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12 Step Meeting Etiquette

12-step-programAA and NA meetings can be intimidating to newcomers who have decided that they want to stop using.  Early sobriety is an uncomfortable time and stepping into the rooms without knowing any of the rules or conventions only adds to this discomfort.  The last thing a newcomer needs is to be confronted about an unwritten rule with which he is not familiar.

MORE RESOURCES FOR THOSE EARLY IN RECOVERY – ADDICTION ARTICLES

First and foremost it is a sign of humility for the newcomer to prioritize listening over sharing.  New members generally know very little about living a healthy, sober life and the only way to learn from the experience of others is to listen to them.

It is not appropriate to share about problems that do not relate to alcohol in AA (or substance abuse in NA).  A common faux pas committed by newcomers is to share whatever is going on in their lives instead of speaking on topic.  Also, the experience of newcomers generally consists of drug use and not with sobriety.  As a result, their shares are often “war stories”, or nostalgic recollections of past drug use.  No matter what your addiction is, it is considered a sign of respect to introduce yourself as an addict to the substance that the meeting addresses.  For example, even if your drug of choice is heroin, you should introduce yourself as an alcoholic at an AA meeting.

Respectful 12 Step Meeting Behavior

Cell phones should be silenced or turned off at the beginning of the meeting.  If you receive an important phone call you should take it outside, but this should be avoided if possible.

It is also considered rude to get up once the meeting begins.  If you need to get coffee, go to the bathroom, or smoke, do it before the meeting begins.  People moving around can be very distracting to those who are sharing.  Most meetings do not permit crosstalk, or directly addressing the comments of others.  Instead, shares should be confined to the topic at hand and how it relates to your own experience.  If crosstalk is permitted the chairperson will say so at the beginning of the meeting.

DID SOMEONE SAY COFFEE??? – Americans Addiction to Coffee is Interesting. 

Talking to neighbors during the meeting is disrespectful to whoever is sharing.  Public speaking can provoke a lot of anxiety in some people.  Not only are side conversations distracting, but they convey the message that attendees are not listening to what the speaker has to say.

If you have to leave the meeting early or get up for some other reason, wait until the speaker finishes to do so.

Beginner’s meetings are a more welcoming environment for newcomers than conventional meetings.  Attendees are more forgiving of mistakes, so these meetings are a good place to learn the fundamentals of AA without feeling judged or ostracized.  These meetings also encourage newcomers to share, which can help alleviate any anxiety they might have with it.

At AA and NA meetings it is important to have respect for those with more experience in sobriety.  Introduce yourself as an addict to the substance that the meeting addresses, do not specifically comment on the shares of others unless the meeting permits it, do not act in ways that may distract whoever is speaking, and make an effort to learn as much from each meeting you attend.

Comments

  1. ctitmas44@gmail.com says

    to the writer: I understand the reason behind writing this article but i remeber when i first came to the rooms hearing “there are no rules in “said 12-step fellowship” but there is one must that no drugs or other paraphernalia be on your person” Also, if you are appart of one of the fellowships you are speaking of, you must know that you are breaking tradition by actually name that fellowship. Next time just use the term 12 step fellowship. I am all for continued growth and recovery for all, I choose daily to break my anonymity if it means i can help someone but as for the traditions by using the name of the fellowship you risk drawing it into public controvercy.

  2. ctitmas44@gmail.com says

    to the writer: I understand the reason behind writing this article but i remeber when i first came to the rooms hearing “there are no rules in “said 12-step fellowship” but there is one must that no drugs or other paraphernalia be on your person” Also, if you are appart of one of the fellowships you are speaking of, you must know that you are breaking tradition by actually name that fellowship. Next time just use the term 12 step fellowship. I am all for continued growth and recovery for all, I choose daily to break my anonymity if it means i can help someone but as for the traditions by using the name of the fellowship you risk drawing it into public controvercy.

  3. Susan says

    I attended some of my first NA Meetings with my son and was appalled by the fact when it was time for ppl to share most of the ppl in the meetings were on their phones either texting or playing games. Yet when the person was about to finish their sharing you could tell exactly who in the room was waiting for their turn as they would slow down or stop using their phone. All ppl without exception would mutter acknowledgment of the persons name and share and the jump in with theirs…There was constant movement in the room for coffee refills etc and ice being loudly cracked out of trays to cool off the cups of coffee…..I was completely turned off. I for one, am glad to see that I was not being “overly judgmental” as my son suggested. Due to issues such as these and other abuse problems, I have severed my relationship with my son.

  4. Susan says

    I attended some of my first NA Meetings with my son and was appalled by the fact when it was time for ppl to share most of the ppl in the meetings were on their phones either texting or playing games. Yet when the person was about to finish their sharing you could tell exactly who in the room was waiting for their turn as they would slow down or stop using their phone. All ppl without exception would mutter acknowledgment of the persons name and share and the jump in with theirs…There was constant movement in the room for coffee refills etc and ice being loudly cracked out of trays to cool off the cups of coffee…..I was completely turned off. I for one, am glad to see that I was not being “overly judgmental” as my son suggested. Due to issues such as these and other abuse problems, I have severed my relationship with my son.

  5. j says

    WTF!!?? U severed your relationship with your son because people were rude at a meeting?
    Thats the dumbest excuse i ever heard. Worry about yourself at meetings and in life for that matter.
    And what the hell does that have to do with your son?
    Call your kid. When you point a finger theres 3 pointing back at you.
    Unbelieveable…wow. I must of mis read that.

  6. j says

    WTF!!?? U severed your relationship with your son because people were rude at a meeting?
    Thats the dumbest excuse i ever heard. Worry about yourself at meetings and in life for that matter.
    And what the hell does that have to do with your son?
    Call your kid. When you point a finger theres 3 pointing back at you.
    Unbelieveable…wow. I must of mis read that.

  7. jj says

    Susan. Maybe you should take a look at yourself. Just a suggestion.
    Maybe your son was right….judgemental? Worry about what your doing, not
    Everyone else. I feel bad for your son.

  8. jj says

    Susan. Maybe you should take a look at yourself. Just a suggestion.
    Maybe your son was right….judgemental? Worry about what your doing, not
    Everyone else. I feel bad for your son.

  9. to says

    When people arrive late to the meeting, then say, since they were late, know they are really not suppose to share, but go ahead anyway, it is nit fair to those who arrived early , and did not get a chance to share. This happens continually, same person, 15-20 minutes late. Why is this allowed?

  10. to says

    When people arrive late to the meeting, then say, since they were late, know they are really not suppose to share, but go ahead anyway, it is nit fair to those who arrived early , and did not get a chance to share. This happens continually, same person, 15-20 minutes late. Why is this allowed?

  11. Glenda says

    I found this article not only interesting, but so helpful to me. Suffering from the disease of alcoholism often comes with other troubles, such as my case, involving ADD. To sit still is difficult, yet to see how that affects others, ie. Susan’s comments. To have forums that someone can air what they see, how they feel when they come into the rooms, maybe we need more of to see why so many leave. In fact there is a responsibility statement on the wall of every 12 step room; That whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out, I am responsible to be there for them. How can I do that if I chatter on the sidelines, play on my phone, get up and down, only paying attention to when I can flap my lips not on any topic of what it was like, what happened and what it is like now? All I am guilty of, how can I help anyone new if my focus is only on me? My plans? My day like treatment sharing? No, we is the first word in the Big Book! We need each other! We means more than me! It means you and you and yes, it means your sons and daughters! It means opinions and judgements because guess what folks? There is NO cure for this allergy of the body, AA coupled by an obsession of the mind. Just go to the meetings because the alternatives for all of us who don’t stay sober is jail, insanity and death! In 17 years I am an eye witness to all three.
    Flip the coin and my son getting sober 3 months before his 21st birthday, success, health and happiness. A beautiful wife and family and unlike his mother who damaged my brain, he has a host of friends and admirers. Find your idea of a power greater than yourself and I suggest the God of the universe taught well in the big book based on the good book and just don’t drink no matter what!

  12. Glenda says

    I found this article not only interesting, but so helpful to me. Suffering from the disease of alcoholism often comes with other troubles, such as my case, involving ADD. To sit still is difficult, yet to see how that affects others, ie. Susan’s comments. To have forums that someone can air what they see, how they feel when they come into the rooms, maybe we need more of to see why so many leave. In fact there is a responsibility statement on the wall of every 12 step room; That whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out, I am responsible to be there for them. How can I do that if I chatter on the sidelines, play on my phone, get up and down, only paying attention to when I can flap my lips not on any topic of what it was like, what happened and what it is like now? All I am guilty of, how can I help anyone new if my focus is only on me? My plans? My day like treatment sharing? No, we is the first word in the Big Book! We need each other! We means more than me! It means you and you and yes, it means your sons and daughters! It means opinions and judgements because guess what folks? There is NO cure for this allergy of the body, AA coupled by an obsession of the mind. Just go to the meetings because the alternatives for all of us who don’t stay sober is jail, insanity and death! In 17 years I am an eye witness to all three.
    Flip the coin and my son getting sober 3 months before his 21st birthday, success, health and happiness. A beautiful wife and family and unlike his mother who damaged my brain, he has a host of friends and admirers. Find your idea of a power greater than yourself and I suggest the God of the universe taught well in the big book based on the good book and just don’t drink no matter what!

  13. Cornelius says

    This is a load of crap. There are no rules in AA. “AA is a benign anarchy”. Come as you are. Do as you please. Great opportunity to practice “Love &Tolerance”. Rule making stifles growth.

    • Jan G. says

      then why did Bill, Bob and the other founders spend time developing the traditions, the concepts, and in present time – why does AA World Services invest resources in writing guidelines on any number of topics?

      • Jan G. says

        Your expression of “there are no rules in AA” comes from a very human habit of summarizing information – in this case it’s “Tradition Shorthand.” If you read the material in it’s entirety, you’ll find it’s not a lot of crap.

  14. Elizabeth says

    Honest question–I am new to the fellowship. In an area with crazy traffic and a life with little kids, there are times I skip a meeting because I worry I might be late. If it comes to walking in late and being distracting or skipping a meeting, what would the group prefer? Happy because I came when I needed the meeting or upset by my rude arrival?

  15. CeceB says

    41 days clean and sober and been in the rooms for about 65 days. I’m attend a crazy loud meeting where people often get up and down and make smart ass comments. Whenever I start getting irritated about the door slamming open and shut, then I remind myself that I don’t have control over that. I’m not the meeting boss. I also enjoy not feeling guilty if I want some coffee or need to go pee. In addition, this atmosphere felt familiar and comftorable to me when I first came in the door and I felt as if some of my anxiety was being released through the chaos. I’m ready to expand my horizons now and try out some different locations but I will always have a special place in my heart for that first spot that “kept me coming back.”

  16. Jack says

    A fellow I know invited me to an open house at his new place, and I went. It turned out to be an AA meeting. He was convinced that I needed it.

    Trouble was, I drink hardly at all, have not for over 40 years. I quit when I scared myself silly driving under the influence and surviving by dumb luck.

    Anyhow, it was an interesting experience and he did mean well I know. It was sort of embarrassing hearing people talk about their problems, but when my “turn” came to speak, I just declined and there was no pressure to do so.

    Neither of us has ever mentioned it since, and it has been several years ago.

  17. ctella says

    What is the etiquette if I one is atheist, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or other non-Christian religion at a meeting where the Lord’s Prayer is recited at the end? Is one allowed to not recite the prayer? Or is it acceptable to recite a prayer from one’s faith tradition (for example might a Jewish person be allowed to recite the Shehecheyanu which is at its essence a prayer of gratitude or would that be rude?)

    I don’t ask about the Serenity prayer because I believe that it expresses a wise sentiment that is very supportive of one’s recovery whether one is spiritual/religious or not. But the Lord’s Prayer is extremely Chrisitian-specific.

    • Tim Stoddart says

      HI,

      This is a good question. I am not sure if there is an official answer to it, but I chose not to say the Lords prayer. I don’t make a big deal out of it, and no one seems to notice. I also think the Serenity prayer has a lot of overlapping wisdom to do, so I chose to say that one. It’s only a big deal if you make it one.

      Thanks.

    • Raquel says

      Yup been told that many of times. It’s better to be late and be running “out there” and be in your pile of shit. Talk to someone after the meeting

  18. tina says

    Just be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve sobriety. Willingness to grow apon Spiritual lines. Find a sponsor, buy a big book, work the steps. Also take it one day at a time!

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