If you have never been to a 12-step program, here’s what you can generally expect from all programs, though there may be slight differences from one program to the next.
1. Meetings are Free and Open to the Public
First and foremost, 12-step group meetings are free and open to the public. This is one aspect that makes 12-step programs a unique recovery service, as you don’t have to worry about expenses or being accepted to a facility.
2. Anonymity Is Key
All 12-step meetings are also anonymous outlets. These meetings are a safe space to share your struggles, successes, strategies, and anything else you want concerning your addiction. It is mutually understood by group members that what is discussed in 12-step meetings are private to those meetings and participants remain anonymous.
3. Sharing Is Optional
It is never required that you share during a 12-step meeting. If you feel inclined to share, you are invited to do so, but if you find sitting and listening to be best for your needs, that is absolutely acceptable as well.
4. Giving Advice Is Discouraged
While 12-step programs are all about peer support, giving advice to other members of the group is discouraged. You are welcome to share your own experiences and how they may relate to your peers’ experiences, but you are advised not to tell them what you believe they should do.
5. Not Every Meeting Will Be the Right Fit
Though generally all 12-step programs follow the same structure, they vary in small ways. That being said, you may not find your first 12-step meeting to be the right environment or group for you. It’s important to try out a few 12-step meetings to find one that feels comfortable and supportive for your needs.
6. Show Up on Time and Be Respectful
It is essential when attending 12-step meetings to show up to the meeting on time and be respectful of others. These group meetings can be very vulnerable, so it is important to be prompt, well-mannered, and not speak over others when they are sharing.
7. Abstinence Is the Core Environment of 12-Step Meetings
At the end of the day, the goal of the 12-step program is to become abstinent from addictive substances to remain in recovery. Many people who join 12-step meetings will not be practicing abstinence when they first start attending, but the idea is to get there through the 12 steps.