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What Happens in 12 Step Meetings?

The 12 step philosophy is helping people recover from addiction all over the world. Some may think that there is mystery surrounding the 12 step meetings. Since the meetings are anonymous not very many people who attend them and talk about it afterwards. This leads to a sort of unintentional secrecy to these meetings. According to the American Bar Association, most 12 step meetings have a similar format.

The 12 Steps

Almost all 12 step programs are focused around the 12 steps of the program. These 12 steps provide the fundamental principles that surround the 12 step culture. The 12 steps are:

  1. Admit that you do not have power over your addiction and that your life is no longer manageable.
  2. Come to believe that there is a higher power who can help you regain control.
  3. Turn your life over to the higher power.
  4. Examine yourself and inventory all of the good and bad things about you.
  5. Admit to yourself, another person, and the higher power exactly what you did wrong.
  6. Make yourself ready to have the higher power step in and help.
  7. Ask the higher power to remove your flaws and shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of the people you hurt and ready yourself to make amends to them.
  9. Correct all of the ways that you hurt others and unless it makes things worse.
  10. Continue to inventory and correct yourself.
  11. Pray and meditate to become closer to the higher power.
  12. Help others onto the path of recovery once you are there yourself.

These are the basics of the 12 steps according to the Alcoholics Anonymous website. The 12 steps form the basis of almost all 12 step meetings.

The Beginning of a 12 Step Meeting

Meetings usually start on time. They begin with a chairperson reading the 12 step preamble. The preamble is a statement of what the 12 step program is all about and although the wording changes depending on the group, the basic philosophy behind it does not. It outlines the fact that the 12 step program is a fellowship of people sharing to defeat a common problem and that the only requirement for membership is giving up the things you are addicted to.

It might also contain a statement about how the organization is member funded but donations are not required. They are a self supporting organization that survives off the goodwill of their members.

The chairperson will then lead everyone in the serenity prayer and move on to welcome new and returning members. At this point, they may ask new people to introduce themselves and give out new member chips.

The Middle Portion of a 12 Step Meeting

12 step meeting

The 12 step meeting format will depend on the type of meeting.

The middle or main portion of the meeting will follow one of several formats depending on the type of meeting it is. The types of meetings are:

  • Big Book Meetings – this is one of several meeting types that the discussion is centered around the Big Book or the book that all 12 step groups follow. Usually at the Big Book discussions, books are provided and sometimes given to new members.
  • Step Meetings – these meetings center around the 12 steps and the discussion about them. Some of these meetings are about a specific step while others are about the steps in general.
  • Speaker meetings – in these meetings a single speaker shares their story and the others listen and relate it to their own stories. Speaker meetings come in speaker only and speaker discussion types of meeting.
  • Beginner meetings – these are meant to welcome and teach beginners about the program. If you are joining you do not have to attend a beginner meeting first. You are welcome to attend any meeting.
  • Discussion meeting – this is the type of meeting most people are familiar with. People go around discussing their issues and problems with the group.

Each of these meetings comes in open and closed types. Open type meetings are open to the public including those studying the program, counselors, and writers. Closed meetings are for those that have an addiction only outsiders are not generally encouraged at these meetings but new members always are.

Some meetings are just about the people that attend them. One person starts with the traditional “My name is ___,” and then he or she shares their story. When everyone is done the end of the meeting starts.

The Ending of a 12 Step Meeting

The end of the meeting involves the chair person asking if there are any announcements. Then he or she leads everyone in the Lord’s Prayer. Usually for this, everyone stands and holds hands. You do not have to do this if you feel uncomfortable doing so. The general idea is to bring everyone together and close the meeting on a more positive note.

After the Meeting

Usually after the meeting people gather and talk. The meeting becomes more social and people talk, share, and generally get to know each other. You are welcome to leave at any point during the meeting and normally people are extremely friendly.

Although there is an air of mystery surrounding 12 step meetings, most of them follow this general guideline. The best way to find out about a 12 step meeting is to go to one of the open ones in your area. If you need help there is generally a meeting near you. We can help. Call 800-895-1695 for more information.

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