Submitted by Doug P.

It’s customary and in the culture of many twelve step programs to give and receive hugs. Since hugs can also be unwelcome or a transition into physical predatory behavior, we in ACA believe it’s important to have a sense of etiquette. Hugs can also be a manifestation of the healthy love we have for each other within the fellowship, so the following guidelines may help.

First and foremost, there must be an agreement and consent to hug. Usually, one person may ask the other something like “Would you care for a hug?” It’s very much okay for the other person to say “No” at this point, and essential if someone does not want to receive a hug. Or, if you know someone well enough, outstretched arms may constitute a non-verbal request for a hug, and it’s important to get the other person’s consent in each instance; just because someone consented before doesn’t mean they’re always in the mood for a hug. If the other person stretches their arms definitively, then it’s probably safe to assume it’s okay but a verbal confirmation is not a bad idea.

And here’s where a lot of people may mess things up: the duration of the hug. Also, intensity matters. Since one person may want “more of a hug” than the other, it’s important for the person who wants it to stop to let the other person know. Usually, a simple “thank you” is sufficient for someone else to understand: it means “stop, now, immediately”. And a hug is just that; embracing around the shoulder area and nowhere else! In ACA, we want meetings to be as safe a place as possible for people to work on their recovery, so please feel free to discuss these protocols with your group. What it boils down to is that everyone has respect for everyone else, physically, mentally, and spiritually.