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How to Overcome Social Anxiety at AA Meetings

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How to Overcome Social Anxiety at AA Meetings

I feel like it’s a pretty common thing for people to freak out over going to a social event. Wondering who’s going to be there, what they’re going to say, and if you’ll even remember them is definitely cause to become anxious. The anxiety isn’t debilitating, but it’s enough to alter the ways you might normally behave if you were totally confident and comfortable from the start. Family gatherings, parties, work events, and AA meetings alike are all typical playing fields for a little dose of social anxiety.

AA meetingsAA meetings specifically can make meeting-goers easy targets for bouts of social anxiety. Maybe it’s your first meeting or you’re attending a different group than your usual this time. Or maybe you’re the main speaker this time you’re not entirely sure how to balance the weight and be able to socialize normally. Whatever you narrow the cause down to, feelings of anxiety are not uncommon when prompted to socialize. Fortunately, there are things we can do to help alleviate some of those apprehensive feelings.

If it’s Your First AA Meeting:

AA is typically an inclusive, friendly fellowship. So, when meeting-goers see a new face, they’ll probably come up and talk to you. If this sparks feelings of anxiety, you can rest assured that the regulars will most likely lead the conversation. Just listen and take it slow. The conversation will start out with introductions just like any other conversation. “Hi, I’m Kevin. What’s your name?” and “How’s it going?” are easy enough questions to answer, right?

While most people won’t flat-out ask, it might be helpful to tell them that this is your first meeting. They’ll see it as an opportunity to be extra inviting, show you the ropes, and make sure you’re doing okay. But if you don’t feel comfortable sharing that information, it’s okay. Generally speaking, being inviting and social will help you make friends quicker through the fellowship. And the more support you feel, the more your recovery will benefit. But if simply answering their questions without fueling the conversation is more your speed, that’s okay too. People will pick up on those social cues and won’t pry information from you.

If socializing isn’t the only thing causing you to worry, we have a blog article that lays out what you should expect from your first AA meeting.

If You’re Attending a Different Meeting than Usual:

AA meetingsSometimes we’re out of town, on vacation, or moving to a new city. But recovery doesn’t stop just because we’re not home. Fortunately, there are thousands of AA meetings all over the world. But going to a new meeting can easily cause feelings of anxiety. What if I don’t get along as well with these people? What if they all ambush me with questions? What if they’re not as friendly as my meeting members? First thing’s first… take a deep breath and relax. You’ve been to an AA meeting before and you know how they work. This new meeting might be in a new place with new people, but the foundations are the same.

As far as socializing goes, the easiest thing to do is reverse the scenario in your mind. Imagine you’re at your regular home meeting and someone new comes in. How would you react? You’d probably be welcoming but also cognizant that they’re new and might be feeling out-of-place, awkward, and hesitant. You wouldn’t go up to this new person and immediately ask to hear his whole life story. You also wouldn’t stare, judge, and be unfriendly towards him. Use this scenario reversal to help calm your own nerves. You’re the new person now, but the regular meeting-goers will probably react to you in the same way you’d react if you saw a new person at your own meeting. They just want to know who you are. But that doesn’t mean you have to tell them about every bump and bruise in your life. Just start with your name. Further socialization will come more easily once you start to realize that this new meeting isn’t too different than your own.

It’s Natural!

Way back in time when we were hunter-gatherers, focused solely on physical survival, feelings of anxiety actually helped us survive. It stems from the fight-or-flight response. Anxiety and fear helped us learn when it was better to stay and fight or run away from a situation. While most of us aren’t running from giant, hairy wild animals anymore, our bodies still trigger this response in situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Long story short, feeling anxious about socializing at AA meetings is not rare or unnatural. It’s built into our genetic makeup. But if your social anxiety is debilitating and stops you from doing normal things, such as keeping you from even attending an AA meeting that you want to go to, then you may need to seek help.

Tips for Easing Social Anxiety:

  • Breathe – This may sound silly and obvious, but breathing is the easiest way to calm symptoms of anxiety. Focusing on your breathing will help you relax so that you can carry on conversations more easily.
  • Don’t overthink – Many people who experience some sort of social anxiety overthink the situation, which just makes the anxiety worse. Try to relax and let interactions and conversations happen naturally. It’s never going to be as bad as you think.
  • Focus on what you’re there for – The purpose of going to AA meetings is to strengthen your sobriety and find support and fellowship. If you remember that, then socializing will come much more easily. And if conversations don’t go the way you’d want them to go, you won’t be as bothered because you’ll remember that making sure every interaction goes perfectly is not the reason you’re there.

We’re not all social butterflies. But fellowship and peer support is important in recovery, even for wallflowers. So it’s important that we try to acknowledge and alleviate our anxiety so that we can reap the full benefits of AA meetings.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, New Start can help. Call us at 855-737-7363 or reach out to us on our live chat.

Posted in Culture, Recovery