If you are reading this, it’s possible you’ve considered approaching one of these meetings as a way to eliminate whatever it is you seek to remove from your life. There are of course many groups for a variety dependencies. All follow the same basic pattern, and all are excellent choices for beginning a new way of living. Some are held in homes, some in semi-public places, and others in clubs. An on-line search will reveal locations and phone numbers. Here is a link to a nationwide network of groups- http://www.sobernation.com/list-of-12-step-programs/ Dues are never required, but donations are gently encouraged from those who can afford them. Some groups are “closed”, meaning they are intended only for those directly involved in seeking recovery. Most are “open”, which encourages friends and family members to be welcome in order to support guests. Other subgroups include: women only, men, Spanish speaking, GLBT, and so on. They exist so attendees can open up in a more comfortable, less-vulnerable environment. Each meeting usually starts with standard readings from the appropriate literature. Before the period where members speak, you will be asked (along with everyone else in the room) to identify yourself by first name only and to state your suspected affliction. This is the only time you should be prompted to say anything publicly, and even then, no one should chastise if you choose to remain silent. When the period for sharing starts, it usually goes to the person who talks first. I have been to meetings where people call randomly upon others to share after they are done. No pressure here; if you don’t want to say anything, simply turn it down. Most meetings will last only one hour. They will be concluded when the designated chairperson makes a few announcements and asks some final questions. In the end, all will stand, join hands, and repeat aloud “The Lord’s Prayer.” This is a condensed version of what will probably happen. There are actually still some meetings where you’re allowed to smoke, and these will identify themselves as such through an official schedule. Coffee, tea, and water is usually available.
If you’re anything like me, there’s some apprehension ahead of passing through those doors. I wondered what kind of people would be waiting. Who would look at me and suspect what I wanted no one else to know? It felt like I was walking into court. My fears vanished when I realized that any given room may have a doctor, student, housewife, prostitute, cop, teacher, business owner, criminal, grandmother, soldier–I’m sure you get the picture. Basically, there is no stereotype for identifying who might be sitting across from you. What they all will have in common with each other (and you) is that they found themselves in the same place. Although each person’s past will be different, there will be plenty of mutual understanding and support for present circumstances.
In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons the “anonymous” label exists, is to level the playing field. Here, where privacy is revered, there is no authority–nor are there other titles designed to establish any kind of pecking order. Each individual stands upon their own accomplishments within the program and believe me, that is enough. What is said in confidentiality is promised to be kept at that level. Without this ethic in place, it’s doubtful many would open up far enough to allow any kind of healing to take place.
The 12 steps themselves are a set of declarations, principles, oaths, and actions structured to rebuild a life of health, abundance, and love. They CANNOT be self-interpreted. They must be approached through a trusted and disciplined source. IF you decide to attend and make a commitment to following the curriculum, you will need to seek out a willing sponsor. Success will not come to fruition without one. As far as I’m concerned, friends are not allowed to be considered. Those you choose must decide to accept you and must be impartial to your goals and feelings. They will tell you the truth, despite how they think you may react. Please read my post “HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK” at this link for further clarification on this subject https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2013/05/04/how-to-know-if-you-are-on-the-right-track/
Approaching this environment is not as overwhelming as you might think. The people here are highly motivated if not overjoyed to help you. If you thought you were alone in your pain, that’s the first idea that’s going out the window. Every meeting has in its traditions a statement that reads something like this, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop.” That’s it; nothing else will be asked of you.
May you find the peace and happiness that evades so many. I wish you the best that life can offer.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood