Find Your Community: Why Meetings are Integral to Recovery 

The idea of attending group meetings in recovery can sometimes seem like a daunting task. BUT community support is such an important piece to incorporate in our recovery journey. We'd like to help by sharing a little information about what can be found today in the way of community support.

The idea of attending group meetings in recovery can sometimes seem like a daunting task. BUT community support is such an important piece to incorporate in our recovery journey.

Here’s why:

  • This is where we grow, drawing on strength and wisdom from folks who are further along in recovery. 
  • This is where we find support when our family and friends don’t quite know what to say or do.
  • This is where we find relationships with others that can help hold us accountable to the goals we have set in sobriety and eating disorder recovery

Navigating the many groups out there can even add to the [sometimes] frightening journey full of unknowns. We’d like to help by sharing a little information about what can be found in the way of community support. 

12-step meetings

There are several types of community support. The oldest and most widely used form of community support is 12-step. Due to its success in supporting folks in sobriety, many of the other types of community support were developed from the 12-step model.  

12-step, specifically Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), was founded by Bill W. and Bob S. in 1935. The two men met when Bill was on a business trip — experiencing cravings to drink — and he found Bob through calling churches listed in the Yellow Pages and asking if they knew any “alcoholics”! They found that talking and relating to each other was helpful for each of them and they decided to make the idea of “meetings” more official.

You’ll find a lot of Christian language throughout 12-step, but, understand that these men did the best they could under their circumstances at the time. (They were both middle-aged, upper middle-class white males living in the Midwest in the late 1930s). The only materials available to them that might offer some guidance to stop drinking were the Bible and other Christian texts. And, they were trying to be as inclusive as possible for all believers and non-believers. 

Getting started with 12-step meetings

There are many types of 12-step meetings out there, as well as variations of the official 12-steps that Bill W. and Bob S. first outlined in the 1930’s. Because 12-step is the longest-standing type of community support, you can find a meeting nearly anywhere and anytime, including online and “in print” (The Grapevine Magazine). This can be a powerful resource when the urge to use a substance comes on quickly and unexpectedly.

If you are interested in 12-step meetings, we encourage you to not trip over the words you see or hear, particularly if you struggle to connect with some type of spirituality. We encourage you to attempt, instead, to look at the larger message: people working together and resuming their connections to a bigger purpose/values-driven life — all in an effort to strengthen and reinforce their efforts in sobriety. 

You can find a meeting for almost every issue imaginable. Here are a few that come to mind: 

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Codependents Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Kleptomaniacs Anonymous
  • Debtors Anonymous
  • Eating Disorders Anonymous
  • Overeaters Anonymous
  • Chronic Pain Anonymous
  • Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous 

In 12-step meetings, you can find Open meetings (which means that anyone can attend) and Closed meetings (for those who admit they have a problem with the substance or behavior addressed). There are Speaker, Discussion, Big Book Study and Step meetings, amongst many others. There are women’s, men’s, gender non-conforming and co-ed meetings. There are Young People’s meetings and meetings that are geared specifically to attorneys, police officers and pilots, to name a few.

For more information on 12-step meetings we recommend visiting an online search engine and trying out variations of (fill-in-the-blank) anonymous. For example, a search for ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ will bring up but you can also specify a city, and most will have their own website.

If a certain type of meeting or the way they use the language of their 12-steps doesn’t work for you, look for alternative meetings. There are plenty of them out there!

Alternatives to 12-step meetings

SMART Recovery — SMART Recovery meetings are also available both online and in person. These meetings are usually facilitated by a volunteer versus being peer-led. These meetings are available to support many forms of addiction (substances, eating disorders, shopping, gambling, internet use). You will find more cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and skills-based tools in SMART recovery meetings. 

SMART recovery utilizes a four-point model in which the meetings support the following tasks:

  • Enhancing and maintaining motivation to change
  • Coping with urges
  • Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors 
  • Living a balanced life

Learn more about SMART recovery meetings.

Refuge Recovery — Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist based community support option that is based on the belief that we all can live a life free of addiction. These meetings can primarily be found in person. Refuge Recovery is based on the following four noble “truths”:

  • Addiction creates suffering
  • Cause of addiction is repetitive craving
  • Recovery is possible
  • The path to recovery is available

Refuge Recovery outlines an eight-fold path (similar to the structure of 12-steps) that guides members toward living a life free from addiction. The path includes practices like increasing understanding, setting intentions, incorporating mindfulness and meditation, taking action toward values, connecting to community and service as a way to strengthen sobriety efforts.  

Learn more about Refuge Recovery meetings.

There are many other types of community support and meetings that we have not discussed here. We recommend trying out as many meetings as possible to see if anything feels like a “fit” for you. If you have a negative experience, don’t give up! Meetings are a microcosm of society as a whole and there will surely be groups and people you don’t like and also those you love.

Authored by Eating Recovery Center’s ART Leadership Committee:

  • Linda Lewaniak, LCSW, CAADC: Senior Director of Clinical Operations and Integrated Services
  • Leah Young, LCPC: Clinical Manager, Addiction Recovery Track
  • Amber Herring, LMFT, LAC: Addictions Recovery Track Therapist in Denver


Related Reading:

amber herring
leah young
linda lewaniak
national recovery month
support groups