Appendix: Recognizing and Welcoming the Newcomer

“Appendix: Recognizing and Welcoming the Newcomer,” Healing through the Savior: The Addiction Recovery Program 12-Step Recovery Guide (2023)

“Recognizing and Welcoming the Newcomer,” The Addiction Recovery Program 12-Step Recovery Guide

Recognizing and Welcoming the Newcomer

A newcomer is a person who is new to recovery meetings. He or she is often an individual in the early stages of change, a person returning after relapse, or a friend or family member of someone struggling with addiction. Anyone we do not recognize may be a newcomer, and because the first few meetings that newcomers attend are often pivotal, it is particularly important to try to make these individuals feel comfortable and welcome.

Newcomers are often uncertain and apprehensive. Remember that it takes a lot of courage for individuals to admit that they are participating in destructive behaviors, that their lives are unmanageable, and that they need help. It also takes courage for friends or family members to talk about the effects of addiction in their loved one’s life and in their own lives. Our goal is to help newcomers want to return.

We have the responsibility to create a welcoming, accepting atmosphere before, during, and after each meeting. Trust that the Spirit will guide newcomers through the process of change. Remember that newcomers often feel overwhelmed, so be loving and gentle in your approach. Love, support, and encouragement are essential elements of feeling welcomed and included.

We have received direction from the Church that recovery meetings are for those 18 years of age and older. If the individual is under 18, encourage them to consult with their parents, bishop, and mental health or physical health provider for other options that may prove helpful. If they desire a more detailed explanation, encourage them to contact the local Family Services agency manager. Once you have made them aware of the rule, if they continue to attend, do not remind them of the rule again and do nothing to enforce the rule.

The following suggestions may be helpful as you reach out to newcomers before and after meetings:

  1. When greeting someone you do not recognize, introduce yourself and ask if he or she has ever attended a recovery meeting before.

  2. Reassure newcomers that they are in a safe place. Explain that we adhere to the principle of confidentiality and that they only need to use their first names. Also, let them know that if they are not comfortable reading or sharing in meetings, they can just listen.

  3. Let newcomers share only what they want to. Recognize that they often feel uncomfortable explaining why they are attending meetings.

  4. Suggest that newcomers listen for the things they have in common with other participants. Newcomers will feel more inclined to return to meetings when they can relate to those who are sharing. Explain that because our meetings are open to individuals who suffer from various types of destructive behaviors, group members may not always have the same experiences but will often experience similar emotions, as do those whose lives are affected by the choices or behaviors of others. Invite newcomers to remain after the meeting if they have any questions.

  5. Trust that newcomers will come to understand the program without hearing about every aspect of it. Show newcomers the Healing through the Savior: The Addiction Recovery Program 12-Step Recovery Guide or the Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery and encourage them to use these resources (available in Gospel Library in the “Addiction” section of Life Help). Explain to newcomers that through listening to the Spirit, attending meetings, and studying the guide, they may be able to better understand and apply principles and practices that lead to change.

  6. Introduce newcomers to the facilitator. Facilitators remember what it is like to come to the first meeting. They are examples to participants and can bear personal witness of how the program has brought change into their lives.

  7. If there are problems related to newcomers sharing their experiences, be as gentle as possible in your response. Most problems and questions are more effectively addressed after the meeting rather than during the meeting. Over time, the newcomer will come to understand meeting etiquette.

  8. Share with newcomers who are family members or loved ones of those struggling with pornography use or substance abuse that spouse and family support group meetings are available.

  9. After the meeting, personally thank newcomers for attending.

  10. Remember that newcomers are a blessing to the group. Newcomers provide continuing opportunities to serve, support, and learn from each other.