Millions of people around the world attend 12 step support groups. These take place every day of the week, at all times and in thousands of different global locations. The most popular and effective, support groups are AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous). Family support groups like Al-Anon and Ala-Teen are also hugely popular for the loved ones of addicts.
While you may be familiar with the terms AA, NA, Al-Anon or Alateen, you may not understand what the point or objective of these groups are. Whether you struggling with an addiction, are in recovery or are a family member of an addict, 12 step support groups can be useful. If you’re curious about what happens in these meetings, or how you can benefit from them, the following information should help you out. AA, NA, Al-Anon and Alateen
These initials all stand for the names of each group. All of them are based upon a 12 step foundation which was originally outlined in what’s known as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
AA – AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous. It is the original 12 step support group and was founded in the 1930’s by Bill W. This individual was also an alcoholic and developed the 12 step model to help him get through his own battle with alcoholism. Since then, AA has maintained all of its original undertones, yet is modified depending on the location and culture of the group.
NA – NA stands for Narcotics Anonymous. Founded in 1953, it is a 12 step support group which evolved from AA, but focuses on people who are addicted to narcotic substances like illegal drugs and prescription medications. As of May 2016, NA is the largest drug addiction support group in the world with at least 67,000 meetings in 139 countries.
Al-anon & Alateen – Both of these groups follow the 12 step foundation, but are geared for the family and friends of an addict. These groups exist to help loved ones deal with emotional issues or physical pain. They also encourage people to understand addiction and better cope with the environment they are living in. Both groups are also available for loved ones of an addict in recovery.
Every one of these 12 step support groups are not affiliated with any religion, political agenda or organization. They are self supporting and completely non-discriminatory. All are anonymous in that you do not have to provide any personally identifying information, and confidentiality is thoroughly respected.
AA meetings can be found via their website, in local ads or through a health facility. You will first notice whether or not the meeting is opened or closed. Open will mean that anyone from the outside can attend the meeting. In an open meeting, individuals may or may not be dealing with an addiction, but rather could just be interested in seeing how a meeting is conducted. Closed meetings are for only those in AA. To attend one, you will need to be struggling with an alcohol addiction. If you are new to AA, you may want to specifically look for ‘Newcomer’ meetings and if you cannot find one, contact your local AA group for more information.
These 12 step meetings will revolve around a specific topic such as a certain step, life experiences, challenges, family, work, society and more. Some AA groups focus entirely on the Big Book and its chapters. You may also find gender specific groups, including LGBT, or other group concepts which you may feel more comfortable in. Groups are often held in community centers, schools, libraries, churches or other local establishments.
When you attend an AA meeting, you will notice tables, chairs and other seating often set up so that everyone will face one another. There will be a meeting leader to help guide the group in a specific direction. Leaders rotate on a monthly basis and are volunteering positions. The meeting will begin with a welcoming message and an invitation for newcomers to introduce themselves. From there, anniversaries will be announced and a moment of silence or prayer (not necessarily religious) may be held.
Once this is complete, the 12 steps and traditions may be read, a speaker may share their story or an experience about addiction and/or recovery. Once they are finished, anyone else who wishes to talk about their own life is welcomed to do so. This is a time to listen; no interruptions or advice is allowed. You can talk about anything, but you are not required to if you are not comfortable. After sharing is completed, donations may be given in a basket which is passed around the room. No one keeps track of who gives, so do not feel obligated, but remember any amount will help to keep the group afloat. Money is used for the meeting space rental, food and drinks, books and literature.
Sponsor and telephone lists may be passed around at some point in the meeting. These will provide you with a list of sponsors or people who are available at any time should you need to talk. The meeting will come to a close with a prayer or words of encouragement. You will be reminded that these meetings are private and not to be discussed outside of the group. Once the meeting has come to an end, light drinks and snacks are shared within the group. You can help by cleaning up the room or even volunteer to bring a snack on the next meeting.
Narcotics Anonymous, family support groups and other 12 step groups work in a similar fashion. The topics may vary, but they hold familiar undertones of AA. The best way to understand AA, NA or any other 12 Step support group is to attend one yourself.
You can find meetings in your local area by using the following links: