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Going to your first 12 step meeting is very intimidating. I remember all of the questions running through my mind!
Are they all going to stare at me? Or worse, TALK to me?
Will it be all old people? Or worse, all old MEN?
What if I’m actually an alcoholic?
Going to a meeting and saying the dreaded “I’m _____ and I’m an alcoholic.” is one of the hardest but most necessary tasks you’ll complete in your sobriety.
The good thing is – everyone in AA has done it and survived.
The bad thing is – people WILL talk to you.
How to go to your first 12 Step meeting:
Find a meeting to attend.
Lookup a meeting close to where you live at aa.org. You may be surprised how many meetings are in your area. If you know someone who attends meetings, reach out and ask if you can attend a meeting with them. Going with someone you know will make you feel even more comfortable at the meeting. However, attending by yourself will be fine, too!
Write down the address and any other details you can, i.e. “back entrance, First Baptist Church, Room 103.” Writing the information on paper will eliminate any technical difficulties that may deter you when you arrive.
Find the motivation to get to the meeting.
Finding the motivation to really go to the meeting is hard. Believe me, I’VE BEEN THERE. Wanting to be sober but not getting sober is a dark place that you can stay stuck in for years. Find your motivation and make it your necessity. Why do you want to stop drinking or using? To make sober friends? Do you want to reconnect with your family and friends? Do you want to find inner peace? Reflecting on these things will bring you to the door of the meeting. Even if you have to cry and listen to Whitney Houston on the way, just get to that first meeting!
Get there at least 5 minutes early.
You may need a few minutes to figure out where the meeting is.
Find smokers. They will guide you!
This is not a joke. You really will find the smokers outside the building. Here is my method that has worked at 100% of new meetings. After driving to the meeting, use the other detailed information on the meeting information if there is any, i.e. “Room 203 upstairs.” Park and walk towards the building. Find smokers and/or vapers. You will probably look nervous and confused, which is normal for newcomers. They may walk up to you or look at you. Either way, wave at the smokers and say, “I’m looking for the meeting.”
This method of finding the entrance has worked at every new meeting I have attended, including internationally in London, England! AA meetings are everywhere. Smokers are everywhere. Members of AA want you to be at the meeting. They will be friendly. If you do not want to chat before the meeting, that’s ok. Just ask them what room to go to.
Let people know that you are a newcomer.
The meeting will begin promptly. At most meetings, the chairperson will ask some version of the question, “Is this anyone’s first AA meeting?” Raise your hand and introduce yourself.
Focus on the similarities and not the differences.
Most people who share at the meeting will tell you their story. Soak in what they are sharing as much as you can. Focus on what is similar in your experience. You only have one first meeting ever!
Talk to people after the meeting.
Members are excited to meet newcomers. Do not let this deter you. Explain to them why you are interested in getting sober.
Get phone numbers at the meeting.
Ask the people who speak to you for their phone numbers. Making sober connections is important for your recovery. Most meetings will even give you a newcomer packet with name and phone numbers of the group members listed.
Call the phone numbers.
Choose three people that you felt a connection to at the meeting you attended. Call them. You don’t have to say much since AA members will be so excited that you called. Here’s a simple script to use:
“Hey Jane, This is Emily. Thanks for talking to me at the meeting. How did you get sober?”
Seriously, that’s all. The person will likely tell their story and maybe ask a few questions. This is what making a sober friend looks like! My first sponsor had me call two women a day for the first six months. I am still friends with many of those women just from calling them every so often early in my sobriety.
Go to another meeting.
Going to meetings is very important in sobriety. Did you like the first meeting you went to? Then go to that meeting again. If you didn’t, I suggest looking up another meeting in your area and go. There are many AA meetings and they all have different vibes. You’ll find one that you like! There are meetings geared towards young people, Spanish speakers, LGTBQIA+ and even women only or men only meetings.
See, that wasn’t so bad! I enjoy going to meetings to meet new people and hear their stories. Speaker meetings are my favorite. At speaker meetings, one person shares their experience from start to finish. However, just going to meetings doesn’t get you sober. Not drinking or doing drugs is what gets you sober. Finding out how to go to your first 12 step meeting ensures that you find community and support.
More Resources for How to Go to Your First 12 Step Meeting:
Find an AA meeting: http://www.aa.org
Find an NA meeting: https://na.org