The AA Preamble…what is it and why is it important?
Most individuals think of two specific things when they reflect on recovery: Alcoholics Anonymous and rehab.
This is because A.A. has been a powerhouse in recovery communities for 80+ years.
It’s rare to find an individual who hasn’t at least heard of the organization.
I’d argue that one of the primary reasons it has continued to flourish is largely due to the group meetings being standardized and consistent.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Florida or New England the meeting’s are run the same, using the same guidelines, starting the same way, utilizing the same moment of silence followed by the same Serenity Prayer and the same preamble.
Heck, you can go to Iceland and its the same darn thing!
However, not everyone in the meetings take the time to dissect and internalize every word of the Big Book, the serenity prayer, or the AA preamble.
They often go through one ear and out the other!
Here at the SOBERTOSTAY we go to great lengths to break these things down to make them more palatable, relatable, and personal.
We want these things to have an impact – they exist for a reason!
In this article, we are going to focus on the Alcoholics Anonymous Preamble and how it creates the unbreakable foundation of AA meetings and all the other 12-Step groups.
It’s the cornerstone that unites all people in 12-step recovery circles.
The Preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous…
The AA preamble reads as follows:
“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 A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. 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.”
What’s brilliant about the preamble is it covers a wide range of topics in a very limited space.
It explicitly sets the tone and provides everyone who attends an AA meeting with the fundamentals: what to expect and what the objective is.
This two-paragraph creed plays a larger role than a pure description of AA.
Allow me to break the preamble down, what I like to call the John Madden play-by-play.
In the following section I will unravel the genius the preamble communicates.
The AA Preamble Is A Code For The Community
The preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous starts, “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other…”
This doctrinal statement hits the ground running.
It immediately provides the necessary information on how a group is conducted.
The meetings have one purpose: to share experience, strength, and hope.
Experience! Not advice. No thou shalt nots. No dogma. No lectures. Simply experience.
This is critical.
It encourages people to operate with an open mind and communicate what has worked and what hasn’t worked for them.
This breeds authenticity.
It’s a no nonsense approach.
People are more likely to listen, connect, and bond with one another when individual experience is shared boldly, vulnerably, and wholeheartedly.
A huge barrier for addicts and alcoholics is a refusal to accept outside help.
Alcoholics Anonymous creates an atmosphere of security so people can finally put their guard down. This is the dynamic power of shared experience.
This also communicates an expectation that you are willing to share your experience.
Maybe not on day one, but that you’ll benefit the most from the meeting by doing so.
There is a saying in the rooms of AA: “pain shared is pain lessened.”
Sharing is an excellent means to release all the bottled up emotions, built up stress, and pent-up frustrations.
The goal of sharing is also a core component.
The individual shares not just for themselves but with the goal to possibly help another.
To illustrate, I recall in my early days being enslaved by anxiety. I wanted to speak but my fear always shut me down.
I compared how I felt to how other people looked and it never matched up. I was so different. My level of brokenness was certainly beyond repair.
Then I heard a gentleman who spoke of his anxiety and fears. He shared the insane internal dialogue that I thought I alone possessed.
He told my story, my feelings, and my loneliness.
At that moment I wasn’t so alone.
His courageous share gave me clearer understanding and insight; it was the key that would soon release me from the bonds of anxiety.
I finally felt understood; I finally felt secure.
The AA Preamble Provides Purpose And A Goal
The preamble is the mission statement for every meeting, everywhere.
Mission Statement: a formal summary of the aims and values of an organization or individual.
The preamble continues, “…share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.”
This clearly states the mission statement: to serve a collective goal of helping members recover from their struggles with alcoholism.
As I alluded to in the above experience I shared, one of the primary core values of Alcoholics Anonymous is “you’re never alone.”
Any old timer in the rooms of AA will tell you that working the steps without strong social support (meetings) and individual instruction (sponsorship) is damn near impossible.
The preamble provides the foundation for self-improvement: fellowship.
The AA Preamble Decimates Discrimination
The second paragraph of the preamble is a statement about the openness of the organization. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and a core value of AA is that it doesn’t either.
The second paragraph of the preamble declares the inclusivity of the organization.
We all know that addiction doesn’t discriminate.
It targets doctors, lawyers, sanitization workers, counselors, teachers, clerks, and laborers. The list could go on and on.
However, recovery doesn’t discriminate either.
AA emphasizes this fact at jump street.
“The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”
Since desire can only be measured by the individual, all our welcome who wish in some degree to quit drinking.
Just a pinch of willingness is needed.
The preamble continues to demonstrate the degree of it’s inclusivity:
“There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. 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.”
This passage testifies to the radical openness of the meetings. The preamble dashes discrimination on the rocks across the board: AA doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of race, class, religion, politics, gender or any other demographic factor.
Considering the importance of “feeling a part of” for the newcomer the preamble is an attempt to conquer the utter loneliness of addiction on the front end so no individual will ever feel unwelcome.
And this is true no matter where they are in the world.
A Takeaway From The AA Preamble
When we examine the AA preamble in its entirety, we discover the sum of its parts communicates one powerful message: It’s a group, open to everyone, that focuses on fellowship and shared experiences to serve the common and collective goal of recovery from addiction.
Why is it recited at the beginning of every meeting?
Well, it serves as a reminder to every person in the meeting that recovery is a team effort; it’s a commitment to one another as we “trudge the road of happy destiny.”
See you on the road!
Below is a link to a download a PDF version of the Preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous to be used at your discretion.