An Introduction to the Fellowships
“Change begins with understanding and understanding begins by identifying oneself with another person: in a word, empathy. The arts enable us to put ourselves in the minds, eyes, ears, and hearts of other human beings.” Richard Eyre
There is a 12 Step fellowship for every condition under the sun. I remember walking the local clubhouse hallway, passing the community announcement board and seeing a sign for a “Clutters Anonymous” meeting. My first thought was “Wow.” My second thought was I am sure they don’t have home meetings; there wouldn’t be enough room. My mind shot out to the lighter side the specifics and their logistics. Do they have smoke ashtrays outside of Nicotine Anonymous meetings? Do they do a 50/50 raffle at Gamblers Anonymous functions? What do they serve for picnics at Over Eaters Anonymous? Is anyone awake the entire meeting in Heroin Anonymous? The list goes on and on. We are not a glum lot.
All kidding aside, the letter before the second “A” can be the difference maker. Since the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous, the multitude of other 12 Step fellowships that have sprung up has done so for one primary reason. Identification! Every sufferer needs to feel understood by the person they allow to help them. Without that piece, the bond of trust needed for two to walk side on a spiritual path in complete vulnerability is not likely. I personally during the years in and out felt AA had some substance that other fellowships lacked. At the same time, I felt like a fraud there because alcohol wasn’t my substance of choice and I was often shut down. Others fellowships I related the people more but found solid consistency in solutions lacking. When I was in my first Cocaine Anonymous meeting where addicts use the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I heard someone talking about peeking out of windows and others talk literature based solutions, I knew I was home. For every wrench there is a nut, for every nut, there is a toolbox with their wrench floating around.
Basics of any Fellowship
Some universal basics for whatever fellowship you choose:
Choose your formats with intent. Literature-based formats, Step Meetings, same-sex meetings, Literature Studies all tend to have a more dedicated chore.
Time of Day:
Nobody goes to a 7 am meeting prepared to find their next sexual conquest. Typically, the later in the day the greater the density of people going to fashion show meetings. Does this mean there are not solid meetings in the evening, of course not. But the go to any popular clubhouse and see for yourself. Earlier is often more mature.
Respect the house your in. If its an AA meeting: Alcoholic, sober, and chips. If its an NA Meeting: addict, clean and key tag. This avoids us separating ourselves any further. Don’t be an “ANDA” aka the Alcoholic ANDA Addict. Nor is it necessary to use clinical terms in the recovery rooms like “Cross Addicted”. To people in recovery, you are announcing that you are addicted to crucifixes. Not sure there is an “A” for that?
The 3 Meetings Within a Meeting
Every individual meeting in any fellowships is really three meetings in one, Before, During and After. Often the best things happen in the Before and After. We can either find a romantic victim to allow more damage to ourselves and others or a spiritual mentor here. This is where the rubber often meets the road.
Come typically 15 minutes early at least. Group members with service commitments always show up early to set the meeting up. They are often involved in recovery in their personal lives.
Pay attention. Listen for those you relate to but also have a confident message. They are who should be approached after.
Build your network. Typically, the hardest part. Humbling ourselves and striking up awkward conversations with strangers to ask for help. The blog on “The 5 suggestions for Newcomers” outlines this in detail. If we use half the zeal we did in finding the next high, I suspect we will be just fine.