group meets downstairs in a church. There are "tables" where the members sit and discuss their issues. In this group there are two tables, nearly filled with about 20 people at each table. There are mostly middle-aged to older adults here (40 years old and up), but a few that are under 30 years of age. There is a pretty even distribution of males and females at the two tables. The general interaction between the members is causal and quite friendly. After sitting at one table I wait for the meeting to get started. Once it is started there are a lot of formalities: an introduction by the leader (I am later told that this person is referred to as the chairperson and this position is a volunteer that changes weekly), the reading the stipulations of the group, a prayer, asking if there are any first time attendees (I remained silent, because I know that if I say I am a first timer I will be taken into a special group and I want to observe the ongoing meeting), and then more readings for the day. The group gets started and the people share their thoughts and feelings.
If the reader has not yet guessed I am at an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. I'm guessing that most of the members of this group would qualify for either a diagnosis of substance abuse (at one time) or a diagnosis of substance dependence. The vast majority of members her discuss their past usage of alcohol. Everyone starts with an introduction "Hi I'm (name), most say that they are an alcoholic, and group responds with "Hi (person's name)." When the person is finished talking the group says "Thanks (person's name)" and the next person speaks. There is no "cross talk" which means that when a person is speaking no one is allowed to interrupt him. Once is person is finished the next person talks, and if they wish to discuss something already discussed or offer advice to someone who has already talked they do it on their turn.
Only one person discussed their past usage of other drugs besides alcohol (prescription medications). Some of the people describe some really horrific experiences regarding their addictions. Several of the group members have been imprisoned as a result of alcohol-related offenses, several have lost their careers, and several describing losing spouses or alienating family members. Many of these people report that they continued to drink alcohol despite losing relationships, jobs, thousands of dollars, etc. The older members are often more matter-of-fact concerning their stories. But a couple of the younger members describe serious difficulties remaining sober. One younger member (I'm guessing he is in his early 20's) describes some current serious control issues with his alcohol usage. He is currently awaiting sentencing for a DUI and he has multiple past DUI's, so he will likely spend some time in jail. Nonetheless, he reports still going out in the last week and drinking. It is interesting because some of the older members reported similar past behaviors and their story indicated that they had to reach a person low point to make them realize that they needed to stop. This young group member obviously has not realized that point yet.
The method of intervention here appears to be one of learning from others' mistakes, putting faith in God, following the AA twelve steps and attending as many meetings as possible, and getting a "sponsor" which from what I gather is like a mentor who leads you through the program and gives you support. So the AA program is a bit like supportive therapy, and the group offers general advice and tells the young man to "keep coming back." When my turn to speak comes, I introduce myself and tell the group I am there to listen. No one questions me further. After the last person has talked the chairperson makes a few comments, we stand hold hands and recite the Lord's prayer. The meeting ends and I discussed a few issues with some of the members.
A few days later I attended a different AA group, this one also in a church but downstairs. There is one long table and the room is so full that I actually had to sit in a chair in the back…