Table of Contents
Support Groups for Recovery
With over 10k monthly searches for “AA near me,” the world’s most popular and effective recovery program has withstood the tests of time. Finding the path to recovery can be incredibly challenging but having a community of people who have shared your experiences can guide, motivate, and support individuals currently on the road to sobriety. For this reason, it is no wonder so many have flocked to the peer-run non-profit paragon of addiction recovery programs, Alcoholics Anonymous.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
With over two million members and over 115,000 peer-run groups worldwide, Alcoholics Anonymous is perhaps the most widely recognized and used alcohol recovery program.
Alcoholics Anonymous’s core philosophy involves accepting our loss of control and efficacy in the face of addiction and understanding the existence of a “Higher Power” which provides us strength and resolve on our journey to recovery. The typical path of those in AA is described in their 12-Steps, which also serve as a roadmap for others seeking sobriety.
While AA’s reliance on a higher power often makes non-religious individuals hesitate, members reinforce that it is not critical to believe in God to experience the benefits of AA. It’s up to each member to decide what their “higher power” is – whether that’s God, the universe, or something more personal.
History of AA
AA began with a chance meeting between two then-alcoholics, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, in Akron, Ohio, in 1935. Dr. Smith had been detoxing from recent alcohol abuse when he crossed paths with Bill, himself a recovering alcoholic, looking to improve upon and share the methods that had helped him find sobriety. Together, the two developed the 12-Steps that form the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous.1
By 1939, Bill and Bob had successfully helped their first one hundred informal AA members embrace sobriety and collaborated with them to develop the group’s core text, The Big Book.
How do AA Meetings Work?
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are peer-run, meaning that each local group will run a bit differently. However, most AA meetings tend to follow a similar structure.
All Alcoholics Anonymous meetings emphasize anonymity to ensure members feel safe sharing their experiences without fear of retribution. Additionally, veteran members often encourage new members to elect someone as their sponsor to guide them through AA and sober living.
Meetings typically take one of several formats: they are either open or closed to the public and are often either “Discussion” or “Speaker” sessions. Speaker meetings will feature a main speaker who will explore a subject or one of the 12-Steps, before opening the room for discussion. Discussion-centered Alcoholics Anonymous meetings offer each member the opportunity to share their experiences, although sharing is never mandatory.
To become a member of AA, the only requirement is a desire to quit drinking. It is also highly encouraged that new members attend ninety meetings in their first ninety days.
Online AA meetings are typically quite similar to AA meetings. AA Online still requires anonymity, although there have been questions about the reliability of confidentiality through online AA meetings. However, Online AA carries several benefits when compared to in-person meetings.
With AA Online, more people can regularly attend, whereas before they may have been prevented by distance, work obligations, or family responsibilities. Now, there are over 115,000 Online AA meetings held each week. To explore upcoming online AA meetings, head to AA’s online meeting directory1.
The Benefits of AA Meetings
While AA has been around for nearly a century, the fellowship continues growing, with annual searches for “AA near me” only continuing to increase. AA meetings are great facilitators of emotional connections, and its structure as a peer-run fellowship helps hold members accountable to their goals, motivated by new bonds and supportive relationships.
While AA stays away from teaching strategies, members can learn and gain inspiration from the coping techniques that have guided other members to success. A final perk of AA meetings: all meetings are free to attend, making it an attractive possibility for individuals unable to pay for more expensive sobriety programs.
How do I Find AA Near Me?
Although many people struggling with addiction find themselves curious about AA, they may also get stumped at the question, “is there AA near me?” and “how can I find AA near me?” The most direct way to find in-person, local AA meetings is through Alcoholics Anonymous’ website.2
For online AA meetings, check out AA’s Intergroup Directory.3 You can find more information about “AA near me” by visiting your local clinic or rehab center.
Alternatives for Sober Living
For people maintaining a sober lifestyle, there are several methods to reinforce the teachings of AA and build wellness into your life.
Sober living communities offer an incredibly supportive environment filled with people who have shared your journey, understand your struggles, and help hold you accountable. These positive relationships and the strength of the bonds help balance loving understanding with the support to stay resolved in your commitment to sobriety.
Health and fitness also play a critical role in sober living, as sustaining a healthy lifestyle can help curb cravings and keep us in a mentally healthy space. Other activities – like art projects, animal therapy, gardening, exercising, or playing games – can also act as helpful distractions when cravings come calling.
Other Support Groups
Alcoholics Anonymous itself has served as the inspiration for over 130+ support groups that have adapted the 12-Steps to their areas of focus and programs. However, many alternative programs exist for those who find they do not resonate or benefit from AA meetings.
Developed in 1994, SMART Recovery (Self Management and Recovery Training) is a peer-run, secular, science-based alternative to AA’s 12-Steps. This system also differs from AA in its perception of addiction as chronic bad habits that heals with individual empowerment and accountability, rather than a disease that requires reliance on external power.4
Emphasizing empowerment, SMART Recovery uses techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing to provide people with the tools that will help them succeed on their path to recovery. Currently, SMART Recovery hosts roughly 1500 in-person meetings and over fifty online meetings around the world each week.
LifeRing Recovery was founded in 1994 on the principles of Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Empowerment, and features a peer-run, science-backed approach to sobriety. An emphasis on understanding the root trigger of addiction is supported, but participants are wholeheartedly encouraged to incorporate any teachings or principles that resonate and help them.5
LifeRing Recovery hosts over 200 in-person meetings worldwide as well as daily online meetings, a chatroom, and email support groups.
Also founded in 1994, Moderation Management was designed to help non-dependent problem drinkers reduce their alcohol intake. Created by self-described problem-drinker Audrey Kishline who felt the disease model of alcoholism eroded her confidence, Kishline sought to create a program that was not about sobriety but about managing alcohol consumption in alignment with individual goals.6
Moderation Management encourages members to set personal drinking limits and teaches goal-setting techniques and a nine-step CBT-based system.