No matter where you are in your recovery, you know there are certain tools in the proverbial “recovery toolkit” that you can rely on to keep your sobriety strong and moving in the right direction. One of the sharpest and most effective tools you have in that toolkit are 12-Step programs. For the better part of eight decades, these mutual self-help support groups have provided countless million of addicts worldwide with the structure and support they need to address and overcome their particular substance abuse issues. Many drug treatment facilities feature 12-step philosophies at the foundation of many of their programs,and with over 50 fellowships that cover a wide array of addictive behaviors, these mutual self-help groups have remained an essential foundation of an effective individual plan of recovery.
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If you are just starting your recovery journey, you may approach 12-step meetings with a certain degree of uncertainty and reluctance. The very thought of sharing your addiction story with complete strangers can seem rather frightening. While those feelings are understandable, the fellowship and empowerment that you gain can go a long way in helping you maintain your hard-earned sobriety. In this article, we will explore what 12-Step self-help groups are and how they are structured so you feel more comfortable in utilizing this extremely powerful recovery tool.
What Are 12-Step Support Groups?
Simply defined, a 12-step self-help group is a specific set of principles that provide a concise course of action for recovery from addiction and the related behaviors associated with addiction. The guiding principles of these programs are as follows:
- admitting that one is powerless in controlling their addiction.
- having a realization that a higher power can give people strength to overcome their addiction
- those struggling with addiction can utilize a sponsor to help them uncover the roots causes of their addictive behavior
- those struggling with addiction are given the opportunity to make amends for their past behavior
- learning to live a new life with a healthy set of coping mechanisms
- helping others who suffer from addiction.
12-Step programs are free to those suffering from substance abuse, and the only requirement for membership is that an individual as a desire to stop using drugs or alcohol. The structure of these programs lie in a series of Steps which are a set of principles that are highly spiritual in nature that are practiced as a way of life. Each of these steps centers on a particular theme, and when an addict works these steps sequentially they can eventually break the vicious cycle of addiction in their lives. In addition to the Steps, these sober support groups also feature a list of 12 traditions that serve as guidelines for living and working together both within and outside of the group.
Where Are 12-Step Programs Held And What Types of Meetings Are Available?
While these groups can meet anywhere, the most common places that meetings take places are public places such as meeting halls, church basements and schools. There are two main types of meetings those in 12-step programs can attend. The first meeting type are open meetings in which everyone is welcome to attend, whether or not they have a substance abuse issue. Open meetings are a great way for people to know more about AA, NA or other similar group and people can determine if it will be the right recovery group for them. There are also closed meetings that are open only to members and those prospective members who wish to join the group. Those who attend closed meetings have expressed the desire to using drinking or using drugs.
There are also specific meeting formats these recovery groups utilize within the open/closed meeting format. There are speaker meetings where members share their experiences, how they found the program and how the program has helped them in their recovery. There are also discussion meetings where one member speaks briefly about their own struggles with their addiction, then leads a discussion about recovery pertaining to a certain Step or topic related to addiction. Additionally, there are specific Step meetings in which discussion revolves around one of the 12 Steps.
What is the Format of a 12-Step Recovery Group Meeting?
The format of a particular recovery meeting can vary depending on the type of meeting and group, but each group roughly follows the same steps. After the chairperson calls the meeting to order, they introduce themselves and open the meeting with the Serenity Prayer or other similar prayers. The chairperson of the meeting will then go into a short description of what the particular group is and mentions that the group is non-denominational and self-supporting and doesn’t engage in specific causes or wishes to engage in any controversy.
There also may be specific readings that group members will read aloud to the group. The group leader will also ask if there are any newcomers to the meeting or specific recovery group. Newcomers will be asked to raise their hands and be acknowledged by the group. Depending on the meeting, each member of the group will have an opportunity to speak on the meeting topic. It is important for other group members not to engage in any form of cross-talk or offer those who are speaking advice. If someone doesn’t want to speak, they can simply say “I will pass”. Once the meeting is concluded, the group will come together and recite a prayer or other reading.
12-Step groups are self-supporting and will “pass the hat” during a meeting in order to solicit donations. These donations will be used to pay rent on the meeting room, pay dues to the state and national chapter and to get books and other items.
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Charles F. has been an active part of the Florida recovery community for over 5 years. He began as a behavioral health technician at an addiction treatment facility in Ocala, Florida and has since begun training as a Licensed Addiction and Chemical Dependency counselor in Boca Raton. Charles’ passion involves the promotion of recovery and helping spread the hope of recovery to as many readers as possible!