While in treatment, you probably attended 12-Step meetings with peers from the program. Going to 12-Step meetings in a group can ease the tension of confronting the challenges of your recovery from addiction. Maybe you have made a couple of close friends and feel comfortable sharing and interacting with them. Now that you’re out of treatment, though, it’s time to spread your wings and embrace independence. It’s time to practice your new skills in the unstructured world outside of treatment. Learn more about what to expect and how you can embrace the discomfort of stepping outside your comfort zone.

Getting Used to a New Setting

The 12-Step program you’ve attended was probably directly linked to your program. Now, people from the general public can attend. The meeting location will likely be in a building connected to a church or community center.

Although there are variations on 12-Step programs, the overall flow of the meeting will be mostly the same. You will find attendees scattered around the room drinking coffee, chatting, or sitting alone. Some say hello and introduce themselves to you as they walk in, while others keep quiet. As the meeting comes to a start, everyone takes their seat in a semi-circle around the meeting chairperson.

After reading some recovery literature, the chairperson will ask if any newcomers would like to introduce themselves. Since this is your first time alone at a meeting, you may feel uneasy raising your hand. That is completely fine! Introducing yourself is optional, as is sharing your story. Sharing will come naturally as you begin to warm up to this new environment and its members.

At the end of a sharing session, and depending on the particular group, individuals may take hands to pray. Don’t worry, though. You are not expected to hold hands and pray if it’s not your thing.  

You Don’t Have to Be Religious

Some critics of 12-Step programs think a person must either be a Christian or religious to join. This is a common myth. It is true that the program founders were inspired by Christianity and the belief in God. The Twelve Steps frequently refer to leaning on a higher power due to the uncontrollable nature of addiction. For instance, the second and third steps say: 

#2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

#3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

However, there is absolutely zero pressure or expectation that you should be affiliated with any particular religion. In fact, members are encouraged to find a higher power that resonates with them, whether that higher power is the universe, science, nature, or the power of the group itself. It is widely understood that 12-Step meetings are for non-practitioners, too, so don’t let this common myth turn you away. 

Moreover, there are 12-Step programs that leave the spiritual component out completely. In these scenarios, the Twelve Steps are slightly modified to be more relevant to people who identify as agnostic or atheist. Some meetings are even geared towards certain demographics like women, young and mature adults, or individuals with specific professions. 

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Know What to Expect With Proper Etiquette 

While in treatment, members of the 12-Step group you attended probably developed their own meeting culture. However, programs open to the general public may have different expectations based on common respect and fellowship. Here are a few simple rules to stick by:

  • Show up to meetings 15 minutes early and stay 15 minutes after. 
  • Turn off or silence your phone. 
  • Avoid getting up from your seat once the meeting has started.
  • Address the group directly instead of just one person. 
  • Stick to speaking from your own experience by using “I” statements.
  • Share once and allow others time to speak. 
  • Listen when others are sharing – don’t have side discussions.
  • Remain on the topic set for the meeting.
  • Respect group members’ desire to be anonymous outside of the group.
  • Find a sponsor to help you work the Twelve Steps.
  • Use the phone list provided to you for support and accountability. 

Talking about an alcohol or drug addiction can be very painful and triggering for some, so it is imperative to be aware of proper etiquette practices in this environment. Members need to feel respected and comfortable so that they can be open about their issues. 

By knowing that everyone is on the same page about how to treat each other, you can begin to feel more prepared to interact. You will know what to expect when attending a 12-Step meeting on your own for the first time. 

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The 12-Step program you’re used to attending was directly linked to your treatment program. Now, you have completed the program and are about to head to your first 12-Step meeting without any of your peers. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand that coming out of treatment can be nerve-racking. You’ve probably gotten used to the highly structured recovery environment and have made friends that you feel comfortable sharing your stories with. However, there comes a time when we have to encourage your independence so you can practice the skills you learned in residential treatment. We suggest that you learn more about 12-Step programs outside of treatment so you can become oriented for your first meeting. Additionally, participating in our aftercare program can help you manage low-self-esteem and anxiety that you may experience while interacting with others who are unfamiliar to you. Let us help prepare you to spread your wings post-treatment. Call Hawaii Island Recovery at (866) 390-5070.

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