What To Expect In Your First 12-Step Meeting

When we think of sobriety, we often think of 12-step meetings right away. This isn’t the only pathway to sobriety, but it is a common one, and one that works wonders for many people. Of course it’s nerve racking when you decide to attend your first meeting or go to one in rehab. It’s only natural to wonder what will happen and how you can be prepared.

These types of support meetings: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, etc., can often be portrayed as a dark church basement where you smoke cigarettes and listen to scary tales of loss and addiction. However, this isn’t always the case. When attending your first 12-step meeting, it’s important to understand that nothing is expected of you. You just have to show up, listen, and keep an open mind.

Here is what you should expect in your first 12-step meeting:

Types Of Meetings

Typically 12-step meetings are divided into open and closed. Closed meetings are for those people who identify as alcoholics or addicts and wish to recover from their addiction. Open meetings are for anyone to come and observe. Meetings are broken down into four different types:

  • Speaker – where a person shares his or her specific recovery story.
  • General Discussion – where the chair often selects a topic and people volunteer to share, or participants share about whatever they want to talk about.
  • Literature study – where each meeting a certain type of 12-step literature is read and discussed such as the Big Book of AA, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, and Living Sober.
  • Beginners – a meeting for beginners with a Q&A at the start and a short introduction into what the 12-step fellowship is.

Logistics

Most meetings have a refreshment area with coffee and pastries. Feel free to grab a snack and a chair. Some meetings are bigger than others and the seating arrangements always vary. When a meeting is called to order the serenity prayer is said followed by some common passages like “How it works” and the preamble. The chair of the meeting typically explains what format the meeting follows. Then each person around the room introduces themselves. There is no form of intrusive questioning or obligation to speak when you are there. At the end of the hour the chair will open up the meeting to any burning desires (an expression for closing comments). There may be some announcements and a reading of the “Promises.” Chips to denote lengths of sobriety are given out to those who have achieve milestones. Chips start at 24 hours. Lastly, meetings end with participants standing in a circle and saying the Lord’s Prayer.

Sharing

Like I mentioned above, nothing is expected of you in 12-step meetings. That means all you have to do is show up. Generally, after a speaker is finished, or after the reading is done, group members comment on what they’ve heard via sharing with the group. If you are asked to share you can always say pass if you aren’t comfortable. With that being said, 12-step meetings are informal and are not meant for intrusive questions. Newcomers are not required to speak and in fact, are encouraged to listen in meetings for their first weeks of sobriety.

You are also not obliged to find a sponsor, give out any personal information, or pay any sort of dues. After the meeting ends a lot of regulars will want to introduce themselves and ask your first name. They may give you their phone numbers to call when you need help. This is the perfect time to ask any questions you may have about the group.

Although many 12-step groups are similar in philosophy, each one is unique. It’s imperative to find a 12-step group where you feel comfortable and where your recovery process is supported.

To get help, contact the Orlando Recovery Center today.

Written by: Kelly Fitzgerald

Kelly is a sober writer based in Cape Coral, Florida, best known for her personal blog The Adventures Of A Sober Señorita. Follow her on Twitter.