Do you feel like you don’t fit in when you go to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous? Many people who are newly sober feel uncomfortable at first and resist the idea of going to AA or NA meetings. They may express reasons why they feel they don’t belong and are quick to insist that they have nothing in common with the people who attend meetings. If you are having similar thoughts, it might be time to consider whether the feelings you are having are legitimate or if there is a solution to make you more comfortable. The people who go to these meetings may not be as different as you think.
Diversity of AA and NA Meetings
Both AA and NA are composed of a wide variety of diverse people who attend meetings held all over the world. Different meetings often have different focuses or approaches. In your area you may be able to find large meetings composed of hundreds of people or you may find very small meetings with only a few people. People who attend these meetings may be male, female, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, rich, poor, straight, gay, married, single, young, old and everything in-between. There are people who have been incarcerated and people who have never experienced any major losses because of their addiction. You may also be able to find meetings that are meant for a specialized group of people, such as women’s only or men’s only. There are meetings for gay and lesbian people and meetings for young people. There are sometimes specialized meetings for particular addictions, such as Cocaine Anonymous or Heroin Anonymous.
How to Identify and Not Compare
Chances are you will fit in with at least one of the meetings in your area. But if at first you feel ill at ease at meetings, the key to becoming more comfortable is to identify and not compare. Instead of noticing what is different between you and the other people who are present, strive to identify with all or part of their stories. Identifying with other people is recognizing that the way your life has been impacted by alcoholism or addiction is similar even if the steps you took to get to where you are is very different. Instead of comparing the superficial details of your life to the lives of others, look past what’s on the surface to what’s inside. A dangerous comparison for a newcomer is to listen to the stories of those in recovery and think that you were never that bad. Just because you have never lost your home, your job, your health or your relationships doesn’t mean you won’t. By identifying with the losses others have experienced, you may be able to prevent future disasters in your own life.
A Bond Like No Other
People who attend AA and NA meetings are able to bond with each other in a unique way. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous compares this bond to a group of people on a shipwreck. People who go to meetings are often people who ordinarily would not mix. But because of their addiction, they are able to look past their differences and identify with each other. The journey you have experienced will never be exactly the same as what is experienced by other people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relate to others or find common ground. Many people in AA and NA will advise you not to compare your insides with someone else’s outsides. If you feel like you don’t fit into AA or NA meetings, keep trying. Go to many different meetings. Because of the many styles of meetings available, there’s a good chance you’ll find one that feels comfortable to you. Let yourself meet a wide variety of people, and look for what you do have in common with others in recovery. In the early days of AA and NA, you might have been the only woman, the only person of color or the only gay person who went to meetings, but that isn’t the case today. There is a place in AA or NA for you.