Beginners’, Gender-Specific and Specialty Meetings

There are a variety of 12-step meetings, in addition to those discussed previously, that are designed to meet the needs of specific populations and purposes.

Beginners’ (Newcomers’) Meetings

Typically held before “regular” 12-step meetings, and often of shorter duration, beginner’s meetings usually concentrate on the first three steps, or on other issues especially affecting beginners.  The effectiveness of these meetings is largely dependent upon the skills and attention brought to bear by the leader(s). Outside speakers are often brought in to talk about their early recovery or other more specific issues. On occasion, a panel of “old-timers” may be convened to answer the newcomers’ questions.

Beginners’ meetings are an excellent resource for newcomers, and are also a wonderful way to become acquainted with others in the group.

Gender-Specific Meetings

The subjects of mixed-gender sponsorship, “13th-Stepping”, newcomers in relationships and other issues of poorly-focused recovery are best left for another time. Suffice it to say that it has been found inadvisable to do too much gender mixing, especially in early recovery. People who don’t know how to have relationships with themselves  have no business in relationships involving lust, sex and whatever they imagine passes for “love.”

There are a number of axioms in NA and AA regarding separation of gender groups in recovery, perhaps best summed up in the popular one used by our women members, “Women will save your butt. Men will just pat it.”  For this and simple reasons of common issues and answers, we have men’s meetings, women’s meetings, gay meetings and trans-gender meetings. Obviously, in most cases, each is limited to people of that gender or gender preference.

“Specialty” 12-Step Meetings

There is a fairly broad range of meetings that need a bit of explanation. Although they generally fall into the category of “discussion” meetings, they have aspects that set them a bit apart.

As Bill Sees It meetings are similar in format to Big Book meetings, but are based on the book of the same name, a collection of Bill Wilson’s writings from various sources. This format lends itself to broad topics that are indexed in the back of the book.

Living Sober­ meetings are also based on a book of the same name. This paperback book, official AA literature, contains 30 short articles on various aspects of the sober life and how to deal with them. The format is generally the same as the other literature study meetings.

Grapevine meetings are based on the AA Grapevine, a monthly magazine published by AA The magazine contains a variety of articles and letters that make excellent topics for discussion, including at least three each issue that are intended to be used that way.

Old Timers’ meetings usually involve a panel of members with a good deal of sobriety under their belts. (No one has actually ever defined “old-timer” specifically. It’s generally accepted that if you have 20 years of continuous sobriety, you are one, and if you have 5 years you probably aren’t. Clearly, there’s a wide gray area.) In any case, these folks answer questions posed by members from the floor.

Askit Basket meetings are similar to Old-Timers’ meetings. Members write questions on pieces of paper, which are placed in a collection basket or someone’s hat. A panel of experienced members answers questions drawn at random, after which there is a general discussion. This format allows shy people to ask  questions anonymously, and is usually quite popular.

Meditation meetings, also called Eleventh Step Meetings, follow a variety of formats, generally centered on a reading or short discussion of a particular idea, and then guided or unguided meditation on the subject. Often there is a period of discussion after the meditation period, as well.

Business and Group Conscience Meetings

Business meetings are for discussing the everyday operation of the group: who will chair meetings, who will find speakers, who will be the General Services Representative, and so forth. Secretaries and Treasurers are elected at these meetings. The twelve-step groups do not have presidents, etc. “Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

Group conscience meetings are called when needed to resolve non-business issues. They are often held before or after business meetings in order to arrive at a consensus regarding a problem or potential problem that may have arisen within the group. This could, for example, involve whether or not to move the location of meetings, or how to deal with subjects such as discussing other drugs at AA meetings.

It is extremely important that we attend these meetings. They are the primary means by which we may let our ideas about our home groups affect their operation. If we do not attend group conscience and business meetings, we have no right to complain about the way our groups are being run.

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