Those who are new to the concept of attending a 12 step meeting often have concerns and expectations about what will occur when they participate. They may have fears and reservations about what they can expect when they arrive because they have seen the stereotypical meeting shown on sitcoms throughout their lives. Thankfully, 12 step meetings are never like those generalizations. The following overview will provide you with some insight of what you can expect from a 12 step meeting in your area.
You will not have to stand up at the meeting and say that you are an alcoholic, despite what the sitcoms usually suggest. Although there will be alcoholics present, you are not going to be surrounded by them and they're not going to overwhelm you with their interest in your life. Meetings also feature family members, friends, and other loved ones who are there to show their support for their alcoholic loved one, so the group isn't entirely based on alcoholics themselves. Group hugs and overly generalized interactions generally do not occur in these groups; these stereotypes are often what provides negative connotations for those interested in 12 step meetings.
A 12 step meeting or an Al-Anon group is not a cult. There is no prayer involved. Al-Anon is not associated with any particularly denomination, sect, organization, institution, or political entity, which means that everyone is welcome to attend a meeting and get involved with the program. There are no dues for membership and the group is considered to be self supporting based on voluntary contributions.
Membership is open to anyone who is affected by someone who has been drinking. The only requirement for membership is that there is a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend. The goal is to help families of alcoholics, as well as those who are struggling with alcoholism also. Al-Anon members do this by working on practicing the twelve steps of recovery, welcoming and comforting families of alcoholics, and by giving encouragement to those who are working on getting their sobriety. Finding a meeting can be a great way to get some support to help resist any current addictions.
A common concern is that the individual is going to see people that they recognize at the meeting. This is generally unlikely because there's a large chance that a lot of the people that you are concerned about seeing at a meeting are not even alcoholics. Unless you know someone is dealing with alcoholism, there's no reason to feel as if you're going to see someone you know at the meeting. Other times, people feel concerned about meetings because there are "strangers" there and they feel uncomfortable with sharing information about themselves at a meeting. However, you don't have to talk about private issues associated with your alcoholism and anything you say is voluntary. If you don't want to speak at the meeting, you don't have to; there are many people who attend just to listen to other people who are experiencing the same problems with addiction.