Newcomers often show up at CoDA meetings suffering emotionally, not knowing what to expect. Perhaps they fear that they might meet someone who knows them. it is important for members to reach out a hand to newcomers, as our primary purpose is to carry the message to the codependent who still suffers”(Tradition Five). There are many ways CoDA members and groups can reach out to support the newcomer.
Post accurate and helpful meeting information: Before arriving at a meeting, newcomers often call or email the CoDA member listed as a contact person on a flyer or a website. Many people will not attend a meeting without first talking to someone about it. “Your First Meeting” may be helpful for newcomers. Keeping contact information updated is a priority. Additional suggestions include to list both a woman and man to provide a choice for those uncomfortable talking to someone of the opposite sex. Providing a map on the website, clear parking instructions and public transport directions and signage are important considerations.
Contacts should be prepared for questions such as…
- Do I need to sign up for the meeting or is it a drop-in?
- How much does it cost?
- Can I bring a friend?
- What is codependency?
- Can you help “fix” my — (problem person)?
- How long is the meeting?
- How long do I have to attend?
Welcome newcomers: At the meeting, it is important for newcomers to receive support from group members. Groups can make decisions to help facilitate this. Some groups may have members willing to do service as “greeters” who welcome newcomers as well as the regular CoDA members to the meeting. Doing service as a greeter is a wonderful opportunity to help newcomers feel welcome. It is also an opportunity to grow our recovery by “giving back” what others have given to help us.
Sometimes newcomers arrive with unrealistic expectations, such as:
- That there is a permanent leader for the meeting
- That people will give them advice at the meeting
- That they will be “cured” within a few meetings
- That they don’t have to change; others will solve their problems -or- others need to change.
Suggestions for individual members: As CoDA members doing what was done for us, we can help newcomers feel welcome and included by doing the following:
- Introducing them to other members
- Talking to them before and after the meeting – for example, asking them how they found the meeting and letting them know that you, too, were a newcomer and how you felt
- Explaining what will happen at the meeting
- Letting them know that they can share, but that it is not required
- Explaining how your group defines crosstalk, and how avoiding it helps people feel safe to share what is in their hearts
- Showing them a list of those who are willing to be sponsors or accept phone calls, if your group has one
- Welcoming them to join the group for further fellowship if this happens after your meeting
Suggestions for groups: As a group, we can consider whether the following suggestions might be helpful:
- Including a specific welcome to newcomers in the meeting’s format. For example, “Are there any newcomers?” (And if there are) “We welcome newcomers. If you have questions, feel free to talk with any of us after the meeting. At one time or another, we have all been newcomers, and we welcome the chance to speak with you. It is suggested that you attend six meetings before deciding if CODA feels right to you.”
- Handing out a “Welcome coin” to newcomers, if your meeting funds allow.
- Having the set-up person double as the greeter who welcomes newcomers, answers questions, and explains to them how the meeting is run.
- Creating a newcomer’s guide to the specific guidelines and procedures of the group, such as how you define crosstalk or celebrate anniversaries (see Sample below)
- Having materials for Newcomers is very beneficial. This could be a simple pamphlet, such as “What Is CoDA”, the “Newcomers Handbook” or just printed materials from the website, such as the “Recovery Patterns of Co-dependency”. See the coda.org Meeting Materials webpage for many additional resources.
Specific newcomers’ meetings: Some groups have created times set aside for newcomers, such as 30 minutes before or after the meeting, or may run a “newcomer’s group” as a sub-group of the main meeting. Other meetings can be designated as “newcomer’s meetings” (although this is not a category on the coda.org website). It is helpful to list these times and designations on the meeting posting, when applicable.