What is AA? (And Other Frequently Asked Questions)

Definition of AA

What does AA do?

What AA does not do?

What is a “Closed” AA meeting?

What other kinds of meetings are available?

How do I know I am an alcoholic?

What services are provided at the Service Center?

Who “runs” the Contra Costa Service Center?

What is the Intergroup Operating Committee?

How is the Service Center Funded?

Definition of Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Copyright © by The AA Grapevine, Inc.

What does AA do?

    • AA members share their experience with others seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to AA from any source.
    • AA provides a community and fellowship to support our efforts to overcome alcoholism. Members encourage and help each other to stay sober, and help the alcoholic that still suffers to get and stay sober.
    • The AA program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol. This program is discussed at AA group meetings (see below). Attendance at an open AA meeting is the best way to learn what AA is, what it does, and what it does not do.
    • AA members may also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
    • AA members may be asked to conduct the informational meetings about AA as a part of Public Information programs. These meetings about AA are not regular AA group meetings.

Back to Top

What AA does not do

  • Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover
  • Solicit members
  • Engage in or sponsor research
  • Keep attendance records or case histories
  • Join “councils” of social agencies
  • Follow up or try to control its members
  • Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses
  • Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalization, drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment
  • Offer religious services
  • Engage in education about alcohol
  • Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other welfare or social services
  • Provide domestic or vocational counseling
  • Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-AA sources
  • Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials

Back to Top

What is a “Closed” AA Meeting?

A Closed meeting is for to alcoholics only, for those who have a drinking problem and “have a desire to stop drinking.”

Those meetings not indicated as “closed” are open meetings. Open meetings are available to anyone interested in Alcoholics Anonymous’ program of recovery from alcoholism. Nonalcoholics may attend open meetings as observers.

Back to Top

What other kinds of meeting are available?

The format of meeting types vary from area to area. In fact, members are free to start groups with formats and focus that they find most useful in their recovery – thus the many meeting formats.

In the area served by the Contra Costa Service Center (most of Contra Costa County), these meeting types are generally understood to be as follows:

  • Big Book meetings use the book entitled Alcoholics Anonymous (published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services) known to members as the “Big Book”, as a point of discussion. Often members will take turns reading from the book. A passage may inspire a thought related to our recovery.
  • Discussion meetings include one member (the “chairperson” of that meeting) selecting a topic. Attendees then share their own experiences and their struggle and (hopefully) success in dealing with their alcohol problem.
  • Speaker meetings: One or more members selected beforehand share their experience, telling what they were like, what happened, and what they are like now.
  • Step meetings involve discussion of one of the Twelve Steps of AA. Often one step is discussed in each meeting, in numerical order.

Back to Top

How do I know if I am an alcoholic?

  • Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?
  • Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
  • Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking– stop telling you what to do?
  • Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk?
  • Has your drinking caused trouble at home?
  • Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don’t mean to?
  • Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble?
  • Do you have “blackouts”?
  • Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year?

According to the AA World Service, if you answer “yes” to four or more of the above questions, you probably have a problem.

Back to Top

Who “runs” the Service Center?

Consistent with the bottom-up tradition of direction and authority in AA, all significant decisions and guidance regarding the Service Center is provided by the Intergroup Representatives, who are elected by their groups. These decisions include:

  • Deciding what services to provide at the Service Center
  • Approving budgets and budgetary decisions
  • Authorizing Intergroup-sponsored activities
  • Electing members of the Intergroup Operating Committee.

Intergroup decisions are made by by vote during the Intergroup meeting held each month.

The Operating Committee members are elected from among Intergroup Representatives to carry out these decisions. The IOC also addresses day-to-day issues that arise in implementing the decisions made by the Intergroup.

The Special Workers report to, and are directed by, the Operating Committee.

Back to Top

What is the Intregroup Operating Committee?

The Intergroup Operating Committee (IOC) members are Intergroup Representatives who have made themselves available for this service. They are elected in the Intergroup meeting by other Intergroup representatives.

Intergroup Operating Committee (IOC) is comprised of 11 positions, including three officers. Officer positions include:

  • Chairperson
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer

Other members include heads of the following committees:

  • Audio
  • Membership
  • Special Events
  • Office Volunteers
  • Service
  • Public Information
  • Publishing
  • Telephone

Duties of the Intergroup Operating Committee include:

  • Managing the day-to-day activities of the Service Center in pursuit of the goals and objectives set by the Intergroup representatives
  • Making recommendations regarding situations as they arise which requires approval or guidance from the representatives
  • Overseeing the Special Workers

Back to Top

How is the Service Center Funded?

The primary and preferred source is the financial contribution from the groups within in the service area. Approximately half of the Service Center budget is from this source.

Additional funding sources include the various fund-raising special events, revenue from the sale of books, Buck-of-the-Month Club and Birthday Club members.

The monthly financial report of the Service Center is published each month in the Communique, approximately on Page 22 (varies per month).

Back to Top