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AA- The Program. The Fellowship. Two Different Things

Updated on October 21, 2014

The Program/ The Fellowship

AA 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. This is the Preamble of AA that is read at the beginning of every meeting. This is the sole purpose of AA. This is done, with the use of what is known by members as "The Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's a 164 page outline on not only getting sober, but to stay sober and lead a normal life and better by creating spiritual serenity. It is not based on any religion, race, occupation, social standing or political interests. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. We refer to a higher power of our own individual understanding. This outline is based on 12 steps to get out of yourself, clean house, and help another alcoholic to achieve sobriety.

The true fellowship of AA is the relationship of each person reaching out to each other in support of their quest for sobriety. Not to teach lessons out of a book, but to express to another member, new and older, how they stayed sober. In other words, they speak only of their own experience. These people learn from each other; support each other in tough times, and strive to let problem people know that they are not unique or alone. In the book it states," rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path."

The fellowship of AA is outside of the meetings as well as in the meetings. This is where you take the tools you have acquired in meetings and apply them to the real world. You get a sponsor. That's like a mentor. That's someone chosen, by you, that has experienced many of the issues that you have. Someone to confide in on a one on one basis. Someone you trust and get a little closer to. Someone you can call anytime. Your "go to guy", if you will.

The fellowship also participates in entertaining things such as golf, dances, dinners and holiday celebrations. It's a new set of friends when you decide to part ways with the old drinking buddies.

That's the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Unfortunately, AA is not immune from having cliques, drama and people with ulterior motives for being there. AA has a saying that is very important to the success of each of it's members. That saying is, "Stick with the winners". This means that if you want to learn and grow socially and spiritually, you'll associate with the people that are also there for that reason. You may think, "Why would anyone go to AA meetings if they don't care to get and stay sober." You'll be surprised at all the reasons some people are there, other than to achieve sobriety. I'll start with a list of those reasons so you have a little insight when going to your first meetings.

Motives for Attendance

There are many reasons that people attend AA meetings other than to get sober. This is by no means to alienate any one from going to meetings. Many have been forced to go and found they to had a problem they could not control on their own and their motives changed. Now they go because they want to; not because they have to. They say "Bring the body; the mind will follow." But this doesn't always hold true. That's what can be an issue for the new person. Don't forget the saying," Misery enjoys company."

First and foremost, many people attending are court ordered to AA meetings. This can actually be considered part of a sentence or a requirement of a probation officer. They do this with the hopes that something will put a person on the right path. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. The ones that it doesn't, treat it like it is a sentence rather than an opportunity to change their life. Those are the ones that will preach how AA doesn't work and it's nothing more than a bunch of whiners feeling sorry for themselves. There is nothing further from the truth. They tell their stories so others can identify with events in their life that they may not see as a problem. Remember, active alcoholics don't believe they are alcoholics and that certain negative behaviors are normal. They don't recognize things as problematic.

Then there are those that attend because they are in fear of losing their job. Their bosses have given them the ultimatum to go or be fired because of poor attendance or poor performance.

There are those that are there because their spouse has told them to get it together or get out.

There are those that have to attend as part of their living arrangement.

Now it gets ugly, but real.

You have them that go looking for a handout. They know true AA people are very generous and giving. They may be looking for a place to live, some work, a meal or even a cash handout. You also have what we call "13 steppers" These, usually men, are those that will project themselves as mentors, a helping hand, a father figure. They prey on the young, newer person that is in the program that is extremely vulnerable in every way. Their intentions are far from generous. They are self serving at best. I call them "bottom feeders". You also have the ones that attend to find cheap labor. Many people new to AA are people that just lost everything. Many just got out of jail or rehab or even a drug house. They have nothing, including a job. To these people, any money at all is better than where they have been and are willing to work for just about anything. Unfortunately, there are those who know that and take advantage of that for their own profit. Some will even brag about how they provide work for the needy. Again, sad but true.

There is also those that treat it like a soap opera. Yes, there is a grapevine in AA too. I have heard gossip that you couldn't find in an Enquirer.

Please realize, any fellowship, organization, club or social group is made up of individuals with individual ideas and motives. Yes, even AA.

Purpose and Summary of This Hub

I absolutely feel horrible to see someone walk away from what could possibly save their life for the wrong reasons. Most people that trash AA are the ones that are in denial of their own addiction and can't stand to hear what may be the truth. Rather than to admit that they are the problem, it's easier to declare that AA is the problem. They will say that AA doesn't work. See, AA doesn't do the work to keep you sober. You do the work. AA just provides the instructions. You can buy a $10,000 treadmill and you won't lose a pound if you don't get on it. Rather than to take the chance that you may go to AA and recognize a problem in them, they would rather tell you it's a waste of time and keep you away from the truth. Don't let this happen. Judge for yourself, How many times has someone told you a movie was awful only for you to watch it and think it's one of the best movies you have ever seen?A lot? Give it a chance.

Don't let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch, as we learned as kids. This program really works, if you work it. Even if you are ordered by a court or job, go. Keep an opened mind and you may find that AA is not some kind of brainwashing cult. We want nothing from you. You, as a new person is a big part of how we stay sober.

As we say in AA, if you don't like what we have, we will gladly refund your misery. AA currently has approximately 2 million sober members worldwide. We must be doing something right.

If you have a problem, think maybe there is a problem or want to prove that you don't have a problem, please join us at a meeting somewhere. You are always welcome. We have meetings that are opened to anyone, meetings for men only, women only, gay/lesbian meetings, lead meetings, discussion groups, Big Book studies and about anything that you would feel comfortable in. People will graciously shake your hand, introduce themselves and go out of their way to make you feel that you are among friends. You are. We say, "There are no strangers here. Only friends that you haven't met yet."

I hope this will put to rest some of the negative things you hear and have kept you away. I promise you that this will cost you nothing but a little of your time and the rewards can be endless. Again, GIVE IT A CHANCE!!!!!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • profile image

      Large Print Dave 

      24 months ago

      Interesting opinion if you read to page 17 of the book you’ll find that in the “powerful cement that binds us together “and I’m quoting this there is a solution upon which we can absolutely agree found in this book and THAT is the basis of unity. It literally says that the fellowship in itself and escape from our common peril would not hold us together in and of itself.

    • livingelysian profile image

      Elysia Valdivia 

      4 years ago from Loveland, Colorado

      Excellent hub! I often ask my sponcees to write down the difference between the program and the fellowship and read it to me. This is a benefit that goes both ways, as I am prone to "miss" things or see them from one viewpoint.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I will soon rewrite this hub soon. In the years since publishing this, I have learned so much and the value of how these 2 parts of AA work together as parts of a complete experience. I think readers will enjoy reading not only the value of both, but how the roles of both change as my journey continues. It's pretty cool. Thanks for your comment.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great overview of this program.

    • IDONO profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Akron Ohio

      Poetic: Don't get banned yet! At least till you read hub. It's up. Thanks.

    • PoeticFailosophy profile image

      Diana F. King-Fyre :: DECEASED, 1962-2014, Rest in Peace 

      6 years ago from Cuzco, Peroo

      Cool, I look forward to it. My account is probably going to be banned soon, but just so you know, you're one of my faves!

    • IDONO profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Akron Ohio

      Poetic: Thank you. Rather than to try to respond in a comment, I will address this in a hub. It's a great question and I appreciate the opportunity and your open mindedness to entertain a response to the issue you speak of. Watch for it. I may try to publish one tonight.

    • PoeticFailosophy profile image

      Diana F. King-Fyre :: DECEASED, 1962-2014, Rest in Peace 

      6 years ago from Cuzco, Peroo

      Some people say AA is cultish. How do you respond to that? Just curious, I know nothing about AA.

    • IDONO profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Akron Ohio

      And to add, speaking for myself, no genuine member of AA feels that AA is the only way to get sober. Many people get sober through counseling, churches or just reading books. Some quit drinking on their own willpower. Most of those are not actual alcoholics. Not everyone that drinks too much is. I'm partial to AA because it offers so much more than just quitting drinking and it costs nothing. No insurance needed. Just a bunch of people trying to stay sober. When a person walks into an AA meeting for the first time, they see people smiling, laughing, shaking hands and even joking. This gives them hope, right there. You can't find that in any counselors office or classroom. And it's real. Thanks again.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      You're welcome. It's hard for people to admit they need help. So at least if they take that first step, somewhere in the back of their mind they know they can't do it alone. AA is good, even if that's just the starting point, it gets people going in the right direction.

    • IDONO profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Akron Ohio

      Thank you Jean. Your comment reinforces the purpose of this hub. These are the actions of individuals, not of AA. AA is a program of attraction, not promotion. They don't advertise and don't recruit. Like every program in existence, you will have some take things to extreme. Born again, if you will. The higher power is not meant to be religious. But since an alcoholic's higher power was alcohol, it needs replaced with something positive. That's why AA refers to this as a higher power of your own understanding. AA is like a diet. You put good things in and good things will happen. AA never claimed to be a gateway to heaven. That's the Bible's job. But AA will make life better while you are here. Thank you for your comment.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I think AA works for some, but not others. Many times in self help groups you meet people a lot more messed up than you are, and if they enter into your life, they can bring you down. Most get addicted to smoking and drinking too much coffee. Everyone has to find a different coping mechanism. AA is great if it works for some, but most of the people I know in it get preachy. They take the religious part too seriously and try to push it on those of us who are not drinkers. It's worth a try, anything is worth trying if it's ruining your life.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      My friend, I think we are all --- aholics. We find ourselves addicted to one thing of another.

      friendship and honor and a place where we can hug one another is the brutal slayer of demons that haunt us all.

      Let it be known that the halls of the AA are halls for all of us to get better at this damned thing called life.

      I am not always sober, but I am always better when I share and listen to others. I do not tote the big book or the bible. But i got you.


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