Getting to a first ever DRA or any other Twelve Step meeting can be a big step forward in recovery but the fear of going to that very first meeting can be a big obstacle. For those of us with certain anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses, this fear may feel overwhelming. A certain amount of anxiety and discomfort in these situations is entirely normal for all of us whether we have a dual diagnosis or not. Going to new places and being around people we’ve never met in the context of a new and unfamiliar experience is not easy. It is our hope to ease this apprehension by describing some of the common things that happen inside of a meeting and offer some general information about meetings.
Meetings are held in various locations including: churches, community centers, public buildings, recovery clubs, and sometimes private homes. They are held in just about any convenient place where space can be rented or donated for a public gathering. Some DRA meetings are held inside of hospitals and treatment facilities for the benefit of the facilities' clients and DRA members from the community.
Meetings may be either Open meetings, (family members and the interested public may attend) or Closed meetings, (for DRA members only).
In Dual Recovery Anonymous, there are no dues or fees for membership. DRA has only two requirements for membership; a desire to stop using alcohol and other intoxicating drugs, and a desire to manage our emotional or psychiatric illness in a healthy and constructive way. Anyone who feels they may personally have a dual diagnosis and has even the smallest desire to get better can consider themselves a member of DRA. If you think you may meet the requirements and call yourself a member, then you are.
Meetings vary considerably in their specific rituals, patterns, and format, from place to place and each has it’s own style and feeling. Most are an hour long. One thing to keep in mind is that the very nature of a DRA 12-Step meeting is to carry the message of hope to those who are in need. The first one of our Twelve Traditions states, "The primary purpose of DRA is to carry the message of recovery to men and women who experience a dual disorder."
That means the new person who is attending for the first few times is an indispensable part of the whole. You are wanted and welcome and have an open invitation to come and see if our Fellowship is for you.
Generally members arrive a few minutes early and find a seat. Sometimes chairs are arranged in rows, sometimes in a circle, or around tables. These gatherings are very casual come as you are affairs. Some people may be on their way to or from work. Some may be coming from treatment facilities. Some may be parents, others are retirees, or even high school students. Before the meeting begins there is usually friendly chatter and many meetings have a pot of coffee brewing for anyone who wants a cup.
There are several types of meetings:
Discussion meetings *
Book or Step Study meetings
Hospitals and Institutions outreach meetings
Discussion meetings are the most common. A Discussion meeting is described below in some detail. Book or Step Study meetings are vary similar except they are focused on particular recovery books or the study of the Twelve Steps. Typically groups read selections from "The Dual Disorders Recovery Book" or "The Twelve Steps and Dual Disorders" and then members take turns commenting on it from their own experience and perspective. Speaker meetings are more of a lecture or motivational/informational talk by someone with a lot of recovery experience. Hospitals and Institutions outreach meetings are a free Twelfth-Step service provided by some DRA groups and Intergroups. DRA members go into hospitals, treatment facilities, or prisons to set up and run a DRA meeting. This helps carry the message of recovery and hope to individuals otherwise unable to attend DRA meetings.
What a typical DRA 12-Step Meeting might be like:
Discussion Meetings *
(A chairperson will bring the meeting to order with an announcement.)
Welcome to the Wednesday night, New Solutions Group, of Dual Recovery Anonymous. This is a closed meeting where we can discuss the Steps and matters of personal recovery. This meeting is open to DRA members and to other individuals who are concerned about their personal recovery. My name is Caroline, and I am in dual recovery. Will you join me for a moment of silence, followed by the Serenity Prayer?
(The chairperson is silent for a a few moments and the room becomes quite still. Then she leads the group in saying the following prayer. You don't have to pray along, you can just listen if you wish.)
God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.
(The chairperson then asks certain members to read various pieces of DRA literature. She usually hands the printed documents out before the meeting starts. Different meetings may omit or add to this list, or change the order.)
Would someone please read the Preamble." ...And whoever has it will read it aloud. Then she will ask someone else to read the 12 Traditions, Getting Started in DRA which includes the 12 Steps, and Accepting Differences.
(Then the chairperson may make a few general statements about how the sharing is done, possibly ask if there are any people from out of town or who are new to DRA, and welcome them to the meeting.)
This is a closed meeting where we can discuss the Steps and matters of personal recovery. Everyone will have an opportunity to share as we go around the room. If you do not wish to share, simply say 'Pass'. Please limit your sharing to 5 min. Also, please limit side talk in respect to the person sharing.
If anyone needs to leave early, please raise your hand, so that we can make sure you have a chance to share.
(At this point the chairperson will usually share for a few minutes about his or her own experience, strength, and hope, in dual recovery. She may tell part of her personal story. She may pick a recovery topic to set the general theme of the meeting to follow, but members are always free to speak on any issues they may need to share at that time. After the chairperson has shared she will open up the meeting for other members to share.)
(Sometimes the sharing is done in turn around a circle. Sometimes the chairperson will simply point to or ask particular members if they wish to share, and in some meetings a person raises their hand and volunteers to share. If someone happens to be called upon or is otherwise asked to speak and does not care to do so, the standard replies for polite refusal are "Thanks, I'll pass" or "Thanks, I'll just listen tonight." Everyone understands and accepts this and no pressure is applied to try to change the person's mind who prefers not to speak.)
(Halfway through most meetings the chairperson calls for the Seventh Tradition. A basket is usually passed around and members make small donations to pay for the coffee, rent, and associated costs of running the meeting. There is no requirement or pressure to donate.)
At this time we will pause for the Seventh Tradition. This Tradition reminds us that every DRA group is self-supporting. All donations are used for rent, literature and other group expenses." As the basket is being passed around the room the chairperson may ask if anyone has any recovery related announcements. (Some meetings have intermissions.) "Now we will take a ten minute smoke break.
(After the 7th Tradition the chairperson brings the meeting back to order and sharing resumes.)
My name is Caroline and I'm still a grateful recovering addict and alcoholic with a dual disorder. This is a closed meeting where we can discuss the Steps and matters of personal recovery. Everyone will have an opportunity to share as we continue to go around the room. If you do not wish to share, simply say 'Pass'. Please limit your sharing to 5 min. Also, please limit side talk in respect to the person sharing.
(Near the end of the meeting the chairperson ends the sharing and begins to close the meeting.)
Tradition Twelve reminds us of our need for anonymity. We ask that you do not repeat the names of anyone who has attended this meeting or talk about what has been shared. Only by exercising this tradition can DRA provide a setting where we can feel safe to share in a way that will help our dual recovery.
If you know someone who might find help from the DRA program, feel free to bring them to a DRA meeting. However, PLEASE, bring them only if they express a personal interest. Recovery is always a matter of personal choice. We can do our best when we carry the message and practice the program. Would all who care to, join me in the Serenity Prayer?
(All meetings are different. Some other 12 Step groups end with "The Lord's Prayer". It's common practice at the end of many meetings for members to form a large circle and hold hands while saying the final prayer. Many members who may be uneasy saying these prayers still enjoy being part of the circle but they remain silent. Often, at the end of the prayer, everyone loudly says "Keep Coming Back, It Works!!! )
(After that some members may help clean up the room, stack or move chairs, and put the coffee away. Some will hurry off and some will visit for a few minutes. It's often a friendly time where people will introduce themselves to new members and invite them back.)
Some members begin their shares by identifying themselves as alcoholics or addicts and may include their diagnosis. It's not uncommon to hear someone start out by saying "My name is Joe C., and I'm an alcoholic and manic depressive." Others may simply state their names or add that they are in dual recovery. It is not required in order to speak, to identify or "label" oneself as an alcoholic, addict, or to identify one's particular psychiatric diagnosis, though many members choose to do so. Some people prefer to identify themselves as 'recovering' alcoholics or addicts, and other's just give their first name. Newcomers are entirely free to say whatever they like about themselves in this regard. Since everyone present remembers their own first meeting, there is a great deal of empathy and acceptance of newcomers.
DRA meetings do not take attendance or keep membership roles, though there may be certain security requirements at some treatment facilities, hospitals, and other institutional facilities. It is traditional in 12 Step meetings to identify oneself by first name or first name and last initial only, though it is not a rule. Almost all meetings include a reminder to keep everything that is said in the meeting confidential. This tradition or right to anonymity and privacy, is taken very seriously by those who are familiar with most 12 Step programs. At many meetings, the chairperson will repeat a common 12 Step saying to remind everyone of the importance of confidentiality and anonymity, "Whom you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here."
DRA meetings generally begin and end on time. Some people usually arrive early and socialize before the meeting actually begins. After the meeting ends there is usually a period of time when people again socialize as they slowly filter out. We know these informal times can cause anxious moments for the newcomer. After a couple more meetings you will get to know the routine and the people well enough to feel more at ease.
During these before-and-after times you may be offered names and phone numbers by other members along with an offer to be of help if needed. This is a DRA and 12 Step Tradition of service and helping others. Please don't worry. No one is trying to sell you anything or take advantage of you. One of the most common tools of staying clean and sober is having other member's phone numbers to call when we get cravings in early sobriety.
Many people who are new to DRA meetings and dual recovery choose to "just listen" during their first several meetings. This is just fine. Eventually they may ask the chairperson if they can read one of the shorter pieces of DRA literature at the beginning of the meeting to sort of "try out" speaking at meetings. Their first real 'share' may be very short and simple such as, "My name is George. I'm kind of down today, but I am really grateful to be here. Thank you." Eventually George will feel more fully accepted and more at ease. Then he may wish to share more about why he is feeling down and what recovery tools he is learning to use that help him cope constructively with his feelings. He may better understand how not to revert back to drinking or drugging to numb the pain and he may wish to share that knowledge and experience with others.
The DRA is not affiliated with any religion, nor does it endorse or have opinions about them. There is no religious requirement for DRA attendance. Members are free to believe whatever they choose to believe, or choose not to believe. There are many agnostics and atheists in DRA, as well as many members of traditional, neo-pagan, ethnic, and so called new-age religions. For further information on this issue please see the DRA Questions and Answers document or the page about bringing a spiritual dimension to recovery.
In DRA we are all equal. There are no leaders. The chairperson, group secretary, treasurers, and such are all volunteers taking their turn doing "service work". They do not govern. It would seem to be the very formula for chaos but experience has shown that our common experience in dual recovery along with the guiding principles of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions leads us to a common goal of personal recovery and group harmony.
DRA is made of a diverse and often colorful collection of people with all kinds of personalities and issues in addition to that of their dual no-fault illnesses. Individual meetings also tend to acquire a special flavor and "personality" of their own. It is a good idea to go to several different meetings to find one that feels right to you. The DRA welcomes you with open arms!