If you have never attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting before, the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and sharing your story can be intimidating. You are not alone in that sentiment. Feeling anxious or overwhelmed before your first meeting is normal. But if you push beyond your discomfort, you may find that 12 Step meetings provide you with the extra support you are looking for to keep you on track in your recovery.
To make your first meeting a bit easier, here are some tips from others in recovery:
Remember, everyone was new at some point.
During 12 Step meetings you will hear a lot of the same phrases, you will hear about the Big Book, you will hear about the steps ⎼ it is okay to not understand everything that is going on. Everyone in that room was new at one point and learned along the way. Know that no one will judge you. In most cases, group members will be more than willing to help you gain a better understanding of 12 Step and how it can aid your recovery. After all, helping others is a big component of 12 Step.
Once the meeting has started, you don’t have many opportunities for small talk. But if you show up ten minutes early, you can find the moderator or meeting chair and let them know that it is your first meeting. It is their job to welcome newcomers and help them feel at ease. They will likely introduce you to some old-timers or particularly nice and welcoming group members who will help you navigate your first meeting. After the meeting is over, be sure to stay for a few minutes and introduce yourself to others. You never know who could be a great source of support.
There are a lot of misconceptions about 12 Step, and if you go into a meeting with your mind already made up, you will likely not get much out of it. Be open and give the experience a real shot. Listen to others and try to find the similarities and connect to their words. Maybe you don’t know what being homeless is like. Maybe you haven’t lost your job due to your addiction. Or maybe your “rock bottom” is worse than theirs. Maybe you have watched addiction take loved ones. But the reality is that it doesn’t matter if your story isn’t as bad or is worse than theirs. What matters is that everyone in that room has at least one thing in common: they want to heal. They want recovery.
Bring a friend.
If you are an introvert, or if you are simply not ready to go to a meeting by yourself, consider bringing a friend along. Having someone you know by your side will help you feel more comfortable and more likely to let your guard down. If you know someone who attends 12 Step meetings, ask them if you can tag along. If you don’t, grab someone you know from treatment and attend your first meeting together. If you’d rather bring a loved one along who is not in recovery, find an open meeting. These meetings are open to those in recovery and anyone who supports them.
If you go to a meeting and decide it doesn’t feel right for you, try another one. Every meeting is different, and it might take you a few tries until you find the meeting that matches your needs. And if you ultimately decided that 12 Step isn’t right for you, there are other alternative support groups that you can benefit from, such as SMART Recovery. So, don’t give up after one try and always keep working on your recovery.