You’ve seen them, and you probably didn’t even know it. Hanging out around the entrance to an unmarked office space in a strip mall, pulling into a church parking lot, maybe even gathering in a circle at your local beach, there are countless strangers in your community going to Twelve Step meetings every day.
For people who have been in recovery for a while, going to a meeting is as automatic as getting a morning coffee! But for those who are new to living life clean and sober, the concept of meetings can be as mysterious and baffling as addiction itself.
The first step towards going to your first meeting is finding out where and when they are. Today, it’s easier than ever to find out: A quick internet search will definitely give you the information you need. If you’re lucky enough to be in a program at Clean Path Behavioral Health, our staff will do the work for you, finding appropriate meetings and even providing transportation.
Once there, you’ll be greeted by people who know more about you and your struggles than you can imagine. If you want to get to know them right away, they’ll certainly be welcoming. But if you want to sit and observe quietly, that’s OK too. You’ll probably be amazed and maybe even a little suspicious about how happy and carefree they look. That’s what a life in recovery can do for you.
From there, the format of your meeting will vary greatly depending on where and when, and in what fellowship it is. It will likely start with readings from approved literature, announcements, and maybe even recognition of members who have achieved varying lengths of sobriety.
But the heart of the meeting is the shares. At a speaker meeting, just one member shares their experience, strength and hope with everyone gathered. At regular meetings, members are encouraged to take turns speaking about what’s on their mind.
Cross talk, or commenting on other people’s shares is discouraged, as is focusing too much on the specifics of your past drug or alcohol use. AA members call the stories of members’ drinking escapades “drunkalogues.” It’s more helpful to you and the group to focus on your experiences, struggles, and victories in sobriety. Everyone knows what addiction looks like!
The secretary or leader may call on individuals who raise their hand, people may take turns speaking out, you may go around the room, or members may even call on each other! You’ll find out what the format of your meeting is as it unfolds, or you can ask someone seated near you. No matter what, it’s fine to simply say “Pass” when it’s your turn to speak.
After roughly an hour or more, depending on your format, the meeting will likely close with a prayer and announcements. Many members often gather together for “fellowship,” or talking informally in small groups after that.
Most important of all is what you have to do after a meeting in order to stay clean and sober: Keep coming back.
If a meeting or its members don’t connect with you, try another. Today, there are more than enough different kinds of meetings and groups for every alcoholic and addict to find a place that feels like home.
And if you’re not sure if a Twelve Step recovery is right for you, just remember that there’s only one qualification for membership: a desire to stop drinking and/or using.
Regular meetings are a vital part of the programs of recovery at Clean Path Behavioral Health. For more information on our programs, click here.