Many addicts find help in 12-step meetings. These meetings can be found in almost every city in America. A lot of them are in churches or in various civic centers after hours. When I completed rehab, I was given a list of every 12-step group in my area. It was a bit overwhelming at first. I had no idea which one to go to. Some of the most popular are: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery. They have some differences, but they all follow the same 12-step system.
The first meeting I went to was Alcoholics Anonymous. I went to a night meeting in a church close to my house. I was greeted as soon as I walked in the door. I wasn't sure what to expect. After denying my addiction to my family for so long, I had just learned how to be honest with them. Would these strangers want the same? (They do.)
It was very casual and filled with people from all different walks of life. This meeting consisted of lawyers, bankers, ex-cons, housewives, and college students. In that environment everyone is treated as an equal. Addicts in general are not treated well by society. You spend years knowing that people are judging you, looking down on you. In a meeting everyone is an addict. I felt at home for the first time in a long time. Every person walked through the front door as “the new guy” at some point.
I grabbed a cup of cheap coffee, because every other member had one, and sat in a circle. They began to introduce themselves one by one. Each person began by saying hello my name is (blank), and I’m an alcoholic (or) drug addict. Each person had a turn to tell his or her testimony or to talk about anything pertaining to recovery. If a person didn’t feel like talking, they would say pass. The entire point of these meetings is to have group support in recovery and not to be judgmental. I didn't talk during that first meeting. As a heroin addict, I still believed that my addiction had a worse stigma than others. It does in many cases, but I soon learned that in a meeting, an addict is an addict. There is no hierarchy involved. That was a comforting realization.
At the end of the meeting I was given the option to get a chip. Different color chips represent how long someone has been sober. The first chip to get is a white one. This chip symbolizes that a person wants to stay sober. Other colors are given after thirty days, ninety days, six months, and so on. I was told that after I decided to stay sober, I could get a sponsor. This is someone who has been in the program for at least one year who would help me through my journey to sobriety.
Deciding what program is best depends on addiction history and religious preference. I ended up going to Narcotics Anonymous because I wanted to be around people with problems more specific to my addiction. Celebrate Recovery is very similar but with a Christian foundation. All of the programs will involve a 12-step program and a sponsor. The important thing for me was to find a group that I was comfortable in. Overall, it was a pleasant experience. It gave me the support and guidance I needed in the beginning of my recovery.