Previously, I talked about some of the benefits of 12 steps groups. Today, I want to spend some time reviewing the basic structure of 12 steps groups so you will be prepared in case you decide to visit one in the future.
12 Step Meeting Protocol
Usually at the meetings, people are seated in a circular formation, with one person, a secretary, leading the meeting. Before the meeting starts, the secretary passes out a number of readings (single sheets of paper) that the people will be asked to read throughout the meeting.
The secretary starts the meeting by greeting everybody and reading the introduction. After this, he or she asks somebody to read the “Preamble” (one of the readings passed on earlier), as well as “How it Works”, “12 Steps”, and “12 Traditions”.
After the general reading is over, the secretary might ask if there are any visitors to the meeting. This is usually anybody who is visiting from out of town, or is new to the meeting but does not consider himself to be a newcomer.
Afterwards, the secretary would ask all of the newcomers to introduce themselves. A newcomer is anybody who is in their first 30 days of sobriety. So if you were sober for 20 years, but then had a slip, you are still considered to be a newcomer for the first 30 days.
After the newcomers, everybody in the room would introduce themselves.
The introduction is usually something like this: “Hi, I am Alex and I am a Sex Addict.” After which everybody would say: “Hi Alex.”
After the introduction, the meeting can take a number of forms, which usually will be explained by the secretary.
One of the most common forms is for one person to choose a reading for that day (usually something from the Big Book of AA or other approved literature). After the reading is complete, the reader would share his or her personal experience with the reading, and the reason why it was chosen.
After that, the secretary would say that the meeting is now open for discussion, and everybody starting from the left of the reader would have a chance to share. Share time is usually about 1-3 minutes. Some of the meetings will have a handheld hourglass that everybody is passing around to help you keep track of time.
Feel free to share anything when you get your chance to share. It could feel weird at first, but you will get used to it. If at first you don’t feel like sharing (which I didn’t for first few of my meetings), you can simply say “Pass”. After a while you will get the feel for how the sharing works, and will see the benefit of it.
Another thing that people do during their shares is “getting current,” meaning going off-subject from the reading and telling everybody about their personal struggles. Talking about what is going on in your life could be a great tool to help you clear up your head.
One thing that is not allowed in 12 step meetings is “Cross Talk”. Meaning you are not supposed to make any comments or remarks about anything anybody said during the meeting, unless you can do it in very general terms during your share. This is done to make sure that the atmosphere of the meeting stays safe, and that everybody feels comfortable sharing. However, after the meeting is over, it is completely acceptable to approach any member and to relate any comments that you might have.
About 10 minutes before the meeting is over, the secretary will announce that the time for sharing has ended and will ask somebody to read “The Promises”.
After that, the secretary would say something like: “It is now the time to practice 7th tradition” and you will see everybody reaching for their wallets. The 7th tradition states that 12 steps groups cannot be for profit, and will use voluntary donation to pay for the rent and other expenses. The usual donation is about one or two dollars (that is US prices, I am sure it costs a lot less in other countries).
After that, the secretary will ask everybody to join in for the Serenity Prayer. That is when everybody will get up, stand in the circle, hold hands, and say a prayer together. This part could be very weird at first, but you get used to it after one or two meetings.
After the meeting is over, members are free to go, but a lot of people stay to interact. This interaction after the meetings is perhaps one of the most important parts of the program.
Finding a 12 Step Meeting
Most 12 steps programs have a website where you can go to find their meeting schedules, and other related information. Sometimes they will call a meeting “open” or “closed”. “Open” means that anybody can go to the meeting, but “closed” is reserved only for people who consider themselves to be addicts.
You do not have to go to a newcomers’ meeting, orientation or anything else like that. All you have to do is show up at whatever meeting makes sense for you. Just walk in, and people will be very helpful and will help you from there.
Phone Meeting – A Challenge for You
I am not sure how you feel about 12 steps groups by this point, but I would like to challenge you a little.
By clicking this link, you will find a list of phone meetings (or telemeeting as they call them) for Sex Addicts Anonymous. The times for the meetings are listed in Pacific Standard Time, so you will have to calculate the right time for your area.
I would encourage you to find one meeting and call in.
Phone meetings are very similar to the in-person meetings that I described earlier. But in phone meetings, you really don’t have to do or say anything, you are completely safe. All you have to do is call in and listen (press * 6 to mute your phone).
I think it will be a great experience for you, and you will hear people from all over the world who share a very similar problem calling in and helping each other stay sober.
I think in the next 3 days, you should be able to find some time to call into at least one meeting. Try to do that.
Warning: Right about now your brain will begin to try to come up with an excuse. Something like “I don’t believe in God so I shouldn’t call” or “All these people are Christian, and I am not, they will not understand me” or “I don’t need to call this cult” or something else.
Call yourself on this excuse. You are not making any lifetime commitments; you are simply making this one phone call, just to expose yourself to this tool. Just in case you might need it. That is it, no pressure, no commitments.
Just remember, take what works for you, and leave the rest behind!