Deciding to join Alcoholics Anonymous is a big step. It may have taken you months or even years to get there, but that doesn’t mean the hard work is over yet. Being a newcomer to AA means you have a lot to learn, from how to be of service, to the social etiquette at meetings. The first few meetings are often the hardest.
All the rituals. rules, and dialogue will feel extremely awkward. You’ll also find yourself in a room with people from all walks of life sharing their stories of downfalls and redemption. It may seem hard to believe in AA’s promise of spiritual transformation while trying to find your role in all of this, but eventually you will. The following is a short guide for AA beginners that can help make the process just a little less awkward.
1. First, you need a sponsor.
Not only are they necessary for support during your recovery, a sponsor will also help introduce you to the ins and outs of being in AA. A good sponsor will have the patience to answer any type of question you may have, from whether it’s alright to date someone from a meeting, to finding the best meetings.
A good choice for a sponsor is someone who is of the same gender, and who is older and more experienced than you. They need to be able to guide you through the steps however long it takes. Often choosing the right sponsor takes a few tries as you may not click with every person you select. In those cases, thank them for their time and then move on to another appropriate choice.
2. Be of service.
This is something that is talked about a lot in AA and rightly so, because it teaches you to be less self absorbed, while also building a stronger sense of self worth. Service can be anything from helping to set up and break down meetings, to sponsoring others (when you’re ready). There is something for everyone to contribute in AA, so figure what you can do and don’t hesitate to jump right in. You’ll discover that service is a great way to meet others in the program and it also helps keep you grounded.
3. Don’t be afraid to share.
It can be intimidating to share at meetings when you’re still a newcomer. You may feel that you don’t have enough wisdom or experience to contribute anything worthwhile. The truth is there may be someone out there who can learn something or relate to the experiences you share. Older members may also be reminded of how far they’ve come by listening to the experiences of newcomers. Talk about whatever is going on in your recovery at the moment and don’t be afraid to share at every meeting.
4. Embrace AA social rules.
This means interacting with people of all ages and from all walks of life. You may find yourself exchanging phone numbers or drinking coffee with a teenager or a 60 year old man. AA is about connecting with others and leaning on them for support.
5. Find the right meetings.
There are all types of meetings out there, from single gender to young people’s to candlelight meetings. Don’t be afraid to attend various ones until you’ve found the meeting that feels like home. You may even find yourself in a different 12 step group. The important thing is that you feel heard and supported no matter what.