12 Types Of People At AA Meetings - Alcoholics Anonymous Members You'll Meet

types of people at aa meetings alcoholics anonymous members NA member

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings are a melting pot of people from all walks of life. You will meet members and visitors from all nationalities, ethnicity, religions, sexual orientations, ages, socioeconomic status, creeds, and levels of addiction. It is a melting pot of people who are mostly there for the same reason: to get and stay clean and sober while improving their quality of life. 

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Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step Meetings have been a more common and accepted part of popular culture in recent years. You see AA, meetings, sponsors, and sobriety often on TV shows like This Is Us, Mom, Breaking Bad, House Of Cards, Jersey Shore Family Vacation, and Maron along with movies and reality television. As silly as it sounds, if there are more TV shows about Alcoholics Anonymous and more positive pop culture references then it can help to normalize recovery and stimulate healthy discussions on sobriety. 

The stigma of AA and NA has gone away a little bit, but what are AA and NA meetings really like and who attends them?

During your short or long journey to sobriety, you'll meet hundreds of AA and NA members and 12-step program people with a variety of personalities. Just like in other areas of your life, some of them will be helpful and others won't be. Some are mostly normal and others are just a little nutty, a term I use lovingly because we all are a little nutty at least some of the time. But you can learn a lot from everyone you meet in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, even if it's just learning from someone else's mistakes.

AA / NA meetings may not be the answer for everyone's sobriety and addiction recovery, but a lot can still be gained by attending and working with other members. Not all of the member types below are negative, most AA members are just quirky and have good intentions. So if you are a friend of Bill W's, or are thinking of becoming one, read on for the 12 types of people at AA Meetings and NA 12-Step Meetings members that you'll meet one day at a time...

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1. The Yoda Figure

This type of person you meet at AA meetings has been around for 900 years and has the sober wisdom of a Jedi master. Everyone knows them at all of the meetings within a 20 mile radius and they know every regular that shows up. They are old and conservative but at the same time accepting and progressive of new trends in AA and NA. The Yoga figure is a good person to work with that can provide you with some practical advice and connections to other members.

2. "Medication Isn't Sobriety" Guy

This could be the most dangerous person that you could meet at AA meetings if you take psych medication or are a good candidate to take medication (that's up to you and a doctor). If that's you, then avoid this person like the plague. Some members of AA and NA, maybe around 20%, feel that taking medication such as antidepressants, sleep medication, anti-anxiety, pain medication, bipolar meds, Narcan, etc means you aren't really sober... even when taken as prescribed by a doctor. Obviously these types of medications are powerful and can be abused, and especially risky in the hands of an addict or alcoholic. 

But these medications are also life-savers for millions of people. When an AA or NA member says that taking medication cancels your sobriety, it basically influences some people to go off their medication or not seek medication that they really need. That can literally cause people to relapse and die, so their unsolicited advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

These anti-medication members have good intentions of course, they just don't want people using medication as an unnecessary crutch or abusing them. But just because they haven't needed medication during their journey doesn't mean that nobody does.

For some reason this person always seems to be a guy... maybe women are a little more open-minded on this subject? That's just my experience though.

3. Godly Guy Or Gal

Of course AA attracts a lot of religious and spiritual members. In the 12 steps, it mentions "God" or a "higher power", (which ends up being a huge turnoff / red flag / cult vibe for a lot of visitors and outsiders... that's another story) and countless meetings are held in church basements or halls. 

But for a lot of people, especially those raised in religious schools or households, it is actually a comfort. So you do see a great deal of religious people at AA and NA meetings, especially Irish Catholics and Roman Catholics, but it all depends on your area. AA and NA can strengthen your faith or create faith where you didn't have any before, or you might not be interested. 

Either way, be prepared to talk with some very religious people that may want you to join them at their church services or events as well.

4. "AA Is Life" Livers

If you attend enough AA and NA meetings, you'll find that there are a lot of AA "lifers" that make it the cornerstone of their day. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are early in your sobriety. But some people end up taking the AA culture to a bit of an extreme. They make AA meetings the sole focus of their life at the expense of their family, friends, career, and health. It almost becomes an addiction in itself to attend multiple AA meetings each day, every week, every year even if they have zero urge to drink or drug. Some of these people are very happy and help inspire countless others, some of them are a little depressing. AA can be an important part of your life, just make sure it isn't the only thing in your life!

5. Big Book Thumpers And 12-Steppers

Some AA members believe that the only way to get and stay sober is to read and work The Big Book and actively work the 12-Steps. While they believe that making meetings and commitments are great, working the steps and reading AA literature is absolutely essential to avoiding a relapse. You'll find these people at Big Book and 12-Step meetings and recruiting others at open meetings. You can learn a great deal from The Big Book and working the 12 Steps, but they are more helpful for some people than others. It's up to you to decide what works best for your sobriety. Try them out for yourself.

6. People Using AA Just To Socialize

Some people honestly use AA meetings just to socialize, there's no way around it. A lot of them are older, they don't have a lot of friends, or they might have social anxiety. They may or may not be alcoholics or addicts, but they are lonely and want to socialize. There's nothing really wrong with that, as long as they don't take up too much meeting time with their shares or distract newcomers in need of real guidance. A lot of them are good people and friendly faces at meetings, but they probably aren't very serious about working the program.

7. "Just Don't Drink" Guys

Some of the most conservative and straight-forward AA members are the "Just Don't Drinkers". They're not interested in talking about their feelings or hearing about what's going on in the lives of others, they just have one single philosophy: Just Don't Drink. It's an effective strategy for sure, but it doesn't always address the other problems that most people have related to their drinking and drugging...

8. Pink Cloud Newbie

Ah the newbie, gleaming with a newfound sobriety, a shiny new Big Book, a shining 24-hour or 1 month chip, and a pink cloud around their head! While getting sober is brutal for a lot of people, others are just floating on cloud 9 for their first few weeks or months. They are enthusiastic, cheerful, naive, and sometimes a little too righteous about their new improvements as a person. It's great to see new members that are newly sober and dedicated to working the program, but they just need to realize that there is a lot of work to do to repair the damage they've done, and life is tough even when you are sober.

9. Halfway House Homies

If there is a halfway house or three-quarter house in your general area, you'll see residents at your meeting from these homes. A lot of them are newly sober and some of them aren't at the home or meetings by choice. It's a requirement for a lot of people to live in these houses and when you live in one of these houses it's a rule that you have to make meetings every day or almost every day. Some of these people don't take the program seriously and would rather just screw around, so if you are serious about staying clean then you might want to minimize the time you spend with them. Or you could try and do your best to help them out with some advice and camaraderie. 

It really depends on their level of commitment to staying clean. Some halfway house residents are fighting with everything they have to get their lives and families back. Others are more concerned with coffee, cigarettes, and flirting with the cute guys and girls sitting across from them at meetings.

10. Court-Ordered Clown

And then there are attendees at AA and NA meetings that are only there because they have been court-ordered by a judge or police department. Due to a DUI, DWI, OUI, or other alcohol/drug-related offense, these attendees have to complete 10+ meetings as part of their punishment or rehabilitation. A lot of them show up late or even try to forge a signature or ask someone else to sign their form as proof that they attended the meeting. Many just look at their phone or the floor for their mandatory time.

While they might be forced to go to these meetings initially, they might actually convert into dedicated members that really want to get and stay clean. They just have to want to get help, and not be there because they are forced to. I've met many people that started out court-ordered and ended up being sober members of AA and NA with a lot to offer.

11. Chronic Relapser

Unfortunately you will meet some AA and NA members that are in and out of the halls every month. They can't seem to stay sober or clean for more than a few days, weeks, or months. Sometimes they come to meetings drunk or high, which is obvious to everyone. You can try your best to help this person and encourage them, and you should, but it might not be wise to spend all of your time with chronic relapsers either for the sake of your own sobriety.

12. The 13th Stepper 

Another person you want to avoid in AA and NA is the dreaded "13th Stepper" especially if you are a woman (or almost as often now a young man) new to sobriety. The 13th stepper is someone who's been in the AA or NA program for awhile (although not always taking it completely seriously on the inside) and tries to hook up with new young women and men in the program. 

Because newly sober people are more emotionally fragile and inexperienced, they are easier for predators to take advantage of with their authority / influence / years of sobriety.  Newbies can be more naive and listen to whatever an old-timer says they should do.

It's pretty horrible and it's a dirty secret that AA and NA don't want you to know. It's just something to be aware of so you aren't taken advantage of by people using sobriety and addiction as a sexual weapon. And if you are "that guy" or "that woman", just stop.

I do know a lot of amazing relationships and marriages that started in AA and NA meetings, but they certainly didn't begin in a predatory 13-Stepper fashion. There is also nothing wrong with dating within or even outside of the program, but it's usually best if people avoid relationships in general for their first 1 year of sobriety, and sometimes it's best to stick with those of a similar age / sobriety length as well so you're on even footing. The first year of sobriety is mentally and emotionally difficult enough without adding the potential drama of a relationship threatening that sobriety.

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12 More AA Member Types You'll Meet During Meetings

But wait, there are even more types of people that you'll meet at AA and NA meetings! Here are 12 more archetypal Alcoholics Anonymous members you will meet in your sober journey:

I. The Unqualified Sponsor 

II. Commitment Keeper 

III. Unhealthy AF AA Member 

IV. Straight Outta Rehab 

V. Sober House Employee 

VI. Super Smoker / Vapid Vaper 

VII. The Ex-Con

VIII. The Long Sharer

IX. Medical Students

X. Homeless Guy / Gal (Nothing Wrong With This)

XI. Family Members Of Alcoholics / Addicts

XII. The Out-Of-Towner

Rare Sighting: The "Regular" Person 

The rarest of the people you meet at AA meetings is a regular person. Someone that may have made some mistakes in life and has an issue with drugs or alcohol, but is otherwise just like regular people. They have a job or at least a previous career, a family, some friends and are relatively nice. They might even talk to some people outside of the "the program" or attend weddings / office parties / barbecues etc where alcohol could be served. Shocking!

OK I'm mostly joking about this one. Nobody is really "normal" (including myself) and there are plenty of nice regular people at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings of all types. But if you go to enough types of NA meetings and AA meetings and meet all these people, you'll know what I'm getting at.

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AA Meetings & NA Meetings Do Work So Work Them... At Least Give Them A Try

Despite all of the crazy and cantankerous people you will meet at different types of NA meetings and AA meetings, they do work and I do encourage you to utilize them. At least give them a try. If it's not for you, then that's alright too. Regardless of what they claim, it's not the only treatment option. It is just one of the cheapest and most accessible out there with a social factor.

Get Ready For These Types Of People At AA Meetings And Narcotics Anonymous Meetings

As you can see, there will be a wide variety of people at your local AA meetings and NA meeting groups. Give them a chance and learn from them, even if it's just what not to do in sobriety and drug recovery.

My AA Membership Journey 

Just to qualify myself, I'm an alcoholic and addict that has been sober for 10 years with no relapses. I certainly don't consider myself an expert, and I'm obviously not immune to a relapse, but I do have a lot of experience in AA and with AA members. I have attended hundreds of AA, Alanon, NA, and other 12-Step meetings in 3 different states in the U.S. and taken part in commitments to prisons, hospitals, halfway houses, and psychiatric facilities. I've had several sponsors and sponsored several individuals. My first 2 years of sobriety were very difficult and humbling, and I wouldn't have been able to get through them without the lessons and camaraderie of AA. While I don't attend as many meetings as I used to, I always appreciate the value of the meetings and members... despite some of the crazies (which most of us have been at one time or another, let's face it).

Hopefully the people you meet at these AA and NA meetings help you in your sober journey. Don't drink or drug, the 12-step program works if you work it, one day at a time!

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