§ Part of the Recovery Is NOT For Quitters… series §
If you are at all familiar with 12-Step programs you have most likely heard the expression “meeting makers make it” or something similar. Group meetings are the crux of most 12-Step programs, but are they really an effective tool in the battle against addiction? There is no short answer to this question.
Once again, I will use AA as the example because although I have also attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) meetings, it is the AA flavor that I am most familiar with. By the way, I would definitely recommend that someone new to the recovery process attend different kinds of meetings regardless of the type of addiction. Though at the most basic level almost all 12-Step meetings follow a similar format, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to experience the differences they do have.
There are basically four types of meetings that 12-Step groups use:
- Topic (or Discussion) Meetings: In these, usually a regular member of the group has volunteered to introduce a topic for the whole group to discuss. These topics are varied, but the longer you go to meetings, you will notice that a few key topics are often the topic of discussion. Some of these include, emotions, gratitude, forgiveness and many others. After the topic is introduced, it is common for large groups to break up into smaller ones to make sure that everyone gets the opportunity to talk about it.
- Big Book Meetings: At this type of meeting a section of the big book is read aloud, usually by going around the room with each person reading a paragraph or two. After the reading discussion begins with each person describing how the reading applies in their own life.
- Step Meetings: Here, one of the Twelve Steps is the topic of discussion. These can be some of the most enlightening meetings as they give the opportunity for everyone to discuss their interpretation of the step and how they use it in their struggle.
- Speaker Meetings: Usually this type of meeting brings in someone from outside the local group to tell their story. While there may be a question and answer session when the speaker has finished, there is usually no discussion. Often, AA groups will have a Pot Luck dinner either before or right after a speaker meeting.
So do meetings help? Well, that completely depends on the individual. I have seen some folks who, due to a court order, are required to attend meetings. Usually, these people do not want to be there and most often refuse to participate in any way or simply go through the motions. I have serious doubts whether meetings can do any good for these folks.
There should be no dogmatism at meetings. No one has the answer for everyone. Keep in mind though, just as in any group of people, you are bound to come across know-it-all-ists, AA (or NA, CA, DRA, etc) dogmatists who insist that the Big Book is the end-all be-all answer for addiction, moralists, and just about every other kind of -ist and -ian. For the most part however, you will meet very down to earth people who, like you, are looking for help and support.
If you attend meetings regularly you will find that you will most likely start forming new friendships with like-minded people. This is why meetings can be beneficial in the recovery process. There are no authority figures or counselors; just every day people who are willing to share their experience and hope, showing the newcomer that they are truly not alone.
If you’ve read some of the other posts in this series you know by now that I do not believe that any 12-Step program by itself can provide true freedom from addiction. I believe that addiction is in reality a symptom of other issues. If one can get to the bottom of those other issues, then one can eventually be truly free from addiction.
Again, what I believe is what works for me. I do not, under any circumstances, believe that what works for me will necessarily work for anyone else. Am I being exclusive? Certainly not. I spent a very long time delving deep into myself to discover what I needed to be free. While sharing my experience can help, you too will have to do a lot of “soul searching” to find true freedom for yourself. Meetings are a great way to learn what works for other people and try it for yourself. If nothing else, you will meet some wonderful people who truly want to see you succeed and be free.
Have you attended any kind of recovery meeting? What did you think?