What To Expect At Your First 12 Step Meeting

group meeting

Has someone suggested that you try a 12 step meeting? Have you been searching for help for your addiction and heard that a meeting might help you? Twelve step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have been providing support to recovering addicts for decades.

You may feel hesitant or nervous about the prospect of going to a meeting. What will happen? What goes on in those meetings, anyway? Added to that, you may have heard numerous rumors and stories about 12 step programs:

“It’s a cult!”
“They want your money!”
“They’re just a bunch of religious fanatics.”

…and more.


So, Is All That Stuff True?

No, it’s not. It’s easy to see how those rumors can get started. Because 12 step meetings are founded on the principle of anonymity, there is a little mystery around them. So let’s debunk the above myths, as they seem to be the most common.

Twelve-step programs are not a cult. There is nothing weird going on, no initiations or memberships or anything like that. You don’t have to follow any rules aside from basic common sense and common courtesy (don’t bring drugs to the meeting, okay?). You don’t have to commit to anything, you can go to a meeting or not go to a meeting, it’s your choice. There is no hard sell.

Meetings are free. They are also self-supporting. This means they don’t take money from outside sources or agencies. This is a good thing, it means that they don’t have to cater to outside agencies or promote them. They are an independent entity. With that said, there is a donation basket, it is entirely voluntary. Any funds collected are solely for paying for room rents, books and things like the coffee served at meetings. You won’t ever be pressured into donating.

You do not have to adhere to a specific religious belief or practice to go to or participate in 12 step groups. You don’t have to be religious at all. This can get a little confusing, because you will hear the word “God” at meetings, and there are prayers during meetings. This is especially the case in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Don’t let it scare you off. You will hear it said that 12 step programs are “spiritual, not religious” and it’s true.

group of people holding hands

What Happens At The Meetings?

So you walk into your first 12 step meeting. You are nervous, and you don’t know what to expect. No one really likes walking into a room full of strangers, and this is no exception. In fact, under the circumstances, walking into a meeting is possibly one of the scariest things you’ll do. You may or may not be clean and sober, you are contemplating a huge life change, and you may be going through a really rough time.

You take a deep breath and walk up. You are greeted with smiles. People may go right up and introduce themselves to you. If you have been keeping to yourself, this may be a little off-putting! You’ll notice that people are smiling and laughing and hugging each other.

When the meeting starts, people sit down and typically open with the Serenity Prayer. There are some readings and announcements. The readings are considered a very important part of the meeting, they give a little overview of what the program is about.

Meeting formats may vary, sometimes there will be a speaker, sharing their story, sometimes there are open discussions. You don’t have to do anything at the meeting. At the beginning they ask that newcomers introduce themselves. This may be alarming, but it is really just so they can get to know you. Once it’s over, you will have the opportunity to talk to other people if you choose. Generally, people are friendly and welcoming.

You may be surprised at how happy and easygoing people are. This is a typical reaction from people at their first meeting. You may hear someone share their story and be deeply moved, or even be able to relate to what they are saying. This is something that is common in meetings, and one of the things that makes 12 step programs so special. People come together from a common place, and share their experiences. People are accepting and supportive. This is what keeps people coming back. Often, after meetings, people go out to coffee or dinner. Twelve-step programs are very social, and you may quickly find yourself with new friends and invites to do fun things.

Recovery isn’t just about not using drugs or alcohol. That is something you will realize right away at meetings. It is about living a new way of life.

Getting Help For Addiction

If you have a drug or alcohol problem and need help, you have options. For help wading through all the information and finding solutions, call Addiction Information at 844-242-0890 to talk to a knowledgeable representative you can connect you with the right treatment option for you.

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