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What to Expect in your First 12 Step Meeting

Everyone has heard about 12-step meetings but may have preconceived notions about what they are like. Many people wonder what is a 12 step meeting all about and is it the right fit for them.

The Basics of 12-Step Meetings

Twelve-step meetings are the most well-known support group for people with substance use disorders and other addictions. Twelve-step groups began when Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in 1935 and ultimately produced a book detailing 12 steps to be taken in the name of recovery from alcoholism. 

People wondering what is a 12-step meeting may question if they are segregated by groups of people. Twelve-step groups provide support for anyone, regardless of age, gender, religion, race, and other differences. While some may offer specific meetings for one group or another, the overwhelming majority allow everyone to attend. 

The premise of anonymity offers many people the courage to speak out about their addictions to drugs and alcohol. Knowing that everyone’s identity is protected both inside and outside of meetings helps people dig deep and speak honestly.

Before the Meeting Begins

Many 12-step meetings are held in a church, community center, or other building with ties to the local area. People who arrive early often engage in small talk with each other and take advantage of free coffee or other drinks. Some people want to keep to themselves, which will be respected. A new member can also try introducing themselves to a person or small group and let them know this is their first meeting. 

What to Expect in the Meeting

Whoever is the chairperson of the meeting will sit in the middle of a semi-circle or at the front of the room. They will begin the meeting by reading the AA preamble and the Serenity Prayer. A group prayer may be part of the opening, depending on the group. Members of the group often read pieces of 12-step literature. In an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, this typically includes something from the “Big Book”, as the AA book is called. 

The chairperson will then ask if the group has any newcomers. No one is required to volunteer their newbie status. However, those inclined to do so can raise their hands and introduce themselves. The standard when beginning to speak is to start by saying your first name and stating, “I am an alcoholic” or “I am an addict.” The rest of the group will greet them and then listen to their comments. 

People go by first names only in order to help foster anonymity. Even if someone recognizes another person from work, school, a social event, or somewhere else, everyone is expected not to reveal to anyone that they saw this person at a 12-step meeting.

Many meetings are general, opening the floor to anyone who wants to discuss whatever is on their mind. Some meetings may focus on one particular step, beginning with the chairperson reading that step aloud for the group. Anyone in the group can discuss their experiences, successes, and frustrations with the step. Those who have not yet reached the step can get a good overview of what to expect and tactics for tackling that step.

The end of the meeting is the time to make any announcements and to hand out chips earned for time accrued in recovery. Meetings usually end with a prayer and a reminder to keep working the program. Some people stay after the meeting to socialize, while others prefer to leave immediately. 

If Religious Overtones are Not for You

Sometimes the religious focus of many 12-step groups keeps some people from participating. While the AA founders counted their Christian faith as part of the basis of the group they formed, not all groups follow this standard. Many groups have a more secular approach. An online search can help a person find a group that fits their spiritual affiliations or lack thereof. 

If you wonder what is a 12-step meeting without religion, the answer is it can be all sorts of things. The “higher power” referred to in literature may mean God or another religious entity to many, but members are free to decide on an alternative definition that works for them. Some people choose empowerment, nature, love, or something else to be their higher power. Non-religious 12-step groups eliminate prayers from their meetings.

12-Step Groups as Part of a Treatment or Legal Program 

While many people attend 12-step groups without any outside prompting, several outpatient and residential treatment programs recommend their patients attend them. It can provide a nice bonus source of support when including a 12-step group as part of ongoing treatment in an outpatient or partial hospitalization program. 

Many courts order people who have been arrested for Driving While Intoxicated/Driving Under the Influence or other alcohol-related offenses to attend 12-step meetings. Doing so shows the court an individual is taking responsibility for their drinking. Showing proof of going to the meetings can result in a reduction in fines, jail time, and parole time. 

Alcohol Rehab in Los Angeles

Riviera Recovery offers multiple options for treating alcohol and drug addiction. We provide gender-specific sober living houses with 24/7 supervision. We connect you with outpatient programs, therapy, and holistic treatment. These programs provide a well-balanced way to maintain your recovery before returning home.

If you are ready to seize the day and begin a life without alcohol, Riviera Recovery can help. Contact us now and let us show you how to get started.