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.


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.


ctitmas44@gmail.com - September 12, 2013.

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.

Susan - October 24, 2013.

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.

Chris - November 22, 2013.

How sad for you and your son Susan, have u tried Alanon? Maybe it will help.

j - February 7, 2014.

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.

jj - February 7, 2014.

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.

to - February 13, 2014.

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?

Leave a Comment