One of the most important things I stress to new people who come to our 12 step program for the first time is to join our support group afterwards — you’ll make friends, you’ll be able to ask questions and get answers, you’ll get contact info, and be able to text or call each other throughout the week. Most importantly though, you’ll stop feeling alone because you’ll no longer be alone! Having our support group has made all of the difference in the world for each one of us.
At our Sunday night meeting we decided to try something different 4-5 months ago. We decided to invite people to stay after for a support group meeting. We would answer any questions people might have, share our phone numbers for texting/calling during the week, and focus on working the 12 steps directly. This is different than our regular meeting. In the regular meeting we read one step a week, talk about what stood out to us, and then do an around the room general share but without any crosstalk. Which means asking questions and seeking answers doesn’t work in that format. I was always disappointed when at the end of the evening everyone would practically run for their cars in the parking lot as if they were afraid to talk to one another. I couldn’t see how someone could get the weekly or daily 1:1 support they would need when you hit a roadblock, plus how would they feel comfortable asking someone to be their sponsor if they didn’t know anyone?
That very first day we had two new people and two longtime members decide to stay after and see what the “support group” was all about. Right away people liked it. We shared our phone numbers with each other and agreed to call or text a few times each week. It was spotty at first, but fast forward to today and we have anywhere from 6-9 people staying after out of a main group of 20 or so individuals.
There have been several major advantages to being part of this group:
- We literally support one another. It’s so nice to know I can call or text someone when I’m feeling self-pity, fear, resentment, stress, etc. They know what to do (a 10th step) and I always feel better afterwards.
- We have become friends. We laugh at times in our group. We understand where the other person is at and what they’re going through. We can ask very open personal questions with no fear of judgement or criticism. Answers usually start with, “Oh, yeah, I totally remember that…”
- The members of the group are actually making progress on their 12 steps and they’re staying sober or getting better at staying sober. In the main group (before the support group was setup), we mostly had people who were “thinking about doing their 12 step work” for years…I can’t even begin to tell you how depressing that felt week in and week out. Most guys weren’t getting anywhere.
- The members of the support group who have made it past their step 5 and into 6, 7, 8, and 9 are full of life and energy. They talk very positive about the experience and how their fear was unfounded. They talk of being sober. They talk of feeling completely different than they’ve ever felt before. It feels so good to hear them talk of success and how it’s tied to working the 12 steps! I’ve noticed more of the guys who’ve been coming for a long time but not working the steps are starting to take notice of the new guys making progress. Their countenance is changing. They’re a lot more introspective. It’s been fantastic!
No one can force another person to work the 12 steps and we don’t try. Our mantra is “Here is the ball — and here is me giving you the ball. It’s your ball. If you want to work the steps, then do it, but no one here will make you.” The progress we’ve each been making as we help each other has made all of the difference!
I’m hoping that as more of the group works through their 12 steps and starts helping others do the same there will be an explosion of sobriety. The group members are already talking of sharing their progress with siblings and friends. In 3-6 months I can envision a lot of 12th step activity going on and I can’t wait to see it.
Until then, I’m just completely grateful for my friends in our support group. We feel sad when someone struggles, we pick each other up if someone falls, we celebrate when someone makes progress, and we are always there for each other during the week. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This is the kind of happy sobriety work with others that the Big Book of AA promises and I will add my own words of testimony: It is true! When we work with others, we stay sober. Nothing is better for sobriety than helping someone else with their 12 steps. It really works 🙂
If you don’t have a support group, invite a few people to stay after your regular group to chat. Just get to know each other. Share contact info and encourage each other to work on the steps. If there is a support group, join it! It will make all of the difference, I promise.
My name is Mike