Sharing your story is incredibly important — which is precisely why this concept is a crucial part of recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. When people share in AA or NA, they go over their addiction and what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now. Sharing stories can help people bond with each other, work through personal lows and highs, destigmatize and help serve as inspiration for listeners. Whatever the goal, it’s still essential to understand concerns about oversharing or speaking about substance abuse in the wrong light. Keep reading for important dos and don’ts when sharing a personal recovery story.
When speaking at an AA meeting, there’s no need for embellishment. Exaggerating or lying doesn’t help anyone — you or the others in the room. When you tell an honest account of your experience, you’re sharing your truth and being vulnerable. Your genuine experiences may also resonate with others in the room, who may connect with you afterward to discuss similar situations they’ve been through.
Don’t: Engage in “War Stories”
One of the unspoken AA speaker meeting tips is to avoid sharing “war stories.” Sure, almost everyone in recovery has shocking stories of when they were at their lowest. If mentioning this moment helps give context or adds to your share, it’s okay to bring up these experiences. But avoid bringing up “war stories” to impress, shock, or compete with others in the room.
Don’t: Share Other People’s Stories
One of the most critical tips for speaking at an AA meeting is to only tell your story. If someone else in the room is part of your share, leave them nameless or out of the story entirely. After all, NA and AA are all about being anonymous. You don’t have the right to share someone else’s experiences. Individuals can remember this rule by mainly sharing “I” statements — ensuring the focus remains on you.
Don’t: Share If You’re Not Ready
For those who’ve never been to an AA meeting before, there’s a misconception that you have to share your story. In reality, no one will pressure you to share. You shouldn’t go up and share your story if you don’t feel you’re ready to. It’s perfectly okay to come to these meetings and just listen to other people’s stories.
Don’t: Use Negative Language That Encourages Guilt or Shame
Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding addiction being a choice or something that happens to weak people. It’s important to never bring in this type of negative language when sharing your stories. You can express shame for some of the choices you made but with an understanding that your addiction had a hold on you when you made those choices. Remember — if you guilt or blame when telling your addiction story, you’re projecting the same feelings to others in the room.
Don’t: Glamorize the Addiction
When you share your personal recovery story, remember there are people in the room at all different stages of their recovery. Some people may not have started their first day of sobriety yet. You don’t want to get up there and over-glamorize your days of addiction to the point that it triggers someone. Don’t talk about them as “good old days” or “the best time of your life.” Focus on how sobriety is a gift and the most significant change you’ve made.
Do: Let Your Emotions Show
Telling your story in AA will probably be emotional, and that’s okay. Don’t be scared to show your emotions — it can help you work out things you’re still processing.
Do: Be Vulnerable
If there’s a time and place to be vulnerable, it’s when you’re sharing your recovery story. You’re in a room full of people who understand what you’re going through and have compassion. Be vulnerable and say what’s on your mind.
Do: Look at the Past and Present
The typical format for sharing your recovery story is: what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now. Some people think you only share what’s happened in the past, but it’s essential to look to the present and future too. Recovery is about hope and taking ownership of your future. You can look back at what you’ve been through, but don’t forget to credit the progress you’ve made up until today and where you hope to be soon.
Do: Acknowledge Your Support System
While you share your recovery story, it’s vital to acknowledge the people who got you to the place you’re at today. It could be people in the room (like a sponsor) or people in your life (like a family member). Recognizing your support system can help you remember that there are people cheering for your continued recovery.
Do: Keep an Eye on the Time
Not everyone comes to an AA or NA meeting to share. Some people want to share, but others are there to listen. Still, it’s vital that those who want to share get an opportunity to do so. As a result, when telling your story in AA, keep an eye on the time. Give yourself enough time to get everything off your chest, but don’t forget others need to share too.
Do: Remain Open to Others After Sharing
This “do” tip is more of a recommendation. If sharing your story wasn’t too personal, remain open to discussions afterward. If someone in the room really resonated with your story, they may try to talk to you when the AA or NA meeting wraps up. Try to keep an open mind and remember that everyone is at different parts of their recovery journey. This person may want your advice or just need someone to connect with.
Personal Recovery Stories Have a Purpose
AA recovery stories have tremendous power. They help both those who tell them and those who listen. This list may include dos and don’ts for sharing a personal recovery story, but don’t forget that there’s no one way to share. Instead, it’s important just to start sharing and, eventually, you’ll get into a groove that works for you.
FHE Health Can Help
If you’re ready to start a path to recovery, the friendly professionals at FHE Health can help. Our facility specializes in the treatment of addictions and mental health conditions. You get to choose the treatment program that best suits your needs, so recovery is attainable on your terms. Contact us today by calling us at (844) 299-0618.