Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization meant to give support to its members to stop drinking through the use of group sharing, the twelve step program, and constant support and encouragement. The organization itself primarily aims to bring alcoholics together to have them share their stories, hopes, worries, and strengths with one another so that they may work together to overcome alcoholism. There are two types of meetings that occur in Alcoholics Anonymous: open meetings and closed meetings. Open meetings do not divulge tender information or deeply dig at problems but instead are there to get to know one another better and to offer general support and stories. Open meetings are available to everyone to attend. To attend a closed meeting you must be an Alcoholics Anonymous member and to be a member you must be a recovering alcoholic. Other substances do not qualify you for membership in Alcoholics Anonymous.
There is no membership fee to join Alcoholics Anonymous and there are no dues or special service requirements. Instead, the only thing that you are expected to do is work towards overcoming your alcoholism and to work with your peers to help them do the same. To do this, Alcoholics Anonymous members adhere to the twelve-step program. This involves admitting you have a problem, admitting belief in the Christian God, admitting your powerlessness to God, and seeking God's aid through prayer and meditation to overcome your alcoholism. There is a very clear link between Alcoholics Anonymous and Christianity through the twelve-step program. In a way this program seeks to help its members spiritually as well as socially, emotionally, and physically.
While the group does remain on a peer-to-peer basis during its meetings, meetings can be conducted by more experienced members who have had success in overcoming their alcoholism. These individuals are known as sponsors and the hope is that their success can aid in the success of others. Sponsors often lead discussions, provide anecdotes and stories, and do their best to create a personal bond between all of the members of the group.
Without a doubt there are critics of Alcoholics Anonymous. Some chide them for their lack of legal muscle when group members divulge confidential group information publicly. After all, members are providing deeply personal stories and information and it is a huge violation of trust to gossip about that publicly. Other critics decry Alcoholics Anonymous for their deep Christian roots and liken the program to a cult for indoctrinating members into their belief system.