What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
(And Other Frequently Asked Questions)

Definition of AA

What does AA do?

What AA does not do?

What is a “Closed” or “Open” 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 people 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 (see Closed and Open meeting types).
  • AA members may also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
  • AA members may present information about AA to professionals or organizations interested in AA’s program as a part of its Public Information activities. These presentations about AA are not “AA meetings” as the term is used here.

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What AA does not do

AA does not:

  • 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
  • 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

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What is a “Closed” or “Open” AA Meeting?

A “Closed” meeting is for to alcoholics only, for those who have a drinking problem and “have a desire to stop drinking.” Closed meetings are indicated as such on our meeting list.

All other meetings are “Open” meetings. Open meetings may be attended by anyone interested in Alcoholics Anonymous’ program of recovery. Non-alcoholics may attend open meetings as observers only.

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What kinds of AA meeting are there?

The format of meetings vary from meeting to meeting. 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), 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.
  • Step meetings involve discussion of one or more of the Twelve Steps of AA. Often one step is discussed in each meeting, in numerical order.
  • Other Literature meetings in which other AA literature is read and used as a point of discussion.
  • Discussion meetings in which one member (the “chairperson” of that meeting) shares their own story and selects a topic for discussion. Attendees then share their own experiences and their struggle and (hopefully) success in dealing with their alcohol problem.
  • Speaker meetings in which one or more members selected beforehand share their experience, telling what they were like, what happened, and what they are like now. Speaker meetings usually do not have a discussion period.
  • Focused Meetings include those reserved for women only, men only, members of the LGBTQ community, and the like. This is shown on our web site meeting list and on our printed schedules.  Please respect this focus when choosing a meeting to attend.

In accordance with our Third Tradition, each group is autonomous except in matters affecting their groups or AA as a whole; therefore, members are free to start meetings of any type and focus based on their own needs in maintaining their sobriety.

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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.

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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, each of whom 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 (see IOC, below)

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

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

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What is the Intergroup Operating Committee (IOC)?

The Intergroup Operating Committee (IOC)  is comprised of Intergroup Representatives who made themselves available for this service. Members of the IOC are elected in the Intergroup meeting by other Intergroup representatives.

Responsibilities of the IOC include:

  • Carrying out the decisions of the Intergroup, including addressing any day-to-day issues that may arise
  • Making recommendations to the Intergroup
  • Directing the Service Center Special Servants

The IOC is comprised of 11 positions, including three officers and heads of eight committees.

Officer positions include:

  • Chairperson
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer

Committees include:

  • 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

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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).

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