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How To Get The Most Out of 12 Step Groups

people meet for 12 step therapy group

The 12 steps form the basis of most alcohol and drug addiction programs. Additionally, there are 12-step groups for just about any type of addiction you can think of. The key factor here if you wish to know how to get the most out of 12-step groups is that you must attend. Yep. Go to a meeting! Participation is one of the keys to getting the most out of 12 step groups. 12-step support groups are friendly places. There are many groups available and most are free to attend and open to anyone. You’ll find groups for young people or older folks; groups for religious people, agnostic people, gay people, straight people, and students. Some groups focus on alcoholism, others serve drug addiction, gambling, sex, or other types of addictions. Some may focus on people within a specific profession or are affiliated with an addiction treatment center. The key is to find a group you find synergy in. Find a place you like.

12-step groups have two types of meetings

As it turns out, groups have two different types of meetings: speaker meetings and discussion meetings.

Speaker meetings

During speaker meetings, one person speaks about their addiction. They speak about what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now. Only the speaker is required to say anything during these types of meetings. Speaker meetings mean that attendees participate by listening to the speaker. Speaker meetings are normally open to everyone; attendees do not have to necessarily be an alcoholic or addict.

Discussion meetings

Some discussion meetings are open to anyone, but limit attendance to alcoholics or addicts. During discussion meetings, anyone can have a chance to share. You can share your story, discuss your personal issues, or tell others how you have managed to stay clean and sober. Speaking is not a requirement during these meetings, so if you have nothing to say or just prefer to listen, that’s fine. When first attending discussion meetings, it’s normal that most people will just sit and observe. After attendance at more meetings, you will probably want to participate by sharing to get the most of the group.

Stay committed

Now that you have begun to attend, keep up the good work! A continuing commitment will help you get the most benefit from your 12-step group.  Once you find one that makes you feel comfortable you should probably keep this as a regular meeting for you. Regular attendance at meetings is very important. You may ask yourself how often you need to attend a meeting and there is no right answer. How often you should attend, depends entirely on you, your addiction, and your situation. Most people usually attend meetings twice a week when starting with the group. There are other people who prefer to attend a daily meeting. If you have an urge to use, you may want to attend a meeting that day and keep attending until the urge passes. Meetings are not only for when you feel like drinking or using, but also so that you are comfortable sharing there when you need to share. You should definitely plan to attend meetings on any particular day that you used the most. If you always drank on Saturday, your body is going to expect you to drink on Saturday. That will be the time that the urge to drink or use will hit you the hardest.

Accept help

Fellowship groups are intended to foster peer-to-peer help. You will be offered help. Accept it! Accepting help from other group members can also go a long way to getting the most from your 12- step group. Members are helpful, encouraging, and will offer to help you out in any way they can. Your first instinct may be to say “No, Thanks”. This could be because you don’t want to be a burden, or you don’t think your story is important. Keep in mind that you are not a burden and your story does matter.

Form friendships

12-step meetings are a great place to make clean and sober friends. Some members have made life-long friends in meetings. Meetings also keep members advised on upcoming conventions, dances, holiday events and more. Once you are committed to 12-step recovery, you will find that meetings are enjoyable, even fun.

Offer help

Offers of help from other group members actually help those group members just as much as they do you. If they didn’t have the time or the interest in helping, they would not ask. It might be difficult getting used to but, when a member asks how they can help, they really do mean it. If they give you their phone number and tell you to call, they mean it. This is because, during their own recovery, someone offered them the help they needed to overcome their addiction. So remember when you start attending your 12-step group that participation, being committed and accepting addiction help are the keys to making the most out of your recovery.