Written By: Fiona Stockard
Twelve-Step Meetings Keep Us Sober!
Going to your first meeting sucks! It’s nerve-wracking, scary, overwhelming, and generally unpleasant all around. We don’t know what to expect, how to act, or when to speak. Basically, we’re clueless!
I know one of the main reasons meetings scared me was because I didn’t know the guidelines. I was afraid of accidentally crossing a boundary and embarrassing myself! While there are a ton of different types of twelve-step meetings, their guidelines are usually the same. Here are some tips and tricks for proper twelve-step meeting etiquette. Now, get off your ass and hit a meeting!
Women’s Meetings and Men’s Meetings
Co-ed meetings are intimidating! When I was newly sober, boys scared me! I didn’t feel comfortable sharing around them, much less reaching out to them. That second point was probably good for me!
There are gender specific meetings for just this reason. Men share their issues with other men and women share their issues with other women. It’s a beautiful thing.
Cross-talk is when someone shares directly to someone else. This might sound harmless, but in a room full of addicts and their egos? Well, then cross-talk is serious business.
We should respect each other and our unique struggles! We can’t control what others say and do, but we don’t have to be an assh**e to them. Disrespecting people should be avoided at all costs, especially in meetings, especially the newcomer.
If someone says something that isn’t right, mistakenly or not, the proper reaction is to ignore them. Move on, with open ears, to what others have to say. Remember, acceptance is the answer to ALL our problems.
Being on Time
Although all are welcome, it’s respectful to arrive at the meeting on time. You’ll never be asked to leave if you’re late, but showing up late is old behavior. Do the best you can to make it on time and to not disturb the meeting.
It’s important to give your full attention to the meeting. Don’t be that girl on her phone, you know the one I’m talking about!
Make sure your phone is on vibrate and put away. It’s respectful to the chairperson, speaker, and everyone else in the meeting.
If there’s an emergency, you’re allowed to answer your phone, but walk outside first!
AA and NA
NA, or Narcotics Anonymous, meetings are typically associated with drug addiction. AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are confined to problems with alcohol.
Here’s the thing, there’s no need to feel unwelcome in AA just because you used drugs. Most people in AA were also drug addicts! In AA meetings, just replace words like drugs and using with alcohol and drinking. Addiction is addiction regardless of the substance. Addiction doesn’t discriminate and neither do twelve-step meetings.
Refrain from talking about specific halfway-houses, treatment centers, or detox centers. It’s okay to mention these broadly, but don’t give specific names. We all have different experiences and the meeting is about these experiences (strength and hope!), not about facilities.
This one might be kind of obvious, but twelve-step meetings are anonymous! They’re for alcoholics and addicts to come together and share honestly. We need to be comfortable enough to talk about what happened, what life was like, and what life’s like now. That feeling of comfort doesn’t happen if people talk about what’s said outside of the room.
Again, don’t be that girl! Don’t talk outside the rooms about people you’ve seen or things you’ve heard. Everyone should be respected and left anonymous.
It’s important to limit your shares to a few minutes. Some meetings offer a timekeeper, who’ll notify you when your time is up. Keeping your shares limited to a couple minutes allows everyone to have the same chance to share.
If you find your way to twelve-step meeting, these are some simple suggestions. The traditions are in place to ensure that everyone finds the help that they need!