Meetings of twelve step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous have different formats for specifically different types of meetings within the fellowship. Most common are the open meetings, which typically follow a general format. The meeting is opened with a reading of a preamble, explaining the fellowship. Next, selected portions of the texts, such as The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous are read aloud. Some meetings celebrate the sober anniversaries and milestones in the beginning of meetings, others at the end. A selected leader of the meeting shares on a topic of their choice. They might read a portion of a text, or discuss the story of their personal sobriety. After they finish with their lead, the meeting is opened up for general discussion.
During the discussion period of a twelve step meeting, the commentaries are usually asked to be restricted to the topic at hand. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous will ask that you share only on problems related to alcohol. Other twelve step fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous are a little more open and invite conversation about all “mind altering substances”. Sharing at a meeting has two primary purposes. First, it is to communicate to the newcomer. Second, it is to spread you experience, strength, and hope, as a member of recovery.
What do I share at meetings?
Here are some tips for sharing at a meeting;
- Avoid indulging in memories about the “good old days” or detailing the chronology of your “drunkalogue”. Yes, these meetings are for talking about “what it was like”, but they are more importantly for talking about how you are recovering. You don’t want to trigger the newcomer who is still experiencing severe cravings. You want to encourage them to stick to recovery because it gets better.
- Don’t use meetings as a therapy session. Processing is for process groups. It is okay to “check in” at a meeting and disclose things at a group level you’ve been having a hard time communicating. However, you’ll want to avoid carrying on about outside issues like relationships, finances, and other life situations. It is perfectly acceptable to cry at meetings.
- Practice honesty within reason. It is good for newcomers to know that they can be honest about their challenges and struggles. Discretion is also important. Refrain from naming names and giving out too much personal detail.