What Can I Expect at My First 12 Step Meeting?

Attending a 12 Step meeting for the first time can seem overwhelming, to say the least. Not knowing what to expect, feeling as if you have to participate and dealing with feelings of anxiety in general can make your first time at a meeting seem more difficult than it really is.

The 12 Step support model has become a cornerstone of addiction recovery, helping those in recovery build the type of lifestyle that makes long-term sobriety possible. While 12 step meetings can differ in format from meeting to meeting, the overall objective remains the same: to provide a supportive environment for people who want to take back control of their lives from addiction.

The 12 Step Support Model

The 12 Step support model has a 75+ year history within the addictions field, and has become a mainstay in terms of the role it plays within formal treatment programs as well as a source of support for people outside the treatment process. According to the Journal of Social Work in Public Health, 12 Step meetings equip recovering addicts with the tools needed for ongoing behavior change and long-term abstinence.

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12 Step Meeting Formats

First 12 Step Meeting

Newcomers have the choice as to whether they speak at their first meeting.

Twelve Step meeting formats, as far as how group meetings are structured, can vary in the following ways:

  • Open meetings vs closed meetings, with open meetings welcoming anyone and closed meetings reserved strictly for people working though addiction problems
  • All men, all women or mixed meetings
  • Small groups vs. Large groups
  • Meetings with main speakers
  • 12-Step study meetings
  • Discussion meetings
  • Big Book meetings

Finding out a meeting’s format beforehand gives you an idea of what to expect, so it doesn’t hurt to ask around if you’re looking for a certain type of group.

Meeting Atmosphere

According to the Journal of Substance Use & Misuse, ongoing support plays a central role in the recovery process and can mean the difference between long-term abstinence and recurring relapse episodes. In this respect, 12 Step meetings work hard to create an atmosphere where newcomers and veteran’s alike can find the guidance and encouragement needed to overcome addiction’s effects in their day-to-day lives.

For these reasons, no one’s expected or forced to speak at a meeting until they feel comfortable. It’s not uncommon at all for first-timers to just listen and take it all in.

The people that make up a group meeting all face the same types of obstacles and challenges you’re facing, so there’s no need to worry about being judged or looked down on.

Your First Meeting Checklist

Overcoming Feelings of Fear

Stopping drug or alcohol use can set your emotions into a tailspin, making certain social situations feel uncomfortable or cause feelings of anxiety. Under these conditions, it can be easy to isolate yourself from the types of situations that can help you move forward.

In effect, feelings of fear, shame and guilt all feed into the addiction cycle and when followed, create optimal conditions for relapse to occur. While the thought of your first 12 Step meeting may seem overwhelming, it helps to keep in mind that much of this discomfort stems from addiction’s aftereffects.

If you or someone you know are considering attending a 12 Step meeting and have more questions, or need help finding treatment that meets your needs, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-781-0748 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

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