Glossary of AA: Important 12 Step Terminology to Know

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For some people who are new to Alcoholics Anonymous, the terminology can sound like a foreign language. To help you feel better prepared to attend a meeting, we’ve compiled a glossary of important and commonly used AA terms.

AA Group: Set of meetings that happen on a recurring basis. In this group, peers gather to support each other within their own community.

Carry The Message: The primary purpose of AA is to help members stay sober and to have them, in turn, help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Big Book: The Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, which describes the 12 step program and how one can recover from addiction.

12 Steps: The spiritual program guided by the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The purpose of the steps is to help individuals recover from compulsive, out-of-control behaviors and restore manageability and order to their lives.

12 Traditions: General guidelines for healthy relationships between the group, members and other groups.

12 Concepts: Principles to help ensure that various elements of A.A.’s service structure remain responsive and responsible to those they serve.

Three Legacies: The Three Legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous are Recovery, Unity, and Service.

Anonymity: AA is totally anonymous, not only to protect individuals but also the organization. Members are not allowed to speak on behalf of AA to the media.

Fellowship: A term for the society or fraternity of AA.

Member: Based on the Third Tradition, the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Home Group: Meeting that an AA member attends on a weekly/recurring basis.

Sponsor: An AA member who serves as a mentor to a newcomer in the program. A sponsor typically helps a sponsee to work the 12 Steps, shares their personal experience, strength, and hope, and helps the sponsee stay on the recovery track.

Chair: Service position, filled by an AA member, that runs the meeting.

Preamble: The short description of AA that is often read out loud at the start of AA meetings.

Crosstalk: Crosstalk is giving advice, questioning, interrupting, or speaking directly to another person rather than to the group. It is prohibited at most meetings.

Service Position: Any position at a meeting that serves the greater group: chair, co-chair, secretary, greeter, treasurer, hospitality, etc. These positions are elected during the business meetings.

Secretary Break: Secretary makes any announcements pertinent to the meeting and proceeds with the 7th tradition.

7th tradition: Meetings are self-supportive and rely on donations from members to pay for expenses such as rent. A basket is usually passed around to collect money, although it is not obligated to provide.

Anniversary: Members are asked to share their sobriety milestones of 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, etc. up to 1 year and then 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, etc. This usually happens during the secretary break.

Chips: Members receive coins to mark milestones such as 90 days or a year.

Burning Desire: Usually, at the end of the meeting, the chair asks if anyone has a burning desire to use or drink or harm themselves or others. This is also an opportunity for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to share, to share.

Clichés: Most AA meetings display a set of small posters with messages like: “First things first,” “Easy does it,” etc. These are often called clichés.

Keep Coming: A saying that members use to encourage newcomers to keep coming back.

It Works If You Work It: A popular saying that members use to encourage members to be fully involved in the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions.

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