Feeling Safe in Meetings

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When we enter recovery, we soon learn about the “triangle” — Unity, Service, Recovery. In general terms, these three words represent the pillars of successful recovery from alcoholism and addiction. In essence, they are the main ingredients of our new lives freed from the disease. 

Unity represents fellowship and meetings. Service is straightforward — we are to be of service to all others in whatever ways we are able, as often as possible. Recovery means working the 12-Steps on a continual basis with our sponsor, beginning the work of healing, and enlarging our spiritual lives. For now, we are going to talk about a specific element of unity, and a pretty significant part of long-term recovery — meetings.

Why Meetings Are Essential

Meetings aren’t necessarily the most exciting thing that we are asked to be willing to engage in, but it’s also challenging to find an alcoholic or addict who is recovered and happy but doesn’t go to meetings. That’s a very important correlation. Meetings are simply a vital part of a thriving, recovering life. After all, a triangle collapses without all three of its sides. However, meetings present some potential challenges that other areas of recovery don’t. People can feel unsafe or uncomfortable in meetings, which is problematic because we all need to attend meetings regularly and we all have the right to safe and happy recovery.

The first thing we need to consider is finding meetings where we will be comfortable. Perhaps we ask our sober friends which meetings they like best. Maybe we ask a few old-timers what their home group is. Knowing the people in the meeting before we get there can help us feel at home, but it’s nice to remember that as sober members of any 12-Step group, we have already earned our seat at any meeting in the world. If we are going to a meeting where we don’t know anyone, maybe we can pray for the courage to make some new friends. Try walking up to the people fellowshipping outside the meeting who are laughing the most. That’s usually a good sign of happy recovery.

Making Our Meetings Count

This brings up another point to keep in mind. We must accept the personal responsibility of bringing to the meeting what we hope to get out of it. If we want a friendly meeting, we must be friendly. If we yearn for an honest, spiritual meeting, we must be honest and spiritually-minded. We aren’t takers anymore, and through service, we get what we give. We can’t dislike a meeting for being haphazard if we were helping to disrupt it! Now that we know how to find meetings and how to act, what else is there? We should keep in mind that any 12-Step group will have its regulars, and sometimes it takes a bit of regular attendance at the same meetings every week to become one of the regulars. Listen to your gut, listen to your sponsor, and listen to your higher power in prayer and meditation. This will undoubtedly result in you finding the right meetings to turn into regular commitments and feeling more comfortable and at home in each one.

About the issue of safety, there is still much to be said. It may serve us well at first to attend “stag” meetings that are specifically for our gender. These meetings can reduce uncomfortable situations and unnecessary distractions and help us find a sponsor or sponsees. The general rule of thumb is to avoid possible romantic entanglements. Fellowshipping before and after these meetings may also be safer and more honest, as we can discuss specific common issues pertaining to recovery with people who understand. There is also the buddy system — we can always call a friend or two to attend a meeting with us if we aren’t up for going alone.

There is also the matter of identity, so expertly addressed by the anonymous nature of most 12-Step groups. Particularly now that there are so many online meetings, it can feel much less anonymous, since the meeting is practically taking place in our home. Your anonymity is entirely your business, and always will be. But if you feel unsure or uncomfortable, feel free to disclose only your first name at meetings and remove your last name from the online video conference software you use. You can even use a picture background if you don’t want to invite everyone into your home.

Addressing Any Concerns Is Worth the Effort

We must remember this about feeling safe in meetings — there are always steps we can take. Perhaps we need to find an entirely new meeting hall, or go to meetings at different times of day. If we are feeling uncomfortable about our meetings, we must address those discomforts. We could easily risk our recovery and our lives by skipping meetings altogether. 

It is up to us and our circle of sober friends to make smart decisions about the meetings we attend — not just for our own recovery, but keeping in mind who we can help. Sometimes, feeling at home in a meeting just takes time. We have to show our faces, share our stories, and participate in unity. It is often the case that people attend the same meetings for years and years, but once upon a time it was their first time and they didn’t know anybody either. Give yourself a chance to acclimate and remain present, and any feelings of discomfort will likely subside.

Alcoholics and addicts have often lived lives of danger that chronically lacked safety. Once you are in recovery, there is no need to put yourself at further risk. Instead, you can participate fully in the solution to this deadly disease here at Jaywalker Lodge. Recovery is about health, healing, and hope. Everyone has the right to get help, the right to recovery, and the right to be happy and safe while recovering. If you are having difficulty maintaining or achieving long-term sobriety, we are here to help. Call Jaywalker Lodge today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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