What to Expect at Your First 12-Step Meeting

It can be difficult to tell a substance abuser apart from a non-abuser. In fact, many individuals become substance abusers without realizing it themselves.

However, as substance abuse and recreational intoxication become dependency and addiction, individuals begin to experience various physical health, psychological, and behavioral changes.

Depending on one’s substance of choice, continuous substance abuse can cause incredible damage to the body and its functions, but the damage with arguably the biggest impact on an individual—especially to his or her personality, behavior, and lifestyle—is that which occurs to the brain.

Addiction can turn compassionate, intelligent, and ambitious people into dangerous, destructive, irresponsible ones. The family members, friends, and other loved ones of individuals developing an alcohol or drug addiction often notice these changes accumulating over time, making them unreliable, unpredictable, withdrawn, and emotionally volatile.

As more and more time passes with an individual in active addiction, he or she will feel progressively unfulfilled and even empty. The passage of time often entails the crumbling of an addicted person’s life from beneath them, which might include the loss of employment and financial independence, damage or destruction of important relationships, homeless, and even resorting to criminal behavior to sustain an expensive substance abuse habit.

Fortunately, individuals struggling with addiction have many recovery options available.

While there are numerous effective inpatient and outpatient treatment programs from which to choose, 12-step programs—Alcoholics Anonymous and its many derivative groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Sex Addicts Anonymous—have been an essential resource for countless individuals as they work toward and sustain sobriety.

However, for those who have never attended a 12-step meeting before, the prospect of participating and sharing the intimate details of one’s life during addiction can be daunting. The following is meant to give individuals an idea of what to expect at one’s first 12-step meeting.

What Is the Purpose of a 12-Step Meeting?

The best way to summarize what attending a 12-step meeting for the first time is like is to begin by conveying the purpose and principles of 12-step groups.

Alcoholics Anonymous is the first and original 12-step group, which Bill Wilson started in 1935. Wilson struggled with alcoholism.

His goal in developing the Alcoholics Anonymous ideology was to help a colleague overcome alcoholism. Wilson had been a member of and was inspired by the Oxford Group, a Christian-oriented recovery fellowship that was successful and popular at the time.

However, whereas the Oxford Group saw drinking as a sin and encouraged members to resist being sinners, Wilson’s growing fellowship would instead see alcoholism—and, by extension, addiction in general—as a disease that could be overcome through spirituality and community.

Alcoholics Anonymous encouraged self-examination, forcing individuals to be accountable for their failings and misdeeds, and taking the initiative to right prior wrongs while guiding others through this process in the spirit of true fellowship.

Experiencing Mixed Emotions at the First 12-Step Meeting

Depending on whether an individual who is attending a 12-step meeting has not yet begun the recovery process or has completed a treatment program, he or she is likely to experience many different feelings and thoughts.

Moreover, since some people are forced to attend 12-step groups—perhaps due to being court ordered or the criteria of an addiction treatment program—there could possibly be some anger and hostility that prevent them from being fully present and aware.

It’s common to feel intimidated while surrounded by members who have participated in 12-step groups for so long, making one much less willing to speak and participate. Feelings of hostility, aggression, and intimidation make individuals less receptive to the benefits a 12-step meeting can offer, but such feelings will continue to subside as one becomes more comfortable at 12-step meetings.

Individuals who have never been to a 12-step meeting will often haveexpectations and misconceptions as to what the experience would be like.

Many imagine being forced to address the group, introducing themselves as addicts and alcoholics, and having to share their darkest times during their addiction. Additionally, some fear they will be identified as a member of a 12-step group, perhaps due to some record of one’s having attended meetings on certain dates.

However, participation in 12-step meetings is entirely voluntary, and anonymity is central to a 12-step meeting; the group may record the number of individuals in attendance as a tally, but no identifying information about attendees is recorded or documented.

Choosing to Listen or Participate: There’s No Wrong Answer

When attending a 12-step meeting, one can choose whether to share with the group or simply listen to what others are sharing. Although many will share over the course of 12-step meetings, listening is also very beneficial as individuals gain much perspective on addiction and recovery by listening to the diverse experiences of others, learning how and why they handled those situations the way they did.

This is valuable because people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol tend to have similar experiences, whether it’s family problems related to substance abuse, job loss, spending all of one’s money on a substance abuse habit and being unable to pay bills, the experience of overdosing or witnessing someone else overdose, homelessness, and so on.

At a 12-step meeting, individuals get to hear about similar experiences from a new perspective, which can be enlightening and help them to think of addiction in new ways.

Typically lasting for up to an hour and a half, many 12-step meetings consist of members who share their stories of addiction or the recovery process, but this occurs voluntarily. No one in attendance is required or obligated to speak or introduce themselves.

Most individuals will choose not to share for the first several meetings while getting acclimated to the 12-step way. However, those who share at meetings often feel a sense of relief by sharing their experiences with others. In fact, sharing can be both helpful to others who may be experiencing similar situations and therapeutic to those who share.

Start Your Recovery Today

Twelve-step programs are just one of the many tools available to those who seek sobriety. Though not a simple process, recovery is made possible and fortified by the quality treatments available at treatment centers as well as the popular recovery fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and would like to explore treatment options, The Palm Beach Institute can help. Call or reach out to us online today to speak with a recovery representative who can help you find the best program for your needs. Taking this first step can lead to sobriety, health, and fulfillment.

How to Avoid Relapse Around Addicted Family Members

When you leave the lifestyle of active addiction, one of the biggest challenges is reconnecting with people from your old life. Many of them knew you when you were using, and some of them might still be using, too. However, what can you do when the person in your life who’s still using is a family member?

Dealing with drug use in your family is always a challenge. Knowing the difference between helping and enabling can be difficult at times. And watching someone go through something as terrible and life-altering as active addiction can cause heartache. However, when you have your own recovery and sobriety to consider, the challenge increases dramatically.

Maintaining your sobriety is one of the most important ongoing parts of your recovery, and it requires continual commitment. If a loved one is using around you, it poses a significant threat to your drug abstinence. Learn more about how you can deal with an addicted family member without relapsing.  

Don’t Accept Drug Use

As part of your relapse prevention plan, you might have set rules and boundaries for yourself. You might have resolved to avoid parties where you know there will be drug use. You may even avoid certain routes that go past some of your old favorite bars.

When you encounter friends and family members who are still in the throes of active addiction, it’s important to have boundaries for them, too. If you live with or spend a lot of time with someone who uses, you should let them know that you won’t tolerate drug use in your presence. If someone uses legal recreational substances like alcohol, you can still tell them that it makes you uncomfortable to be around it.

Setting clear boundaries for yourself removes some of the uncertainty when it comes to certain high-risk situations. It’s easier not to cross the line when the line is clearly drawn. Setting boundaries with someone who is addicted can also show them your commitment to sobriety. In some cases, you may have to cut ties with them until they seek recovery.

Avoid Constant Triggers

Triggers are a fact of life for people who are living in recovery from addiction or other mental health issues for that matter. Some triggers come from inside your own mind and can be difficult to avoid completely. Others can come on suddenly, like when a billboard ad for some ice-cold beer triggers alcohol cravings. While it’s important to learn to cope positively with cravings and triggers, you should also avoid regular sources of triggers when you can. A friend or family member who continues to use around you can cause you to continually cause you to have thoughts and triggers toward relapse, testing the limits of your coping mechanisms.

If you have gone through addiction treatment, you may have experienced elements ofcognitive behavioral therapy at some point in your treatment process. In the cognitive-behavioral model, high-risk scenarios are the first catalyst for a relapse. A relapse doesn’t start with the first time you use again; it starts with the way that you cope with a high-risk situation. If you live with, or if you are always around someone who uses, you are constantly in a high-risk scenario. Relapse is a very real threat to recovery. Like other chronic diseases, addiction relapse occurs in more than50 percent of people in recovery.  

Avoiding triggers might mean distancing yourself from people who are still using. While this may sound harsh, it might be as beneficial to your addicted family member as much as it is for you.

Don’t Be an Enabler

While you were going through active addiction and treatment, your family may have had to learn how to avoidenabling behaviors. Now that you’ve completed treatment, and you’re encountering other people in your life in active addiction, it’s important to learn to avoid enabling as well. If a family member is struggling with active addiction, you, more than anyone, understand what they are going through. You might want to help them, ease their pain, or cover for them.

However, enabling is often defined as shielding an addicted person from a consequence of their addiction. Softening the blows that are coming as a result of their actions and behaviors can prolong the time they spend in active addiction before seeking help. If you’ve set clear rules about being around drug and alcohol use and abuse and a family member continues to break them, one of the consequences of their addiction might be that they see you less often.

It may seem like a drastic move, but if a family member is putting your sobriety at risk, it might be best to remove yourself from those high-risk situations. You can let the addicted person in your life know that you will be there to help them find addiction treatment as soon as they agree to seek the help they need. However, risking your own sobriety to be around someone who is using, may only serve to enable them and risk your recovery.

Continue Your Recovery

Addiction treatment is important in achieving and learning how to maintain sobriety. However, after you complete your addiction treatment, it’s important to continue your pursuit of recovery. People often relapse when they become complacent in their recovery process, and when you encounter high-risk situations like a using family member, it puts a strain on your resolve. However, going to 12 step meetings, connecting with your support group, and connecting with your alumni coordinators, can help heal you on the road to recovery, even as new challenges pop up.

Seeking Addiction Help

If a loved one or family member is ready to address their substance use disorder, you might be able to help them find the right addiction treatment services for their needs. Call the addiction treatment specialists at The Palm Beach Institute at 855-534-3574 or contact us online to learn more about the available therapy options and how you can help your loved one get the care they need. If you are worried that you might need help preventing your own relapse, or if you’ve started to use again, we might be able to help you find additional treatment or aftercare services as well. Call anytime.


8 Signs That You’ve Had a Spiritual Awakening

Over the course of active addiction, an individual becomes almost unrecognizable compared to the person they used to be. The disease of addiction—classified as a chronic, incurable, relapsing disease that causes a number of structural, chemical, and functional abnormalities in the brain—not only affects one’s physical and psychological health, but also one’s emotional and spiritual well-being. As an addict spirals downward into the depths of addiction, he or she often turns to crime, justified by a degraded moral state and an obsession with seeking and consuming mind-altering substances, in order to sustain addiction. This moral deterioration coincides with less of interest in all those things about which one had previously been passionate. Additionally, addicts often sacrifice their relationships in the name of addiction due to caring more about their drug or drugs of choice than about those who had been important to them previously.

It could be said that addiction has a greater effect on one’s spiritual and emotional wellness than one’s physical and psychological health. Regardless of which functions and systems of being are the most profoundly affected by substance abuse and addiction, it’s common for individuals to experience a kind of spiritual awakening while in recovery. The experience of embarking on a path toward sobriety and health is marked by a number of intense emotions that are often initially uncomfortable as active addiction tends to keep individuals numbed to intense emotions and feelings of spirituality. Even the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous take into account the spiritual nature of recovery, which is accounted for in the Twelfth Step.

However, sometimes the intensity of spiritual awakening can be confusing, leaving individuals unsure of what it is, exactly, that they’re experiencing. For those who are in recovery, this awakening—also often described as a shift in attitude, personality change, an improvement in demeanor and outlook, and an increase of emotionality—is often marked by a number of indicators that tend to be common among many who are in this situation. Here are nine signs that you’re having or have had a spiritual awakening in sobriety.

  1. Changing Sleep Patterns

women waking up in the morning

During periods of emotional intensity, it’s incredibly common—in fact, almost universally common—for individuals to experience a marked change in their usual sleep patterns. There is a particular sleep pattern that seems to be common with individuals who are experiencing a spiritual awakening called the Triad Sleep Pattern. When experiencing the Triad Sleep Pattern, individuals will tend to wake up after sleeping two to three hours, fall back asleep for two to three hours more, and finally repeat the process a third time, sleeping a final two to three hours. It’s also typical for a spiritual awakening to result in individuals needing far less sleep to function than they had previously required.

  1. Sensations On and Around the Head and Spine

feeling great

A spiritual awakening in sobriety can bring on a number of physical sensations in addition to the emotional ones. Those who have experienced a spiritual awakening often describe a number of sensations—tingling, itching, prickling, or crawling sensations—on and around the crown of one’s head as well as the scalp and spine. It’s often described as if there’s energy reverberating from the crown of the head and sometimes feels like there’s pressure on the top of the head. These sensations shouldn’t be concerning or alarming; they’re explained as occurring due to one’s crown chakra opening itself to divine energy.

  1. Changes in Weight

gross toe nails

Despite the nationwide obesity epidemic, the approach of a spiritual awakening is commonly marked by weight gain. Increases in weight occur as a result of suppressed fears to which the body builds a defense by storing and adding mass. As the fears are confronted and integrated rather than suppressed, the body will begin to release the weight that was accrued.

  1. Amplification of the Senses

When experiencing a spiritual awakening, individuals might experience any number of amplifications of the senses. Some have reported blurred vision or seeing auras and glittery particles around people while others have reported a decrease or increase in hearing, improved a sense of taste or smell, and marked an increase in sensitivity to touch. This amplification of the senses should not be cause for fear. If it becomes uncomfortable, meditation and prayer can help to alleviate the discomfort while the body adjusts to this increased sensitivity.

  1. Abrupt and Unprovoked Emotions

Those experiencing a spiritual awakening have often experienced abrupt shifts in the emotional state. This can take the form of sudden bouts of near-manic happiness, sudden and unprovoked crying spells, or sporadic and inexplicable anger. It’s often been described as an emotional rollercoaster. As inconvenient or jarring as these emotional shifts might be, there’s no cause for concern. The best way to handle the unprovoked emotions is to simply let them run their course, which will often result in them fading just as quickly as they came.

  1. Prayer and Meditation Feels Different



Spiritual awakening puts individuals in more constant contact and communication with the spirit or higher power of their understanding and belief. This is the nature of a spiritual awakening, which entails the awakening of one’s spirit so that the individual becomes more receptive to spiritual energies. As a result, prayer and meditation may feel like powerful, intense, or satisfying. However, this only occurs as a result of the more direct connection with spiritual energies on a consistent basis rather than only during times of prayer and meditation.

  1. Vivid, Realistic and Lucid Dreams

lucid dreaming

After one experiences a spiritual awakening, he or she will often notice changes in dreams. Particularly, dreams become exceedingly realistic to the point of individuals becoming unsure if they’re asleep or awake when experiencing dreams. This often results in individuals waking up confused. What’s more, spiritual awakening can sometimes cause individuals to experience lucid dreaming, which occurs when the dreamer is in control of his or her dreams.

  1. Bursts of Creativity and Innovation

two young creative innovative boys

It’s common for individuals who have experienced a spiritual awaken to becoming increasingly creative. In fact, it’s often reported that individuals who have awakened in a spiritual sense will sometimes experience abrupt, brief periods during which they receive innovative ideas, receive innovative images, experience expanded knowledge and thinking, even receive music ideas that can be almost overwhelming. It’s recommended that these individuals attempt to record or document these bursts of creativity as they might be a spirit’s or higher power’s way of guiding individuals toward fulfillment and self-actualization.

Spiritual awakening can be an intense and even confusing time, but despite the occasional discomfort or the fear of such foreign thoughts and feelings, it should be considered a privilege to be so enlightened and receptive to powerful spiritual energies. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and hope to achieve spiritual awakening in sobriety, the Palm Beach Institute can help. Our recovery specialists have helped countless individuals to forge a path from dependency to health, sobriety, and fulfillment. Don’t wait—call us today at 855-534-3574 or contact us online.