Prior to being a member of HU, my exposure to 12 Step programs had been reserved to TV shows and movies. I saw how characters would stand and announce their name and their disease, followed by a room of people replying, ‘Hi So and So’ in unison. But that was all I knew. I had no idea how life-saving these fellowships were, or how spiritually connected everyone in the room was (regardless of who/what their higher power is). I suppose I had a stereotype in mind that the people in these meetings just came to complain about their vices, and when they were finished, they would all go out for a beer. How bad is that? Well my stereotype was superbly wrong!

Being that I’m in the addiction program at HU (as well as the PTSD program), it’s mandatory that I go to a 12-step meeting every day. Yes you heard me correctly, EVERY DAY. Furthermore, we are encouraged to try different types of meetings as they all use the same 12 steps for recovery, and in the end, an addiction is an addiction, so any meeting is suitable. Each fellowship has their own style of meeting, and my HU peers and I are told choose which fits us best. This recovery world is already so alien to me. So it’s nice to have SOME options. Many meetings have speakers, while some forgo the speaker and partake in discussions about pertinent topics instead. But no matter which meeting I attend, I have found one thing that undoubtably resonates through ALL of them…you can gain true freedom if you follow the steps.

The people I’ve met who attend these meetings have shattered my stereotype forever. Gone is the image I had of addicts sitting around relentlessly venting about their misery. It’s not like that at all! Yes, some talk about past addiction experiences occur, but most discussions are very solution based. Generally speaking, no one wants to listen to anyone bitch and complain. Everyone wants to hear how sobriety changed their lives for the better and how they came to achieve it. People of all ages and from ALL walks of life attend meetings; the other day I sat between a police officer and a doctor. When I’m there it’s plain to see that addiction doesn’t discriminate.

I have learned that the spiritual side of meetings has deterred people in the past. Some believe that 12 step programs have a religious connotation…but in fact, organized religion has no place at meetings; what is discussed is spirituality. It is reiterated over and over again that everyone is encouraged to trust in their higher power whether it’s God, nature, the power of the group, or anything you choose. There is no religion of any kind linked to the program unless YOU want it to be, and you never need to talk about it. In fact, no one even needs to talk about the source of their spirituality at all. All that matters is that you realize you could not get better alone. Recovery on your own terms was too much to bear. Quiet simply, every member needs to be able to put their addiction in the hands of their higher power and believe that there is something greater than us that can help. Understandably that can be a huge struggle for many people; I’m still working on it myself. But even if you search and search and still can’t figure it out, that’s ok! You can always go to a meeting just for the unconditional support. 12 step meetings are simply rooms filled with hope, strength and determination, as well as reassurance that you don’t have to fight the demon in your head alone.

The people at meetings are fighters. Their stories depict years of internal war with addiction and relentless battles with compulsion. I admire every person I meet within the walls of a meeting. Their honestly and vulnerability gives me hope that I can heal. Their stories resonate in my mind days after a meeting and reassure me that I’m not alone. How wonderful to not be alone. I can see myself making life-long friends with these fighters because their support for me was instantaneous. I feel blessed to have been introduced to this world and look forward to the freedom it promises.