Going to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs is one of the most successful ways of overcoming active addiction to alcohol or drugs. It is suggested that you attend as many meetings as you can, especially early in sobriety. By going to meetings, you will learn about the disease of addiction and hear the experiences of people who have been able to overcome the compulsion to drink or drug. You will be able to meet a wide variety of people who truly understand what you’ve gone through, and gradually you can build a support network.
But for many people who are newly sober, the sense of belonging at AA or NA meetings doesn’t come easily. For one reason or another, you may feel like you don’t fit in. How can you get past your feeling of being an outsider?
Identify, Don’t Compare
Comparisons are dangerous when it comes to adjusting to AA or NA meetings. It’s easy to see what’s different about other people. They may be a different gender, a different race or a different social or economic group. They might have more or less education than you have, and they may have religious or political beliefs that are difficult for you to understand. They may be a lot older or younger than you are, and they may have used more or less drugs or alcohol than you did.
When you really think about it, everyone is different than you are, not only in AA or NA, but everywhere else, too. We are all unique in some way. To feel like you fit in at meetings, you have to try to identify with the experiences other people are sharing. Look for the similarities in what people are saying rather than dwelling on the differences. Think about how you can identify with what others have shared.
Acting as if You Are Comfortable
When you are feeling uncomfortable in a new meeting, one of the best things you can do is act as if you are comfortable. Smile even though you don’t feel like smiling. Reach out your hand and introduce yourself even though you are nervous.
Forcing yourself to reach out to others is a great way to get past feeling like an outsider. Often, when you pretend you are at ease, you may be able to believe it yourself. Tell yourself that you do belong and that you have earned your seat at meetings. Many alcoholics and addicts never find their way to recovery.
Explore a Variety of New Meetings
In some cases, there are legitimate reasons for feeling like you don’t fit in. Occasionally you may go to a meeting that isn’t right for you. At times you may go to a meeting where people may be judgmental or unfriendly or try to force their religious convictions on you.
The good news is that in most areas there are many meetings to choose from. You can attend meetings that are large or small, and often there are different formats at different meetings. You may prefer a specialized meeting, such as one that is for men only or women only. Keep trying to go to different meetings until you find one or more where you feel comfortable enough to know you’ll go back.
Trust in the Process
When you keep telling yourself that 12-step programs aren’t going to work for you and are a place where you don’t fit in, you’re getting in the way of your own recovery. In many cases, people who tell themselves they don’t fit in may be looking for an excuse to go back to their old ways and their old circles of friends.
It is possible to live a life free of drugs and alcohol, but in order to accomplish that, you have to have a support group. Somewhere out there is the right meeting and the right group of people. Keep showing up and reaching out until you find them.