What goes on at a 12-Step meeting?

If you have never set-foot in a 12-Step meeting, the whole thing can seem a little intimidating.  Following is a format that most anonymous meetings follow, more-or-less.  It is my hope that if you know what to expect ahead of time, you will be more likely to stop-by and check one out.

When you first arrive.  There are usually people who purposely go to meetings early so they can hang-out and chat with people they know, and hopefully greet newcomers.  If no one approaches you, don’t be offended.  Some groups are stronger in this area than others.  Just have a seat, relax, and say a little prayer that you have the willingness to listen with an open mind.

Opening remarks.  Most meetings are called-to-order in some way at exactly the time scheduled.  There is a lot of emphasis in program about the importance of discipline, and this includes being on-time.  There will usually be a “leader” or “chairperson” facing the group and reading from some type of written format.  The meeting is then either turned-over to the guest speaker, or a discussion topic is chosen and people raise their hands to share on it.

Your role.  Some meetings ask newcomers to raise their hands and introduce themselves by giving their first name only.  If you are not comfortable doing this, you don’t have to raise your hand.  Other meetings go around the room and have everyone state their first name and their addiction, such as “Hi, may name is Sheryl and I’m a food addict.”  Or the “lazy-man’s version,” “Sheryl, food addict.”   The group would then respond, “Hi, Sheryl.”  Again, if you are not comfortable doing this, simply say “pass” and no one will think twice about it.  Some groups don’t do personal introductions at all.  If you are at a meeting where people take turns reading and you don’t want to do that, again, simply say “pass” when it is your turn and they will skip over you.  Occasionally the chairperson will randomly call-on people to share, but they usually only choose people they know and it is done more out of playfulness than anything else.  I have never seen anyone put a newcomer on the stop like that.  But even if that DID happen, just say “pass” and they will call on someone else.  (In other words, your fear of public speaking is NOT an excuse to stay home!)  Also, in many OA meetings (I have not seen this at AA), a contact list is passed around.  If someone’s name and contact information is on the list, that means they are willing to receive phonecalls from people who need help between meetings, so you can copy down this information.  If you want to receive calls, add your name and information to the list.  If you are not comfortable with this, simply pass the list to the next person.

The Seventh Tradition:  Tradition #7 states that all meetings are to be “self-supporting through their own contributions” (click on “The 12 & 12″ at the top of this page to see the short version of the traditions, if interested).  Thus, a basket is passed to collect money to pay the rent, to purchase books for members to buy, and to send to the main office so they have money for the printing of approved literature and the maintenance of the official website and service center,…  No one at the meeting is keeping that money for themselves.

Break-time.  Food addicts BEWARE!  If you go to “open” * AA meetings for support like I do (even though I don’t drink), you are pretty-much guaranteed to be in the presence of…<gasp!>… sweet treats!  And not just at break-time!  Members of many anonymous groups pass around bags of sweets during the meeting, as well.  Personally, I was pretty-much a “closet-eater,” so this doesn’t really bother me.  (Me?!  Eat “bad” food in PUBLIC?!  NEV-er!)  But if you are newly abstinent and feel that just being around sugary snacks could cause you to “slip” off your food plan, you should probably stick with OA meetings, at least for a while.  Almost all anonymous meetings serve coffee, but you will never see food being served at OA.

Closing.  At the end of the meeting, everyone forms a circle by holding hands.  Then a prayer is said aloud by all who wish to join-in.  If this offends you for some reason, you can join the circle but remain silent or you can simply leave early.  Just don’t let this stop you from coming back.

* FYI – “open” meetings mean anyone is welcome, “closed” meetings are for those with that particular addiction ONLY.  Always check your local meeting list (available through each Anonymous program’s website) before walking-into meetings that are new to you. 

March 7, 2012 This post was written by Categories: For Newbies Tagged with:
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