If you seek treatment for a substance use disorder at French Creek Recovery Center, you will be introduced to many of the ideas and techniques that are central to 12-Step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Many people—perhaps including yourself—are familiar with 12-Step programs because they are frequently represented in popular media. You probably have a mental image of a group sitting in a circle in a church basement, sipping bad coffee, and introducing themselves when they share how long they have been sober.
None of that is inaccurate (although some 12-Step meetings might have great coffee). But it isn’t a complete picture, either. Here’s a look at what you can expect from a 12-Step recovery meeting.
You Had Me at Hello
Early on in your recovery journey, you may not have any desire to speak at a 12-Step meeting—but you may be under the impression that you’ll be required to share your story, starting with the famous phrase: “Hello, I’m John and I’m an alcoholic.” If you’re among the many, many people who don’t like to speak in front of groups, the idea of trying to do so in the early days of your recovery may seem ridiculous. You have enough on your mind without the added stress of public speaking.
Happily, you won’t be required to speak at your first 12-Step meeting—or at any meeting after that. At some point you may surprise yourself and discover that you’re eager to share your story. You might find that you want to speak as a way to mark a milestone in your sobriety, a way to encourage others in the group who may be struggling, or both. But until you are ready, no one will force you to address the group. If you get what you need simply by attending, that’s perfectly fine.
Here’s the Agenda
When you arrive at a 12-Step meeting and find a seat in the circle (or other seating arrangement), the first order of business may be the day’s chairperson kicking things off. In an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, for example, the chairperson will read the AA Preamble. The preamble reads in part:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking…Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
The preamble—which also clearly asserts that the organization is not associated with any particular faith or engaged in any political activity—is followed by a few additional readings that often include a deeper dive into one of the 12 Steps. The readings are followed by sharing time. Again, no one is required to share, but the sharing portion of the meeting does give folks a chance to hear the stories of others, which can go a long way toward reminding you that you are not alone in your struggles.
You Can Stick Around to Socialize—Or Not
When the meeting wraps up, folks are likely to keep the conversation going in smaller groups. They may or may not talk about sobriety during these after-meeting chats. After all, sometimes it’s just nice to have a regular conversation with a few people who understand what you have been through but who don’t feel the need to talk about it all of the time.
You can avail yourself of these conversations or not as you prefer. Some days, a few minutes spent on small talk may be just what you need. Other days, you might want to be alone with your thoughts after the meeting. The choice is yours—and there is no pressure either way.
You Can Jump in with Both Feet
We have approached this conversation as though you are likely to be a reluctant or nervous attendee when you first start going to 12-Step meetings. But you may be eager to share right away, eager to form connections with other attendees, and eager to participate frequently. If so, you should feel free to let others know you are new to program and to take advantage of resources the group may make available to you—like the names and contact information of people who will be more than happy to talk with you if you feel yourself craving drugs or alcohol and are worried you might relapse.
At some point, you may develop a relationship with one specific individual who agrees to be your sponsor and support you in your sobriety. And down the road, you may be ready to be someone else’s sponsor as well.
All of this is to say that 12-Step programs will accept you no matter what. Introverted and quiet? No problem. Outgoing and eager to share? Also not a problem. Feel differently about how much you want to participate from day to day? That’s not a problem either.
Remember: The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking…Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Step One Might Be Giving Us a Call
The first step in any recovery journey is, of course, achieving sobriety. And at French Creek Recovery Center, we are ready to help you—or a loved one—do just that. Our compassionate, evidence-based approach to detox, rehab, and an ongoing continuum of care is personalized for each individual. After all, no two people are the same. We are committed to listening to you and to creating a treatment plan that addresses your substance use disorder as well as any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be in play. If you need help, take that first step and reach out to us.