What to Expect at an AA or NA Meeting

July 14, 2014
Many of us experience tremendous anxiety when contemplating attending our first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. This feeling is common, and largely based on our fear of the unknown. We have no idea what to expect at a meeting, how to find one, which one to attend, what to do, say and where to sit.

The courage to take that first step: to walk in the door of a 12 step meeting, marks great growth in our willingness to recover. This article may allay some of the anxiety and dispel some of the illusions about what to expect.

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Let’s start with how to find a meeting. The obvious solution to the problem of anxiety and fear of the unknown is to attend your first meeting with someone in AA/NA who knows the ropes. If this is not possible, visit the AA or NA websites: www.AlcoholicsAnonymous.org or www.narcoticsanonymous.org . These sites will walk you through how to find a meeting in your area. You can also call your local AA Central Office, or the Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous hotline.

Once you have found the listing, pick a meeting that appeals to you. You will find several types of meetings. There will be Speaker, Big Book, Discussion and Step meetings among others. You can refer to the AA website for a complete description of meeting types, as well as explanations of the meeting codes. In general Speaker meetings are where one individual shares his or her recovery story, followed by group discussions. In Discussion meetings everyone can share on the day’s topic or reading.. In Big Book meetings the book of Alcoholics Anonymous is discussed. A Closed meeting is for those who have identified as an alcoholic/addict. An Open meeting is open to those who may want to listen and are not clear on the nature of their alcoholism or addiction. There are meetings for women only, and for men only.

If you are attending your first meeting, just find a seat where you are comfortable, sit back and listen. Take in the meeting and how it works so that you are more comfortable next time. Meetings usually start with AA readings and the Serenity Prayer, and end with the Serenity or Lord’s Prayer. You are not required to share at meetings, and at some you are not required to introduce yourself (by first name only). No two AA meetings are alike; the commonality lies in the member’s desire to stay sober. You will find people in the rooms are quite welcoming and encouraging to newcomers. They will encourage you to keep coming back.

Most importantly, keep an open mind. Each meeting has a different dynamic; it can change with the meeting time of day, the location, or the meeting type. Give each meeting a chance, you may need to return a few times before you feel comfortable. Try different meetings and choose your favorite to be your home group. Try to avoid the trap of looking for reasons to justify your desire to not be there and not return. Look for the similarities and not the differences…. Remember, we put an awful lot of effort and time into feeding our addictions; we deserve to give our recovery and our lives much more.

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