Part of any drug addiction treatment program as well as most people’s lives after they graduate from drug and alcohol rehab are 12-step meetings: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and others. These meetings are open to anyone who identifies themselves as an addict (in some cases, they are open to family members and supporters as well) and they help many stay clean and sober both in and out of drug rehab.
Unfortunately, it’s not the most exciting way to spend your time. A friend of mine recently told me, “Look, I hate meetings. I can’t stand the whining, the gossip and the fact that I lose hours of my life with my ass falling asleep in a metal chair. But I go and I’m going to keep going, because it’s keeping me clean.”
It’s true: meetings are not fun. Newcomers and chronic relapsers can get on your nerves as can the superiority of those who have been clean for years. The coffee is bad, and the snacks are cheap. Metal folding chairs will become the bane of your 12-step experience as will the sleazy 13th steppers.
So how do you get what you need from an NA or AA meeting when you really just have to go?
1. Bring your hobby. For many, just spending time in the meeting is the important thing, and you don’t have to have idle hands to listen to the speaker. I’ve seen people in meetings do everything from knit to carve clay figurines. Drawing, hand sewing, artist trading cards…whatever it takes to keep you from clawing your (or someone else’s) eyes out as long as it doesn’t smell, make a mess or take up a ton of space.
2. Get involved. What’s the opposite of dropping out of a 12-step meeting? Getting involved. Speak up in meetings, introduce yourself to newcomers, talk to people after the meeting. Volunteer to clean up after the meeting or get yourself voted into a position of authority. Maybe if you have a larger hand in your regular meetings, you’ll be able to choose topics that interest you.
3. Change meetings. If you live in a city or any metropolitan area, you have a large schedule of meetings to choose from. Though you most likely choose according to the time of the meeting or where it’s located, it could be worth it for you to get up a little bit earlier, stay out later or drive a little bit further in order to explore the different meetings available. If you live in a smaller town and don’t have a ton of meetings to choose from, then start your own. Why not? That’s the beauty of 12-steps. Pick a name for your meeting, find a location, choose the first topic and advertise. Keep showing up and so will more and more people.
Whatever you have to do to make meetings more interesting, do it. It’s worth it to build a strong support system that will long outlast drug and alcohol rehab and carry you through a lifetime of sobriety.