Attend your first 12-step meeting

What do you expect when you participate in the 12-step or alcohol abstinence meeting? If you have never participated, you may have fears and reservations. Usually, your only exposure is through what you see in a movie or TV show. What is the fact?

Common myth

You may think that these things happened in the 12-step meeting, but they may be myths rather than typical events.

  • You will be surrounded by “helpful” alcoholics.
  • You must stand up and say, “I am an alcoholic.”
  • You must tell all your secrets about my alcohol addiction.
  • You must participate in a collective hug.
  • You must pray.
  • You joined a cult.
  • You may see people you know.

First meeting

What is the reality of most meetings? The meeting may be held in a building connected to a church or community center. When you arrive, you find that most of the people you see are attending an anonymous abstinence meeting. Several people outside the room were making coffee and chatting.

In the house, people come and go; some gather to chat, some sit alone. You sit down at the door (just in case you want to leave quickly), when people pass by, someone greets, someone nods, someone stops to introduce themselves, and someone keeps silent.

About 10 minutes later, 50 people were sitting on semicircular chairs. A person sits in the middle of the circle. They were the chairmen of the meeting that day.

How it works

At the meeting, the chairman read the AA preface, and then led a group prayer, which is a quiet prayer (short version). Subsequently, different members of the conference read parts of the AA literature, including the book “Alcoholic Anonymous” (usually called “The Big Book”) And “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.”

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The chairperson asked if any newcomers or first-time participants would like to introduce themselves by their names. Several people raised their hands. You may or may not be one of them, because it is an option and not mandatory.

Ladder Learning Meeting

The meeting may be a staged meeting. The chairman announced which step they will discuss. After reading the steps chapter in the book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,” the chair asked if anyone had any experience, strength, or hope for the steps they wanted to share.


During the meeting, people just started talking. Everyone first introduces themselves, “Hello, my name is (name), and I am an alcoholic.” Just like in a movie, everyone will answer: “Hello (name)!” After they finish their “story” “After that, everyone in the room thanked them. Then the next person can talk.

After sharing, the chairman asked if there were any announcements related to AA. In some cases, they announced it was the time for the Lord’s Prayer, and everyone stood in a big circle, holding hands, and reciting the prayer. You don’t have to participate in prayer. After the prayer is over, the meeting is over.

After the meeting

People gather, talk, and now the meeting is full of social atmosphere. Some people may introduce themselves to you and ask questions. If you don’t want to socialize, you are free to leave.

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Other formats

Different meetings have different ways of doing things, but in most cases, they operate in similar ways. In other words, there are various meetings for different types of people, whether they are business executives, women, young people, pilots or medical professionals, and everyone will have their own feelings.

No two meetings are the same. Some will be big, some will be small; some are related to the treatment plan, and some meetings will feel more religious than others.

In some meetings, people are called randomly. The idea is that this prevents the same people from constantly sharing and overwhelms the shyer and quieter people. In other meetings, at the end of the prayer, everyone may say a popular AA slogan, such as “Meeting creators succeed.”

Some meetings are purely discussion meetings, the topics are random, and more are derived from the interests of one of the members. The feature of the speaker meeting is to choose a person to talk about their experience, strength, and hope in recovery.

A member named Barb M. said that what made her most relieved was the unassuming feeling when she first attended the meeting.

“No one bombarded me with his or her religious slogans, no one pestered me holding hands and praying, no one cared whether I was sitting in the back or in the front, drinking coffee or not, helping clean up or ran away before the meeting. .” You may indeed meet someone you know or someone who knows you.

The only established rules are those that are mutually respected, which may include:

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AA’s helper

If you are not sure if you are alcoholic, please find a “public” meeting in your area to attend. Many non-alcoholics may participate in these activities, but no one thinks you are an alcoholic just because you are there.

Barb M. said that she waited many meetings before deciding to introduce herself as an alcoholic and accept her first bargaining chip.

A common practice is that when you introduce yourself to the group as a newcomer and alcoholic, you will receive a meeting calendar with the names and phone numbers of people you can call if you need alcohol and help .

The people who wrote their phone numbers in this book did so because they really wanted to help. No one is required to do this, but it follows the AA tradition that when alcoholics ask for help, AA will lend a helping hand.

How to find a meeting

Your primary care doctor or mental health professional can help you find a local 12-step meeting. You can also search for conferences in your area in the traditional way by looking up AA in the white pages of your local phone book and dialing the number to get information about meetings in your area.

The AA World Services website provides numbers for central offices, group rooms, or answering services around the world. In larger cities, there is often a “place and time” booklet listing AA meetings.

During the COVID-19 crisis, AA also provides virtual meetings, phone calls and emails.