12-Step Meeting Etiquette
What is the Proper 12-Step Meeting Etiquette?
Alcoholics Anonymous started in Akron, Ohio in 1935. Due to its success and its culture of anonymity, which allows those who participate to discuss their struggles openly without risk of public exposure, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has rapidly grown in popularity. Although AA chapters have taken shape worldwide, they all follow roughly the same format and approach to recovery.
- Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Step 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Step 3: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Step 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Step 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Step 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Step 7: We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Step 8: We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Step 9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Step 10: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Step 12: We had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Eventually, the popularity of this model spread to other types of addiction, and now over 30 12-step programs exist. These alternate programs help individuals cope with specific addictions, including gambling, cocaine, crystal meth, undereating, pills, sexual addiction, narcotics, and nicotine.
In addition to following the same 12 steps, these programs follow a similar meeting format, allowing participants to feel at home attending meetings at any location.
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Effects of Proper 12-Step Meeting Etiquette
New members are welcome at any 12-step meeting at any time. In order to create a familiar and inclusive culture, meetings follow a relatively standard process. Those who wish to attend a 12-Step meeting typically benefit from knowing what to expect to get the most out of these meetings. At each 12-step program meeting whether the focus is alcohol, drugs, or a behavioral issue, participants will sit in a semi-circle, with a meeting leader seated in the middle.
The leader may ask if any new people would like to introduce themselves, but if individuals feel uncomfortable, they do not need to do so. In fact, you will not be forced to talk if you do not want to, and many people are reluctant to speak until they have been to several meetings. During the 12-step meeting, you may read, or listen to, a chapter from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
After this, members of the group may begin to share their stories.
Although you may not be ready to share and may even be skeptical about whether the 12 steps are right for you, there are rules of 12-step meeting etiquette that you should follow out of respect for others. These typically include:
- Mute or silence your cell phone before entering the room. Many of the people there are looking at these meetings as an important part of their recovery journey and even accidental disruptions can cause distress.
- Be punctual. It can be common for new members to arrive a little late to avoid uncomfortable small talk. But for the same reason as above, causing a distraction makes it harder for others to feel connected to the discussion. If you wish to avoid conversation, you are welcome to sit alone. Other members will understand.
- Do not interrupt those speaking or sharing. It can be tempting to jump in with encouragement, feedback, or questions when someone talks. But talking at 12-Step meetings takes courage, and you may accidentally make someone less likely to share again.
- Never discuss meeting content outside of the actual meeting. This is probably the most important rule, and one of the hardest to follow. It can be validating to find others who understand your struggle, but approaching other members on the street, or pushing too quickly for friendships outside of the meeting, may make some members feel self-conscious or exposed.
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Mental Illness and Etiquette for 12-Step Meetings
The link between mental illness and addiction is strong. Many individuals who are already coping with issues of mental illness are more likely to turn to substances for relief. For example, alcoholism rates are high among those suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Furthermore, many substances alter brain chemistry, worsening depression, paranoia, suicidal ideation, and social isolation.
As a result, it can be difficult for those experiencing the worst stages of substance abuse or withdrawal to participate in 12-step programs. For those individuals, the regularity of the meetings and the emphasis on the emotional connection may be overwhelming. 12-step programs are often most effective when paired with psychological counseling and addiction management resources found in professional treatment centers.
Treatment and 12-Step Meetings
No two recovery journeys are the same, and so each treatment plan will be different as well. However, for many individuals struggling with addiction – whether they are seeking freedom from alcohol abuse, sleeping pills, heroin, or any other addictive substance – the first step in their recovery program will be full medical detoxification under the supervision of healthcare professionals.
Detoxification allows the user to become accustomed to the lack of drugs or alcohol in their system. Medical assistance reduces the likelihood of a serious complication or self-harm incident. Those in recovery may also be prescribed non-addictive medication to manage lingering withdrawal effects or underlying issues, such as depression or physical pain.
Once the body is free from drugs and alcohol and underlying triggers are managed, the individual is free to start addressing mental health issues that may contribute to addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in helping gain freedom from addiction. By revealing how behaviors and environmental factors have contributed to addiction, CBT can help shape a plan for managing those situations in the future.
This is also an excellent point in the recovery plan to begin attending 12-step programs. With the body free from addictive substances, those in recovery will be more receptive to the messaging of 12-step programs and more comfortable giving and receiving the support required to benefit from these opportunities.
Resurgence Behavioral Health wants to help take the stress and anxiety out of your recovery – allowing you to focus on your sober and healthy future that awaits. We accept most PPO insurance and private forms of payment.
Worried about your insurance? Do not be. Our team will communicate with your insurance provider on your behalf, helping to reduce barriers to your recovery. Resurgence also offers payment plans that can work within almost any financial situation to ensure money never prevents you from seeking the treatment you deserve.
Just call us at 855-458-0050 to learn about your options at Resurgence Behavioral Health.
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How to Get Help
Recovery is tough, but you are tougher. Whether you struggle with alcohol, cocaine, prescription pills, or other forms of addiction, our caring and experienced team understands your needs. In choosing sobriety, you are undertaking one of the most important and fulfilling decisions of your life – and we are here for you.
With locations in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, and Fullerton Hills, as well as a beautiful Outpatient Campus, your recovery is closer than you think. We can provide Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, prescriptions, and counseling to help with depression. We also offer group therapy to help you build connections and other flexible strategies to help you achieve your recovery dreams.
Our team can also help you identify 12-step programs that meet your needs and connect you with peers who can cheer you on in your recovery. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, you can build a life free from addiction. There is no time better than now.