So you’ve decided to attend your first meeting. Great! You’ve pulled up a meeting location and time from your local 12 Step meeting directory.
You can find a meeting nearby by searching Google for “[12 step meetings] near me“. Replace [12 step meetings] with your problem behavior—for example, Narcotics Anonymous for drugs, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, etc.
Some tips could help you ensure you get the most out of your first one. However, the most crucial step is to appear in the meeting (or on zoom) physically. You already made up your mind to do just that, and you are well on your way.
When the meeting first opens, the chairperson may ask for any newcomers to introduce themselves by their first name only. You can raise your hand and do so, but it’s not required.
However, if you introduce yourself as new, the meeting’s topic may be switched to a more beginner-friendly discussion topic that, hopefully, makes more sense for you. The subject may be about the stories of what brought the other attendees to their first meeting.
Ask for phone numbers.
After the meeting or before, try to ask other attendees of the same gender for phone numbers. Write them down or save them to your phone’s contacts. These can help you get in touch with them outside the meeting and learn more about the Program.
Asking for a phone number doesn’t mean you’re asking the person to be your sponsor. It is a friendly effort to try and get to know the Program better and the person. Most will be glad to help.
Pick up some free pamphlets.
If you see a rack of brochures or pamphlets at your meeting, take some that stand out to you. They’re free to take and contain helpful information that the General Service Board approved for mass distribution and uniformity.
You might recognize them by their cheesy animations and bold, gaudy, 1980s-era lettering. Please make no mistake, though; the text and information in them explain the foundations of the Program. The literature helps you understand the Program better than attending tens of meetings. They fill in discussions in meetings that you may find confusing, such as:
- FAQs about AA
- tips for determining if you have a problem
- the twelve steps illustrated
- information for attendees with special considerations, such as the younger population of members
Request recommendations for other meetings
While you’re at any 12-step gathering, please take a moment to ask attendees where they attend other meetings. They likely already live nearby and know other meetings at times and places that work for them (and thus you). Write down any recommendations so you can have coverage for other days.
If you’re at a Clubhouse, a facility where meetings occur nearly all day, every day, it likely has a schedule sheet that you can take.
Everyone expects a mess — no need to show off.
Don’t waste at home fussing over what you might wear if it means you’ll miss valuable time at the meeting. Nobody expects a newcomer to appear clean and fashionable.
Most of us were a complete mess at our first meeting and welcomed regardless. The time spent at home worrying could be better spent meeting others early and finding your chair.
Just get to your first meeting. That’s the most important thing. Clean up nicely for a job interview, but not for a bunch of addicts and alcoholics enjoying their favorite hour of the day among friends.
The main goal is to become situated as someone who has the resources to come back and reach out to others via phone or text when meetings aren’t available to you, whether you’re at work, school, or crunched for time.
Sure, you can sit the meeting without saying a word and listen, but if you’ve built the courage to attend your first one, make it impactful. You’ll only be a newcomer once, and the meetings are there solely for people in your situation.
The Program would get dull very fast if not for the confused and hurting newcomer who shows a willingness to show up and learn more.