What to Know About Attending 12-Step Meetings | Legacy Healing Center
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What to Expect at Your First 12-Step Meeting

Written By Legacy Healing Center - Oct 20 2020

What to Expect at Your First 12-Step Meeting

Table of Contents

12-Step Meetings: How to Prepare for Your First Time Out

For those struggling with alcohol or drug dependency, the 12-step program remains an integral part of successful addiction recovery. The meetings entail groups of current and former addicts sharing stories about addiction struggles and coping techniques to overcome their dependence.  They are also places where people in recovery come together to celebrate milestones in their sobriety.

Recovering addicts who have been attending 12-step programs for some time can become quite comfortable with the structure, the discipline, and the support of their fellow attendees. However, for newcomers, merely walking through those doors can be a frightening experience.

To help ease people into how 12-step meetings operate, we’ve compiled a few helpful things to know about attending the group sessions.

Your First AA or NA Meeting: What to Expect

Whether the meetings are run by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or another organization, the people who manage 12-step meetings follow the same basic structure. The support and sharing circle is a hallmark of 12-step and addiction recovery programs, so here is what to expect on your first time out.

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When you arrive, you will smell coffee brewing, and there may be some light snacks to calm your nerves and fill your stomach. After the greeting formalities, the chairs will be arranged in a circle, with dozens of people gathered around to support one another and share their addiction stories.

How 12-Step Meetings Work

The meetings begin with the chairperson reading the AA or NA motto and talking about the organization. The chairperson will then ask if there are any newcomers in attendance, and that will be your cue to speak up and introduce yourself.

Introducing yourself to a room full of strangers can be intimidating, but 12-step meetings are designed to be warm and welcoming environments. You should not be afraid to talk about your addiction recovery journey. Rather, you can be proud of all you have accomplished and the many challenges you have already overcome just by attending the session.

Its important to know that if you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to.  Just showing up is the most important thing.  Being there and listening to the stories of others is more than enough if that’s all you feel up for.

Different Types of Meetings

In some ways, there is no such thing as a typical 12-step meeting. Instead, multiple 12 step-meetings are happening at any given time, each with their own focus and approach.

Some 12-step meetings are speaker focused, with special guests there to share their addiction recovery journey. These speakers may be people you know, including celebrities or local business leaders, or they may be anonymous former addicts like yourself. No matter their background, they all have compelling stories to tell, and the speaker-based approach can be instrumental.

Other 12-step meetings can be closed to the public, shielding the identity and protecting the participants’ privacy. For many first-time attendees, these closed meetings can seem like a safe space where they can reveal their fears and share their concerns with an understanding audience.

For others in addiction recovery, the convenience of an open 12-step program may be more appropriate. These free meetings are available to everyone, so anyone struggling to overcome their addiction can stop in and find the support they need. If you are worried about relapse and struggling to cope with life after rehab, having a list of open 12-step programs in your back pocket could be an excellent idea.

Importance of Sharing

Whether they are open, closed, or speaker-based, sharing entails an integral part of virtually all 12-step meetings. These meetings are a place for recovering addicts to share their stories and gain an understanding of sobriety.

Depending on the structure and set up of the 12-step meetings being held, you may be asked to share your own experience, so think about what you want to say and the specific challenges you are working to overcome. If you prefer to stay silent at your first 12-step meeting, you can generally do that, but you may still be inspired to share your story once you are in the presence of others who understand your experience.

Try Different Meetings

Not all 12-step meetings are the same, and choosing one that feels right for you is important for your recovery.  Meetings can have a different feel based on things like:

  • How they are run
  • Where they are located
  • What time they are held
  • Who is in attendance

If you are new to the 12-step meeting process, you may not know what to expect, so keep trying different meetings until you find one that feels like “home”.  It can be helpful to find several meetings that you know you like.  Many people have a home meeting that they attend regularly as well as others they attend when the time or place is more convenient.

Attend all the different types of 12-step meetings, including speaker-focused meetings, support circles, open meetings, and closed ones. The more you get to know the process, the easier it will be to make the right choice for your addiction recovery journey. Every meeting has its unique atmosphere, and trying several different types will help you find the approach that works best for you.

12 step meetings are plentiful, they can be found all over the world and at all times of day and night.  Many people enjoy attending open meetings in different cities and towns when travelling.  This can be a great way to connect with like minded people when you’re in a new place and helps you continue to feel supported when you’re away from home.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, don’t hesitate to call Legacy Healing Center today at 888.534.2295.  Our intake specialists are standing by ready to answer your questions, and calls are completely confidential.

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