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How to Help an AA Newcomer Feel Safe and Supported

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery groups have helped millions of people achieve lasting freedom from drug and alcohol use and other self-destructive behaviors. If you’re an AA veteran, what tactics can you take to pay it forward to people who are experiencing the benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous and beginning to work through the 12 steps for the first time?

1. Give Them Time and Space

Going to meetings can feel intimidating for people in early recovery. They may initially be apprehensive about sharing their feelings. In some cases, AA newcomers may wish to sit quietly and observe for several meetings without contributing to the conversation. Respect their wishes for privacy, and never push them to participate if they aren’t ready. Eventually, the group will start feeling like a safe space where beginners know they are welcome, and then they’ll begin opening up and telling their story.

2. Listen Without Judgment

People in early recovery are probably already carrying a heavy burden of shame and guilt about how they behaved and the people they hurt while they were in the grip of active recovery. There’s no reason for you to pile on by belittling or blaming them. Being a compassionate person requires you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, practice loving kindness and hone your active listening skills.

3. Be Available Outside Group Meetings

If an AA newcomer entrusts you with the responsibility of being part of their recovery support team, exchange phone numbers with them and offer to be available anytime they are struggling and need help. When they call or text you, respond as promptly as possible. It may also build your relationship by proactively checking on the other person outside the time you spend together in recovery meetings. For example, you could set a schedule for regular check-in phone or video calls.  

4. Strive to Be an Example to AA Newcomers

Sometimes, people hesitate to explore AA because they believe the program’s principles are too restrictive. When helping an AA newcomer feel safe and supported, remind them as often as necessary that the only requirement for following 12-step principles is a sincere desire to break the cycle of substance abuse. Encourage them to take the initiative to bring positive, healthy changes in their life. You can do so by sharing the life skills you’ve honed over time and suggesting tips for having fun in recovery.

5. Encourage Personal Responsibility

While you can offer help, education and advice, individuals recovering from substance use own the responsibility for their recovery and continue to make progress for their goals. If you’ve taken someone under your wing as a mentor or recovery sponsor, it can be tempting to enable them by removing obstacles from their path and taking care of things they should be doing for themselves. Don’t give in to this urge. Instead, keep gently reminding AA newcomers that they are ultimately in charge of their new, sober life.

Tailored Addiction Treatment in Austin, Texas

At Spearhead Lodge, we offer outstanding drug and alcohol rehab programming for young men in the vibrant city of Austin. Clients in our long-term, 12-step-focused treatment center leave our facility equipped with the tools they need to sustain lifelong sobriety. Reach out today if you are ready to learn more about what we offer for yourself or a loved one.