Skip to main content

Hanging Out Around the Fringes in 12-Step Meetings

March 20, 2019

Some long time ago it was suggested that 12-Step recovery could help me. Well, it wasn’t just suggested. I was told to do 90 meetings in 90 days, get a sponsor and work the Steps. More so, I had to like it. No, I had to love it. It was important that a meeting be the highlight of my day and that my sponsor was God’s incarnation on earth.

If none of that was true, I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone. It would have been blasphemy!

Of course, that message is echoed at meetings. The number of people who love Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and love their sponsor echo that sentiment consistently. People who may feel differently remain quiet.

This post is not meant to be anti 12-Step recovery. It is meant to say that it’s OK to go to 12-Step meetings even though you don’t buy in hook, line and sinker. One can just hang out around the fringes. You will find that many people do. If you hang around the fringes long enough you will meet those people—they’re usually near wherever coffee is available. You may share a laugh or two. You will find out that you’re not the only one who feels as you do. You will make a few friends. Most importantly, you will discover that you are not alone.

It’s called “fellowship.”

There are always people at mutual-support meetings who are there because they have to be—it’s better than jail or being kicked out of a sober home. If that is the case for someone, my suggestion for that person is to use that time productively. Pay attention; you are bound to hear a few things that make sense. It’s better than wasting an hour. And it’s just an hour.

Maybe “90 in 90” can mean one recovery activity a day. An appointment with a therapist is a recovery activity, as is doing an activity in a workbook. Not everyone can work a full day, keep an appointment with a therapist, spend time with family, and go to a meeting.

Addiction may be the only disease for which people will pursue treatment only if they like it. But do they have a few hours out of the 168 in a week to increase the chances to stay well? A 12-Step meeting may be the only place to reinforce a very important message: “Don’t pick up.”

The culture we live in will tell us that using is romantic, masculine or feminine, attractive, sexy, cool, bold and powerful. It will tell us that in order to reward ourselves, rejoice or celebrate, alcohol has to be part of the experience. It doesn’t.

Twelve-Step recovery has done amazing things for millions of people. Hang around long enough, and you (or one of your patients) may become one of them.

There are numerous options today: SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Women in Recovery, etc.

The bottom line is that no one has to do this alone.

Back to Top