Alcoholics Anonymous (or AA) was founded for the specific purpose of helping members achieve and maintain sobriety from alcohol. AA is based on anonymity, and has, at its core, a 12-step program of spiritual growth and character development. To become a member, you must have a problem with alcohol and a desire to stop drinking. Members share their experiences and support one another in their quest to stay sober. There are two types of AA meetings – open or closed.

  • Open AA meetings: Anyone interested in learning more about AA can attend an open meeting, including family members of alcoholics, or those with drug addictions. These meetings usually feature a speaker who shares his or her story, including what their life is like today in recovery.
  • Closed AA meetings: Only AA members or those who believe they have a problem with alcohol can attend closed meetings. Members often prefer closed meetings, knowing that others in the group are committed to both the 12-step program and to anonymity. This makes it easier for group members to share their personal experiences, knowing that others in the group can relate, be supportive, and respect their anonymity.

What’s the difference between AA and NA?

AA programs were designed to support alcohol addiction and recovery, while NA helps individuals suffering from addictions to any substances, including street drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol. Unlike AA, the NA approach tends to focus more on addictive behavior, rather than on the actual substance being abused.

Al-Anon and Alateen

While AA supports those seeking to control their own use of alcohol, Al-Anon focuses on supporting those adversely affected by another person’s drinking problems. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and is geared toward younger individuals, usually through the teens, affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. These programs not only provide coping skills, but also provide insights as to how best to support recovering alcoholics.

AA, NA, Al-Anon, and Alateen all operate on principles of the original 12-step program founded in 1935. Research has shown that participants of a 12-step program have the best chance for lifelong sobriety, which is why this model is so widely used in drug and alcohol treatment centers worldwide.

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