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Meeting suggestions

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6- Meeting Suggestions

 

If you have decided to attend a Fellowship meeting for the first time, here are some suggestions to help you best benefit from this courageous step that will support you to break free from addiction and maintain your recovery.

 

1. Find the right meeting

2. Attend regularly

3. Listen to the similarities

4. Accept help

5. Share and participate

6. Create a support system

7. Find a sponsor

8. Work the 12 Steps

9. Prevent a relapse

10. Do service

 

Anonymous Fellowship meetings are places of great support. They provide resources vital to our journey in recovery. As addicts we are most probably fearful and mistrusting of others, so depending on others for help may be a foreign concept. But when we enter a 12 Steps Fellowship meeting, we realize we are not alone. We are reassured that we don’t have to overcome our disease on our own, nor be afraid to ask for help. We shall be among people suffering from the same disease as us, yet who have found a way to recover. Their willingness to freely support us provides us with the hope and the strength to work the 12 Steps and recover from our addiction.

 

Here are suggestions to help you get the most out of this indispensable support system towards recovery:

Anonymous fellowship Meeting Suggestions

 

1. Find the right meeting

Though all Fellowship meetings are about carrying the message of recovery, they differ in various ways.  There will be some meetings we can find more identification with than others.  So don’t keep attending a meeting you can’t relate to out of habit or simply because it’s convenient. If you do that, eventually your disease will convince you that meetings are not helpful and you don’t need their support. Since there are so many to choose from, it’s not hard to find at least one meeting you can relate to – and when that happens, recovery becomes a lot easier.

To find a list of meetings, search online or go to any meeting and pick up a free “where to find meetings” booklet.

Another way to find a meeting you’ll like is to ask other Fellowship members. It’s a common question; so don’t feel embarrassed asking it. Get recommendations this way and you will quickly zero in on meetings that work for you.

 

2. Attend regularly

How often should you go to a Fellowship meeting? There is no one answer as everyone has different needs. It is suggested that newcomers attend 90 meetings in 90 days, so as to get acquainted with and settled into this new support system. During this time you will get intense exposure to the 12 Steps and the people who are working them. Some people go to meetings daily until their urge to use drugs subsides. How many times you attend a meeting depends on yourself, but it is important to understand that Fellowship meetings are the bedrock of recovery. Seldom are we able to stay clean without them.

By attending meetings regularly, you are keeping your disease of addiction at bay. Even if at first you are not keen on attending them or your head makes a thousand excuses not to attend one, just go. As they say in the Fellowships, “take the body and the mind will follow.” Experience has shown beyond doubt that those of us attending meetings have a greater chance of maintaining recovery.

Many of us have discovered through regular attendance that meetings not only provide us with the support we need to recover but also are places where we feel most at ease and able to enjoy our new found life. We realize this support system has become like a caring family where we are accepted for who we are despite our addiction. Through the support of our group, we gather the confidence to recognize our own value and humanity and slowly let go of the shame that kept us in our addiction. We find ourselves going to meetings just to be in the company of our newfound friends, people who will support us through the ups and downs in our journey of recovery. The camaraderie shared between us in Fellowship meetings has been likened to passengers on a lifeboat after a shipwreck. Where we are joined together in our common problem and united in our journey towards recovery.

 

3. Listen to the similarities

Our disease doesn’t want us to recover, and so it tells us we are different, that what has worked for others will not work for us. So at meetings, it’s important to listen to the ways in which our story is like that of others, and to avoid focusing on the ways in which it differs. This way we have a greater chance of identifying with others to then hear how they are working the program. In 12 Step Fellowships they express this with the saying: “identify, don’t compare.” 

Listening to the similarities also helps us be less judgmental and less defensive. As addicts, we were always feeling either less than others or superior to them. We always want to suss out who’s who and what’s what. It’s part of being human, but the trouble with us addicts is that we take it to the extreme. The result is we wind up concluding how different we are from others and that this program will not work for us.

 

4. Accept help

People at meetings will offer to help you. They’ll offer to meet you for coffee, or give you their phone number and invite you to call anytime. One reason for this is that they’ve been through it before, and they know that recovery is hard work. In the beginning you may be overwhelmed by their generosity. Our tendency may be to decline these offers of help. We may find it hard to believe that these people really want to spend time with us, or would be happy for us to telephone them. In fact, though, they know that by helping you they’re also helping themselves. When someone says, “give me a call” in the outside world, maybe they mean it, maybe they don’t. In 12 Step meetings they mean it because helping others is part of our own recovery process.

Helping others is a core principle in all 12 Step programs because it is the best tool we have as addicts in recovery to prevent ourselves from relapsing. When we help another addict we are reminded of where we have been and what we need to do to remain clean and sober. So as newcomers to your first meeting, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

As a way to break through these initial barriers in asking for help, you might want to approach three people at the meeting and say hello to them and let them know it’s your first meeting and that you are nervous or uncertain about how to proceed. You will be amazed at the warm and friendly response you receive. Often the secretary at the meeting will ask if there are any newcomers so that they can be identified and welcomed. Usually at the end of the meeting, we are then invited by to join others for a coffee to get to know the older members of the group and to feel more at home.

 

5. Share & participate

Meetings are places where we start accepting ourselves for who we are and move out of isolation. We do this by our participation and sharing at meetings. When we share about what’s really going on with us, we start to lift the burden of shame and guilt we have carried for so long and which contributed mightily to our addiction.

“Sharing” at a meeting simply means talking about our experiences with addiction and how the program and the fellowship is helping us in our journey towards recovery. We don’t need to share right away at a meeting. We can just sit and listen, and feel safe and comforted in the fact that we are among likeminded people. In fact it is suggested to us newcomers to focus our attention on listening and finding similarities in our first meetings for this will help us identify and hear the solution. We don’t even need to say we are addicts if we are still struggling with this concept. When we do share, the key is to be honest as this is the way we come out of denial. Remember, there is no one in the meeting who will reprimand or judge you. We are all addicts with horrific experiences and most probably there is nothing you have done that others have not done worse.

 

6. Create a support system

Many of us have been able to prevent a relapse simply by picking up the phone and talking with another addict. No one can explain why, but it seems a force greater than ourselves comes into play when we hook up with another addict. There is a saying in the Fellowships that says, “Pick up the phone, not the drugs.” By getting phone numbers and making friends at meetings we are creating a support system that can help us over any obstacle in our journey in recovery.

The importance of creating a support system is reiterated to newcomers when the secretary suggests going for a coffee after the meeting. Even if every fiber in your body wants to go back home to the familiar yet painful place, take courage and accept this offer. It usually leads to great friendships, while opening your world up to all the new possibilities recovery offers.

 

7. Find a sponsor

Sponsorship is a unique and indispensable feature of 12 Steps fellowships and it comes in the form of an addict in recovery who can freely support us in our journey towards recovery. A sponsor acts like our personal coach or guide in recovery. A sponsor is simply a regular member of the Fellowship, but one who has a good working knowledge of the 12 Steps. Choose as a sponsor someone you can relate to, someone who has the type of recovery you would like to have. It is strongly recommended that you find a sponsor as soon as you feel settled in a meeting to guide you through the Steps. Remember it is the 12 Steps that provide us with the solution and the program to recover from our addiction.

In addition, a sponsor provides you with the necessary support you need in the recovery process. Initially they can help you understand the format of meetings. They can phone you and motivate you to go to meetings. They can also act as an early warning system to help you recognize if you’re in denial, or if you’re heading toward relapse. It is suggested that you find a same sex sponsor, so as to avoid romantic involvements and because you are bound to talk about your personal life in detail and want someone you feel comfortable with. It is important to bear in mind that the role of a sponsor is to primarily guide us through the 12 Steps and support us in matters concerning our recovery. They are not our therapists nor financial or family advisors.

Most of us have trouble asking for help, so we may postpone finding a sponsor. We may fear getting rejected, or we may have difficulty trusting others. But we need to ask ourselves how desperate we are to recover and to what lengths we are willing to go to find it. We need to confront our disease of addiction, which makes all sorts of excuses for us not to find a sponsor and not to recover. Also, don’t forget that sponsors are people just like you, people trying to get better a day at a time.

The section on Sponsorship provides you with detailed information and suggestions on how to find a sponsor.

 

8. Work the 12 Steps

Meetings are great arenas for learning about and working the 12 Steps. After all, the solution to our recovery is through the Steps, and at meetings we have a chance to hear how others are working the program. We can use our meetings to learn from their experiences and share any difficulties we may be having around working the Steps.

 

9. Prevent a relapse

Meetings act as a great preventative tool against a relapse. Go to meetings at the times you used to use drugs. As addicts, our bodies have developed an internal clock. If your habit was to use drugs on Friday evening at 6 o’clock, then attend a meeting at that time. This will ensure that you will not fall victim to the obsessions and cravings, prominent in the early days of recovery.

But even after the early days, after we have recovered from our obsession and cravings to use drugs, attending meetings serves as a powerful tool for the maintenance of our recovery. 12 Step programs provide us with the means to recover from addiction on a daily basis. Our disease is chronic and we are never cured from it, so we need the support of our meetings to keep our thinking sane and focused on our ongoing recovery.

For detailed information on how attending meetings can help you prevent a relapse, please refer to Relapse.

 

10. Do service

Service means doing any activity that supports in the running of the meeting or with helping others.  As newcomers, doing any kind of service within our capacity can strengthen our efforts to stay clean and in recovery. By making the tea, setting up the chairs, greeting people coming into the meeting, we will feel good about ourselves. Our usual habit of isolating is challenged, as we become valued members of our meeting. We experience a sense of belonging and comradeship – something most probably lost in our using days. In addition, doing service helps restore our social skills as we engage in altruistic activities and get out of our addict heads.

Question or Comment

Hamrah welcomes any questions or comments you may have. We will reply back to the email address provided.

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