What Can I Expect at a 12 Step Meeting?

The 12-step program helps people grow in their recovery and learn how to manage their lives clean and sober. All 12-step meetings are based on the original Twelve Steps from the book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Although not all of these meetings address substance abuse directly, such as Gamblers Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous, and Al-Anon, their programs reflect the same philosophy. Knowing what to expect when you go to a 12-step meeting is relatively simple as the format is essentially the same in all meetings.

What can I expect at a 12 step meeting

Speak When Ready at a 12 Step Meeting

The great news is that since 12-step meetings are a supportive environment where everyone there is working on their recovery, no-one is expected to speak if they are not ready and listening is encouraged. Another element that exists in 12-step meetings is that newcomers are the most important people in the room and the people who have been going for a while will look forward to welcoming anyone who looks new. 12-step meetings take place in various locations that provide a quiet room where a good amount of people can sit comfortably together in chairs.

Many 12-step meetings are specific to a person’s gender regardless of the addiction. Most newly recovering addicts and alcoholics feel more comfortable at meetings where they are among the same sex because there are less social pressure and most people find that they can be more open and honest when they are not around members of the opposite sex. However, it is not a requirement, and the goal of the  12-step program is to help each other remain in recovery, and however a person manages that best, the type of meeting is up to them.

What a Twelve Step Meeting Looks Like

The way a meeting is through a secretary or a leader (the title is interchangeable) who is in charge of opening the meeting and assigning volunteers to read the 12 steps, the principles, the preamble, and someone to read a closing script that offers hope and encouragement. The meeting will begin with the secretary or leader opening the meeting with the serenity prayer, which everyone attending the meeting who chooses to say it, says it together.

After the serenity prayer, the people who volunteered to read the preamble, the twelve steps and principles are read. Next, the secretary or leader will ask if there are any newcomers who would like to introduce themselves to the group. It is not required to introduce yourself, but eventually, most people speak up after a few meetings if not at the first one. The group then welcomes those people, and the meeting moves forward.

Following introductions, the leader will make official announcements, such as updates on how much money was collected that month or inform the group about any special 12-step related events. Once all the particulars are done, the meeting will begin. Twelve-step meetings are allowed to select a topic for discussion, where people take turns at random talking about the topic. Some meetings get creative and about who talks when. Meetings may go around in a circle; while other meetings might draw cards or numbers to determine who speaks next. It is not a requirement to speak even if your turn is next or someone draws your number, card, etc.

12-step meetings encourage listening as much as they do speaking. There are meetings called ‘speaker meetings’ where one person talks about their recovery for most of the meeting. These types of meetings are great for newcomers because they get to hear how another person overcame their addictions. Once a meeting has ended, the secretary will ask if anyone still wants to talk and will offer that person a chance to speak. This is what’s called a ‘burning desire.’

Get All Burdens off Your Chest

The burning desire time is meant for people who need to get something off their chest or who are struggling and need support. After the burning desire is finished, the leader will then pass around a basket to accept donations, the most common donation at meetings is one dollar. The donations pay the rent and buy coffee and other necessary items. Last, the leader will have the last volunteer read the closing script, and the meeting will close with everyone holding hands and saying the serenity prayer one last time while in a circle.

Most 12-step meetings will provide coffee or snacks to enjoy before, during, and after the meeting. Most people who go to meetings frequently remain after the meeting to help put away chairs and clean up and to socialize with others and newcomers. The ‘meeting after the meeting’ is where people get to know each other better and is a major part of the recovery process. The 12-step program is based on people helping each other. It is a proven fact that no one can get and remain clean and sober without the support of others in recovery.

Becoming a part of the 12-step community is how most successful recovering addicts and alcoholics find peace of mind and stay clean and sober for good. Finding the right meeting is not difficult when a person is ready to change their lives by learning from others. At first, everyone who goes to a 12-step meeting is uncomfortable, just like they would be at any other type of situation where they are new.

The good news is that at 12-step meetings everyone has gone through the same uncomfortable feelings and adjust quicker than they thought they thought they would. At Recreate Life Counseling, our addiction treatment programs incorporate the twelve steps and their recovery philosophy.