If you’re eager to join the Narcotics Anonymous fellowship but have never attended a 12-step group before and aren’t sure what to expect, we’ve got you covered. We read the official Narcotics Anonymous literature so that you don’t have to (although we highly recommend that you do check it out yourself at some point). Here’s a skimmable breakdown of Narcotics Anonymous rules for participating in meetings and how to prepare for your first meeting.
Narcotics Anonymous “Rules”
You’ve heard the saying before: “The first rule is that there are no rules”. Cheesy, but that’s pretty much the case with Narcotics Anonymous. Members pride themselves on allowing groups to be self-governing and to develop their own identity. NA directly states that they “encourage unity, not uniformity”. As such, there are no hard and fast rules that dictate how to run a meeting or how to participate in one. The Group Booklet offers a set of helpful guidelines that set the expectations of groups and their members. As long as you operate within those parameters and adhere to the organization’s core principles, you don’t have to worry whether you’re breaking any rules or not.
That said, there are a few standards of conduct that participants should abide by when attending an NA meeting. Here’s what you need to know:
- No discussing outside issues. That means nix on religion, politics, and any other topic that isn’t recovery-related.
2. Not all meetings are open to nonaddicts. The walk-in format means that every meeting is available for an addicted person to attend. However, if you wanted to bring a non-addicted loved one to accompany you, this isn’t always the case. Look to see whether an NA group lists their meeting as being “open” or “closed”. An open meeting everyone, addicted or not, is welcome to attend. Closed meetings are only for those who are struggling with addiction.
3. Confidentiality is key. Don’t discuss anything or any of the stories that were spoken about during a meeting.
Tips For Your First NA Meeting
As you can see, the list of actual Narcotics Anonymous rules is quite short. Instead, there’s a lot more that can be said to ensure that your first meeting is a positive experience. Far from being any sort of requirement, here are a few tips and things to expect when you attend:
When You First Get There
- Get there early, plan to stay late. Most groups have designated members to greet and guide first-timers. At least for your very first meeting, aim to get there early and stay a little while longer once the meeting is over. This will allow you to ask questions and feel more comfortable more quickly.
- Be prepared to pitch in. Narcotics Anonymous emphasizes self-sufficiency for its groups, both financially and logistically. While you’ll never be required to make a donation or make any other monetary contribution, the work that goes into each meeting is shared amongst group members. It’s primarily the responsibility of the elected officers, but stepping up to fulfill some of the smaller duties like making coffee, greeting attendees, or setting up the chairs is helpful and makes for a great first impression.
- You don’t have to provide any personal information. Some groups may have nametags or attendance sheets. You do not need to reveal any information about yourself if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Arriving early will give you the chance to ask how that group operates without being caught off guard. If you feel too self-conscious refusing altogether, feel free to use an alias in place of your real name. Further, most meetings involve hugs as greetings between participants. Feel free to say “no” if it makes you uncomfortable.
- Only share once per meeting. It’s awesome that you want to participate and share your story. Due to time constraints, members are asked to limit their sharing to once per meeting, and for five minutes or less.
- Avoid “crosstalk”. Responding to a member’s sharing by sharing your own experience doesn’t facilitate discussion. If you’d like, talk with that other member privately after the meeting.
- Minimize the details. Be sensitive to the fact that others may be struggling with cravings or fairly new in their recovery. As such, try to avoid explicit details and descriptions of drug use or other distressing information such as harassment, threats, or financial struggles. Instead, focus on the areas of recovery.
During & After The Meeting
- Focus on listening rather than sharing. Not only will this allow you to get a better understanding of how the group operates, but you’ll be better able to identify potential sponsors or friends.
- No drugs allowed. A no-brainer. Don’t bring drugs or drug paraphernalia around others who are struggling with substance abuse. Additionally, it’s recommended against attending meetings while intoxicated or if you have used in the past 24 hours, but the stringency may vary by group.
- Don’t feel pressured to donate. If you’re still feeling out the group and aren’t sure if you want to declare a homegroup just yet, refrain from contributing. Until you are a full-fledge NA member, they ask you to withhold donations so that they can remain self-supporting.
How To Find An NA Meeting
First off, congratulations. If you made it this far and are reading this, it means that you’ve made the choice (or are at least seriously considering) to do something about your drug use problem. Let us go on the record to say that we think that your decision to attend Narcotics Anonymous is a fantastic idea.
They have an unwavering commitment to privacy and, most importantly, are free to attend and join. These zero-commitment groups are a place where people can begin their recovery process without judgment and stay to maintain their sobriety even after addiction treatment. Even better: they can be found everywhere. Narcotics Anonymous boasts nearly 70,000 meeting groups worldwide. Find an NA meeting near you today with our directory that breaks down locations by state and city.