How to Fight Social Anxiety When Attending a 12-Step Group Meeting

calendarOctober 01, 2023

Palms sweaty, knees weak, ready to run? Due to social anxiety and feelings of shame sometimes the hardest step to take is entering through the door to a 12-Step meeting.

There are so many benefits for people experiencing substance abuse issues to lean-in to sober support, which generally includes 12-Step participation. 

At West Valley Detox & Residential Treatment, we’ve created a playbook to set you up for success in participating in these meetings.

Often the need to isolate is strong, but by isolating it actually perpetuates social anxiety. We all need a supportive community that can help in our individual journey.

And remember it’s common to feel anxious when attending 12-Step meetings, especially at the start, but over time as you become more familiar with the process and build connections with others, your anxiety will decrease. 

Just know that many have felt the way you have and 12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are set up to be non-judgemental and supportive. So rest easy, you’re in good company.

Get started by doing your research. 12-Step meetings come in various formats, from open meetings (where anyone can attend) to closed meetings (only for those with a desire to stop drinking). Select a meeting that you feel comfortable with, especially if it’s your first time.

Get a friend or family member to join you at the meeting. Having a trusted person in your corner will help you feel comfortable and give you emotional support.

Clear your headspace and center yourself by doing an activity that reduces anxiety. Run, walk your dog, meditate, practice mindfulness, listen to music, or just enjoy a lazy moment to slow down.

Practice deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale through your mouth.

Remind yourself why you’re going and reflect on the reasons you want to attend. Remember that you’re seeking help and support to overcome addiction and improve your life.

For most of us who suffer from social anxiety, we want to arrive late and leave early. But by giving yourself a little extra time at the start, it will enable you to get comfortable in the environment and chat with others and ask questions before the meeting starts.

Try to strike up a conversation with someone before the meeting. Sharing your nervousness with a fellow attendee can help ease your anxiety.

Remember that everyone in the meeting is there for support. You don’t have to say or do anything beyond your comfort level. Instead of worrying about what you’ll say, concentrate on listening to others’ stories and experiences. This can help you feel more connected. 

Keep an open mind about the process and the people you’ll meet. Recognize that everyone is on their own journey and has their own story and struggles. You’re not alone, and you’ll likely find understanding and empathy from others.

If the anxiety is overwhelming, consider attending smaller meetings or online sessions initially, and then work your way up to larger in-person meetings.

Commit to staying for the entire meeting. Sometimes, initial nervousness subsides as the meeting progresses, and you may find it more beneficial than you initially thought. But if  you’re feeling overwhelmed, have a plan for leaving discreetly if needed. Knowing you have an “out” can reduce anxiety.

Don’t be discouraged if your first meeting isn’t perfect or if you still feel nervous. The more meetings you attend, the more familiar and comfortable you’ll become with the process.

Remember that taking the step to attend a 12-Step meeting  is a significant achievement, and many people have found recovery and support through the programs. Be patient with yourself, and know that you’re making a positive change in your life by seeking help. At West Valley Detox & Treatment we are rooting for your success!

Questions. Connect. Support

Don’t struggle alone with issues related to substance abuse. Take a moment to learn about how West Valley Detox & Residential Treatment differs from other drug rehabs and treatment centers.

From the beginning, our mission has been to facilitate real change and growth in our clients. To achieve this, we provide a comfortable, home-like atmosphere, a staff comprised of talented and experienced professionals, and programs that cultivate valuable relapse prevention skills.

We offer a zero-commitment consultation. Call us on 818 302 0036 or email admissionsteam@westvalleydetox.com.

For other ways to connect – visit our Contact Page.
Offering care at two locations in the Los Angeles area.

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