Taking the step to stop your addiction is a big step to take. Because recovery is a lifelong process, there is no wrong way to approach the 12-Step program. The program is modeled so that people can help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from substances of abuse. It emphasizes that healing cannot come about unless people with addictions surrender to a higher power.
What is the 12-Step Program
Founder Bill Wilson wrote the ideas of the program model through his experience with alcoholism. He wrote of the positive effects people with addictions experienced when their stories were shared with one another. The 12-step meeting provided a kind of therapy. It was found that the therapy received by the people attending the meetings was beneficial in their fight against their addiction and in other areas of their lives as well.
The Big Book was written as a guide for those who couldn’t attend the group therapy sessions/meetings. The book is designed to help drive behavioral changes. Think of it as a Peer-Support Group and Self-Help Program all in one. It is rare for a person not to succeed in the 12-Step program. The person that does not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this program, usually people who are unable to be honest with themselves.
The 12-Step Meeting
If you choose to attend a 12-Step meeting, it is very important to understand that nothing is expected of you. There is nothing to be apprehensive about. You do not need to actively participate. It is acceptable to sit and listen. Meetings have a cordial, relaxed atmosphere usually have an eclectic mix of people in attendance.
Types of Meetings
Open meetings are for anyone who would like to observe, while closed meetings are solely for individuals suffering from addiction who wish to recover. There are also step study meetings which one of the steps from the 12-step program will be read from the book and discussed.
12-step meetings are usually held in a building connected with a church or a community center. You will arrive to find people chatting it up prior to the meeting or loitering about waiting for the coffee to be made
Before the Meetings
Inside the room there are people sitting here and there; some sitting in groups and some sitting alone. Some people will say hello and engage in a conversation with you and some may keep to themselves.
By the time the meeting is ready to start, there are about 50 people (depending on the location, time and community the meeting is located) sitting in a semicircle of chairs. One person is the meeting chairperson for that meeting and will be in the middle of the semi-circle.
The 12-step meeting
The meeting will begin with reading the Preamble of the Big Book. It states the ‘primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety’. Then there is a group prayer or some groups will reserve this for a moment of silence. The Serenity Prayer is then recited. Different members of the group will then read brief AA literature.
Once the meeting has begun, the chairperson will ask if there are any new members, or first-timers, attending. This is a chance for new members or first-timers to introduce themselves. This is not mandatory and an option only. It is up to you to decide if this is what you want to do.
During the meeting, topics usually start by people simply talking. Each person in the semicircle is given the change to introduce themselves and to tell their story if they feel inclined to do so. Remember this is a cordial group and a group therapy from which people are there to learn. After someone is brave enough to share their, everyone in the room should thank them for sharing.
This is the chance for you to discuss your situation, your trials and tribulations that can be challenging to you during your recovery. The chairperson will usually try to keep people in the meeting on track as there are time limits to some meetings.
Some meetings, the chairperson may call on persons randomly which tries to eliminate the same people constantly sharing. If you are chosen and you do not feel ready to share, it is perfectly acceptable to tell the meeting chairperson you are not ready. You will not be judged nor will you be coerced into sharing. The idea of the 12-step meeting is to share at your own pace when you are ready.
The After Meeting
After the meeting you may find people that hang around talk in a more social setting. This is the time that some may introduce themselves to you and ask you questions about yourself that are usually not addiction related; this is more of a get to you know you in a social setting. If you do not feel like socializing, you are feel to leave. Remember these meetings are for you to get out of them what you need to conquer your addiction.
The Helping Hand of People with Addictions
One common practice at meetings is when you introduce yourself as a newcomer or first-timer, you will receive a meeting schedule book with the names and numbers of people you can reach out to if you feel the need to engage in your addictive activity. The people that openly volunteer this information do so because they really truly care and want to help. It is reassurance to know that when you are in times of trouble you can reach out and call someone who may be a perfect stranger to you. This helping hand will not judge you. They will be there to support you and help you through the difficult time.
The idea of the 12-step meeting is for you to leave with a renewed hope and renewed faith allowing you to get through the next hour, five hours, or 24 hours without a drink or turning to your addiction. Everyone attending meetings have dealt with the same demons you are facing and they deal with these demons everyday. You are not alone. The 12-step program works.