A Guide to 12-Step Meetings

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 | By Chris Clancy

As part of your continuing care plan, it will be recommended you attend regular 12-step meetings for support and encouragement. Understanding the founding principles and the general meeting guidelines can help ease some fears and anxiety you might be facing.

The History of 12-Step Programs

Since the 1930s, 12-step programs have been an integral part of the treatment and aftercare plan for those coping with alcoholism and other substance use disorders. With roots in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), this program is probably the most widely-recognized, free support system for alcoholics. An estimated 1.2 million participate in the 55,000 AA meeting groups held across the country.

The model has been incredibly effective in creating an anonymous outlet for those with similar struggles to come together for guidance and fellowship.

What Happens in a 12-Step Meeting?

Your first fear may be that you’re joining a cult. You’re not. You may think you’ll be forced to hug total strangers. You won’t be. You may think you’ll run into someone you know. You may. But anonymity is the code of conduct and is taken very seriously.

The meetings usually range between 60 to 90 minutes and although agendas can vary and different topics can arise based on the focus for the day, the founding spiritual principles of the 12 steps ring true throughout. This way, anyone, anywhere, can feel at home when they attend.

Meetings will open and close with prayer and members may share their own spiritual breakthroughs but everyone’s beliefs are respected and there is a judgment-free setting for non-participation in prayer.

It is highly suggested that members read what is known as “The Big Book” Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of how Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism by Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA.

From Intimidating to Life-changing

Ben* has been in recovery for nearly two years and admits that he was reluctant to attend his first 12-step meeting. In his mind, he was in treatment and that was what was going to “fix” him.

“My first meeting, I didn’t understand why I was there,” he explained. “I certainly didn’t know the culture, and I felt like a needle in a haystack.”

But slowly, the meetings have become a source of strength for him. The more he attended, the more comfortable he became.

“Little by little, I began to feel a part of the whole,” he shared. “I began to understand how vital these meetings are to those struggling with addiction. Now, I can’t live without them – literally. Although it was scary, confusing and a blow to my ego, it was what I needed and still need in order to live the life I’ve always envisioned.”

In a further effort to make the atmosphere as comfortable as possible, you may want to select a home group that makes you feel most comfortable emotionally, socially and culturally.  To find a meeting near you, check out Alcoholics Anonymous in Bowling Green.


[1] http://www.ct.gov/DMHAS/cwp/view.asp?a=2901&q=494054
[2] http://www.12step.com/12-step-quick-facts
[3] http://www.12step.com/12steps

*Source’s name has been changed to protect his identity

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