop drinking. Different meetings have different formats and it is a good idea to try a few to find one you might like. However, every meeting is meant to help newcomers and old-timers and everyone in between. You may introduce yourself or not, you choose whether to identify as an alcoholic or not. The choice is yours.

There are over 6,000 meetings in the Chicagoland area at all times of day from early morning to late night. Go to our Meetings page to find one near you.

There are Spanish and Polish speaking meetings and meetings that provide ASL interpreters. Just check our Meeting Finder for one that works for you.

Yes. There are meetings safe for all genders and also meetings that do not specify any gender to attend.

As a friend or family member of a potential alcoholic, it might be best to start by attending an open meeting or attending a meeting of Alanon. You can also read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous if you choose also. These are ways you might gain a better idea of what alcoholism is and how you might want to proceed from there.

Load More