Thousands of 12 step meetings are held every day. Although they may share similar names and core beliefs, not all 12 step meetings are created equally.
Meetings are led by members of the program rather than professionals. There is natural turnover among volunteers, and meetings may change significantly over time based on both the leadership and makeup and attitudes of the attendees.
The following information is designed to ensure that you or someone you know, affiliates with a group that is strong, healthy and will prove a positive recovery environment.
- Many members enjoy long-term recovery.
- Members are willing and able to function as sponsors.
- Attendees discuss how they work the 12 steps to overcome their disease and in order to grow emotionally, spiritually and in relationships with others.
- The focus is on spirituality, instead of food, substances, alcohol, etc.
- Members are willing to call and/or engage with new people.
- The group is not bogged down by rules.
- People talk only about problems instead of solutions and do not ask one another to share experience, strength and hope.
- No one in the meeting appears to be hopeful or getting better.
- Meetings are not conducted well: members are rude, talk over one another, or the meetings don’t begin or end on time.
- There is an ongoing competition for authority between therapists and sponsors. A sponsor’s job is to share his or her experience with working the 12 steps, not to provide advice regarding medication or therapy. If a number of attendees you talk with seem overly dependent on their sponsor, that can be a concern.
Strategy for Locating Meetings that Work for You
If you know people who attend 12 step meetings ask them about time and location of meetings they like. Visit a meeting at least two to three times before making a decision. Go with the mentality of taking what you like and leaving all the rest. Interact with the members and ask for a phone list for future follow-up.
Remember, every group is different in terms of personality, structure and format, to say nothing of age, education level and socio/economic demographics. It is critical that you feel comfortable with those around you (as comfortable as possible in a room of relative strangers!).
If you don’t immediately discover a “perfect” fit, don’t give up. Support and fellowship are important to recovery from an eating disorder, addiction, or mood disorders. Finding a healthy group can make a life-changing difference.