Your First Meeting
After finding a meeting from the CoDA Meeting Locator, it is suggested you call the contact person to confirm the meeting date, time, and location. You may have noticed this person is identified by first name, and last initial. This follows the CoDA tradition of anonymity, which says that members are not identified to the world-at-large. They remain anonymous during meetings also, using only first names. Information shared at meetings is not discussed outside the meeting. These safeguards insure that all things shared are held in strict confidence and trust.
Most meetings have between five and twenty-five people, and last one hour or one-and-a-half hours. Someone may welcome you to the group. Most meetings follow a format; the leader will read from it and ask volunteers to read different items. If you would like to see what Basic Meeting Format looks like, please see the Meeting Handbook.
At your first meeting, you may have many questions. You may ask questions before the meeting starts, or after the meeting ends. The meeting is about people sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
At the beginning of a meeting, there are introductions and readings. During the introductions, some will say “Hi, my name is Sally”. Others may add “… and I am codependent” or “… and I am a gratefully recovering codependent”. You may be asked to introduce yourself. You might add that you are checking out meetings for the first time, or any such statement. You are not required to speak at all – it is your choice. Readings are usually the Preamble, which tells a bit about the organization, and the Welcome, which tells about codependency. Information in these can be very useful.
Other readings are the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions. Statements like “… turn my will and my life over to the care of God as we understood God” or “… made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” may be uncomfortable to hear. You will hear people share about their unique concepts of God, and you may hear different names for this being, such as Higher Power, Creator, Great Spirit – the list goes on. You may hear people share pieces of their moral inventories. Some members work these Steps quickly; others slowly. There is no right or wrong way; it is suggested that you work them at your own pace.
On the subject of God . . . CoDA is a spiritual program, not a religious one. Nor is it a cult. Members frequently start, and continue, with no experience with nor belief in God. It is suggested that people new to CoDA keep an open mind about spiritual matters. Many have come to understand spirituality in a way that works for them. The CoDA program uses the word God to describe a power greater than ourselves. What a person chooses to imagine or call that power (if anything) is up to the individual.
Meetings have a structure and ground rules. You notice everyone is silent when one is sharing. This is despite the fact that participants, including yourself, may have questions or suggestions for the person sharing. That rule is called “no cross talk”. Included in this is the rule to not refer to another person or their sharing when your time comes to share. We speak about our own experience; no one else’s. There is great value in these rules, because they allow the truth to come through our sharing. If you are unsure about what “no cross talk” means, please ask someone after the meeting.
Some meetings go around the room where people share in turn. Others are free form, where people share as they are moved to. People generally share about their current issues in life. You may share yours or not. If you have questions about your situation, share about it first. Something may amazingly come to you about it. If not, ask questions later, after the regular meeting has concluded.
A sign-up list of first names may go around, with phone numbers. You may sign or not. You might find this list useful in that you are free to call any person listed to talk with them about the program, including the questions you have.
At the end of the meeting, the group rises to say a prayer, holding hands. It is frequently The Serenity Prayer, which is well known in all 12 step programs. No participant is required to recite any prayer they find objectionable.
It takes great courage to admit there is a problem. It takes even more to take action and seek out help. After attending your first meeting, you may be wondering if CoDA is right for you. It is suggested that you attend at least 6 meetings (different ones, if available where you live) before making your decision. In addition to traditional face to face meetings, CoDA does offer Alternative Format Meetings, which include meetings by telephone and online meetings (email, chat, and video chat). The hope of recovery is available to everyone. We wish you well on your journey.