The official wording of the introduction to Alcoholics Anonymous that is read out at AA meetings, which is known as the AA preamble, gives a clear if slightly awkward message, that Alcoholics Anonymous is a completely independent organisation, that has no affiliation with any outside body or enterprise, is completely free to all its membersand, raises money by donations at meetings to cover the cost of rent/tea and coffee etc.
As with many organisations, it is sometimes easier to describe what Alcoholics Anonymous is not rather than what it is. Both are important. To most people Alcoholics Anonymous is a place that people go when they have a pretty serious drink problem that they need to deal with in the hope that they will be able to stop drinking. Beyond that most people don’t necessarily know that much.
Essentially Alcoholics Anonymous is a body of experience of a number of individuals that reach into the many millions who have been able to overcome their problem with alcohol that otherwise they probably would not have been able to. This level of experience is recorded in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous that is available for anyone to buy either through the organisation itself or online or at numerous bookstalls.
Individual members of Alcoholics Anonymous meet regularly at various venues that are normally held in church halls and community centres etc where people often share their own stories about their drinking, what happened to them and what they do in order to try and stay sober. The nature of the stories can vary widely, as do the individuals concerned.
As with many organisations there is a theory and a reality in one sense. Alcoholics Anonymous should be as described above in terms of a body of experience that people can tap into and use in their own lives as they feel appropriate. One of the aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it’s body of experience and its 12th step program has been widely used in rehabs and treatment centres, often adapted very widely and with varying levels of appropriateness.
In addition, many rehabs will actively encourage clients to attend meetings of AA and other 12 step fellowships whilst in rehab, and once they have left as a way of maintaining their sobriety. This has given rise to much confusion as to whether AA and other 12 step fellowships are connected or have any type of financial association with a rehab treatment center.
They do not and most certainly should not. It is also the case that many people who either own or working a rehab or treatment center are recovering or recovered alcoholics and are members of Alcoholics Anonymous themselves. There is no other connection.