12 Step Meetings

What happens at a 12 Step Meeting?

Generally a meeting runs for 1 hour.  It is coordinated by a volunteer from the group.  This chairperson either asks individual members to share their story with others, or opens the meeting up for anyone who has a need or desire to share. 

It is perfectly acceptable to decline the offer to share, and just listen. 

Sometimes meetings discuss a particular topic, or a have an theme such as a chapter from some relevant  literature.  

Those present generally respect the person speaking by just listening.  People sharing describe their experience, strength and hope.  

Normally meetings open with the Serenity Prayer, and a reading of the group's preamble. Often banners of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions are hung on the wall to help people remember the recovery process.

Meetings end with a reminder about tradition 7, followed by the Serenity Prayer.. 

What REALLY happens at 12 Step Meetings?

People share:

  • what it was like,
  • what happened, and
  • what it is like now.

What it was like

Our addictions were an antidote to the pain of our feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem.  We felt beaten by our addictions.  Our addictions were our solution to numbing the pain.

What happened

In 12 step group meetings we experience the "quiet miracle of developing the capacity to love" ourselves and others.

Dr Sullivan, in his work, "Conceptions of Modern  Psychiatry" asserts that the first impulse to change come not so much from being challenged as from being loved.  Being loved is the source of the miracle.  Only in an atmosphere of unconditionally offered love will the human barriers to relationships be lowered.

[From "The Secret of Staying in Love", by John Powell]

12 step meetings are true expressions of unconditionally offered love.  Each person shares their experience, strength and hope.  It is the language of the heart, where people share openly and honestly about their feelings and emotions; their failures and successes.  People listening to this sharing experience the unconditional love delivered to them through the language of the heart.

Zig Ziglar says in his book "Embrace the Struggle - Living Life on Life's Terms", "Nothing has a stronger impact on individuals then hearing stories of how it was then, how it is now, and what happened in between.  These stories give hope to the hopeless.  They say, 'See, life can be hard but it will get better -- if you do!' If you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel you can't see where to go. Stories of hope inspire people to find their way out of bad situations."

Criticism and judgement of each other are extremely rare at 12 step meetings except insofar as listeners hear others being judgmental and critical of themselves, particularly of themselves as they were before recovery. 

The sharing of honest self-analysis and criticism is tempered with the sharer's experiences of finding the strength to bring patience, tolerance, empathy and the love of other people into their thoughts and actions every day.

The listener recognises the weaknesses in themselves, witnesses the capacity to change and so feels hope for themselves.

What it is like now

Every emotional low (pain) experienced by group members brings with it the opportunity to share the pain and feel the unconditional love of others expressing how they have overcome similar difficulties.  Feeling this outpouring of unconditional love mysteriously creates hope, the desire to change, and so development over time of self-worth and self esteem as each pain is conquered.

Our biggest fight is with ourselves.  The biggest challenge is the rebuilding of our self esteems.

The unconditional love expressed in twelve step meetings delivers the solution to this challenge.