What to Expect at an Adult Children of Alcoholics Meeting
Today, a large amount of the apprehension and uncertainty about attending various recovery program meetings can be alleviated beforehand, safely and anonymously from behind a computer screen. The reality is this: if you are unsure about attending a meeting, attend one to be certain. Like most other recovery program meetings, there are individuals designated to meet, greet, and address questions from newcomers, if asked. If an individual desires to sit, listen, and is disinclined to even announce their presence, this is rather common at ACA meetings as well. Ultimately, the average ACA group exists to serve newcomers first, then existing members second. Why? It is an essential 12th Step of any ACA recovery process, or in short, it ensures their recovery by way of providing a pathway of recovery to others.
Find the Right First Meeting Location
There is simply no uniform or universal meeting process or procedure for ACA meetings. In this sense, groups are completely autonomous and free to conduct meetings per their own group conscience, in a similar manner to most other 12-Step fellowships. However, like other fellowships, those individuals considering ACA participation, but have yet to fully identify themselves as such, are suggested to attend an “open meeting” in lieu of closed meetings. In practice, closed meetings rarely turn away anyone anyways, but should a program member object, it is possible. More often than not, most meetings are open anyways and can be readily found on the ACA meeting list directory.
The most common itinerary for an ACA meeting includes:
- Prior to the meeting, individuals congregate in and around the meeting room, whether for socializing, reconnecting with other program members, or most importantly, waiting to determine if newcomers are present for the meeting. Expect to be approached, but do not hesitate to approach any program member with questions. It is an expectation of ACA members to help newcomers in any manner possible. Keep in mind, all meetings respect anonymity, and depending on your mood, often feature decent coffee and cookies as well.
- Opening of the meeting: Meetings are conducted in a similar format to other 12-Step meetings, with a meeting opening consisting of administrative matters addressed by a group secretary, the passing of the basket for self-support of the meeting in terms of money, and occasionally, brief statements made by a literature person, as well as by intergroup representatives for each ACA home group. For the newcomer, or anyone for that matter, financial contribution is not expected, nor required for participation.
- Near the end of the meeting opening, the chairperson of the meeting usually defines the proposed agenda of the evening, which can range from group discussions, literature readings and discussion, to speaker meetings. Again, each group is free to choose its own format, but generally, the ACA directory will list the “meeting type” on each listing.
- At this juncture, various members from those present are asked to read any number of pieces of literature, but some of the most common basics included in this portion of an average meeting include the Promises, the Laundry List or those 14 traits identifying an adult child of an alcoholic, a statement of the Problem and of the Solution, and a reading of the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, as well as occasionally the Twelve Concepts. Given time constraints (meetings last anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours), some of these essential aspects of the program are dropped for the sake of time.
- The main portion of any meeting includes sharing, with formats varying. For newcomers, attending speaker meeting may be more beneficial, as one can hear the full story of another ACA member and gauge for themselves whether the program will be helpful. In other cases, being able to express oneself and hearing a handful of other ACA members speak can be most helpful, which is found most easily in the form of a discussion meeting. Finally, some individuals may prefer reading literature aloud with others, then reflecting or discussing the meaning or implications of this excerpt from ACA literature in their own personal lives and recovery. Again, meeting formats widely vary, so take the time to try a few meeting styles before entirely discounting the program as whole.
- Newcomers especially are nervous about the nuances of the meeting format. This is understandable. The easiest route, if called upon to speak, is to simply state your first name and something along the lines of “I am just here to listen this evening.” For those willing to share at the outset, the only real rules are waiting one’s turn during the sharing process, and more relevantly, to avoid cross-talk with other members, while they are sharing.
- Although not guaranteed, especially if a speaker meeting, many meetings that find themselves hosting a newcomer will alter the agenda for the evening to cater to the basics of the program and those aspects experienced program members feel are most relevant to the newcomer. This is not uncommon, and frankly, a highly effective approach towards providing as much information about the program to newcomers, albeit in a low-pressure manner.
- Closing the meeting: Generally, closing the meeting entails an announcement by the speaker of the lack of time to continue, with a request of those present to join him or her in a closing statement or prayer. At this point, the meeting is over.
- As a newcomer, it is possible that you will be approached after the meeting by individuals, who may also provide literature about the program for your perusal later at home. Likewise, it is not uncommon for a list of phone numbers of other members of ACA to be generated and provided to the newcomer during the course of the meeting.
Learn to Expect Something of the Same and Something Different at Each Meeting
Meeting formats, rules, and procedures are dictated by group conscience, or the collective preferences of existing ACA home group members. In practice, formats to the outside observer are relatively indistinguishable. However, there are no set rules for conducting an ACA meeting. However, it would be a very rare occurrence if a newcomer attended an ACA meeting and left feeling unwelcomed; these meetings exist as much for the newcomer as they do for the long-time ACA member.