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[ Opinion ]

6 Things You Don’t Want to Hear at a 12 Step Meeting

In my humble opinion humor is essential to recovery. If one can’t have fun in recovery then what’s the point of staying clean and sober? When I decided to give up the high cost of low living, I had no idea what recovery would entail. I figured that Alcoholics Anonymous was just a place where a bunch of people sat around a table and commiserated about how rotten life was since they couldn’t get wasted anymore. 

Thank God I was wrong because if that was the reality I wouldn’t have stayed long. Leaving my first meeting I had some hope that life could get better and would be enjoyable. One must always remember Rule 62 of Alcoholics Anonymous – don’t take yourself so seriously. Keeping this in mind, here is my list of things you don’t want to hear at a 12 Step meeting.


When the speaker opens with, “I’m not a long speaker”, beware. I have fallen for this line many the time. In over a decade of experience I have learned that when the speaker says this line you are in for one hell of a long talk. That would be okay if the talk was good but inevitably it is often long winded, which leads me to the next thing you don’t want to hear at a meeting…


When the speaker opens with, “I’m not one for drunkalogs”, you are not only in for a long talk but one with little reference to actual recovery. Lets be honest, at times we all like to indulge in talking about our crazy past (we all have them). But these talks are often filled with war stories and focus on drunken exploits of the speaker.


When it comes to Alcoholics Anonymous and its singleness of purpose you will often hear a speaker say, “I respect AA’s singleness of purpose but drugs are a part of my story and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t talk about them.” Look, I was a carpet crawling, whisky swilling, alcoholic/addict but when I speak at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous I use the term “outside issues” when referring to my drug use. At the most I’ll refer to a white powder I snorted that helped me drink more. There’s nothing in the Traditions that says I can’t share my experience with drug use on an individual basis and that’s what I do in Alcoholics Anonymous.


One thing that drives me crazy occurs at discussion meetings. At many meetings right before they close the chairperson will ask, “is there anyone here with a burning desire to share before we close?” To me this questions seeks someone in trouble that needs to get something off their chest or they risk drinking/using. What usually happens is that some guy who loves the sound of his own voice (who has already shared during the meeting) will put up his hand and talk just to get a last word in.


You’ll often hear the advice, “just don’t drink” and “Keep coming back”. Trying to abstain from drinking is the whole point we’re there, and meetings are great but if you don’t actually do the 12 Step Program as laid out in the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous you have a great chance of becoming a dry drunk and/or relapsing.


“Relapse is part of recovery.” There’s two ways to take that. If when saying this one means that relapse begins as soon as a person, in recovery, begins to have stinking thinking and stops his spiritual maintenance then, yes, relapse is part of recovery and one has to learn how to become aware when this happens to stop it before it leads to a drink or drug. However, often times when people refer to this saying, they mean that relapse is inevitable.  I call bullshit on that. That type of relapse is not part of recovery. If one thinks that is true, then one is setting them self up for failure by keeping the possibility to go back out. 

Some other things that people often share drive me batty. I don’t need to be lectured (just share your experience). When someone tells me how to pray that is not helpful. I can’t count the number of times that someone has stood at the front of a room and told people that if they don’t pray on their knees then they will not stay sober. I don’t pray on my knees. My Higher Power lifted me up off my knees so I’m not going back down on them. 

Once in a while you will hear a speaker chastise the audience about not giving enough money during the Seventh Tradition. The Tenth Step Axiom states that when I don’t like something about someone else it’s usually because I see something in that person I don’t like about myself. Maybe it’s actually a reflection of their own guilt for not giving. People need to remember that they don’t know the financial status of those in the audience. “There are no dues or fees” – that should always be remembered.

These are just a few of the things I often hear at 12 Step meetings that I take with a grain of salt. The humor lies within the predicability of what people say after these over used phrases. The humor is what helps to not take these things personally.