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What About the Newcomer?

Posted 04-11-2020 at 03:59 PM by MyRecoveredLife

The Alcoholics Anonymous Responsibility Statement reads as follows:

“I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to always be there. And for that, I am responsible.”

I have been thinking about the responsiblity statement a lot lately. It seems to me, in this rapidly changing world, it is more important now than ever. With face to face meetings mostly shut down, how are newcomers to find us? And how do we recognize them when they show up at an online meeting? I am not sure a newcomer or somebody that is returning is always willing to identify themselves online. How can we still be of service to newcomers when they show up, but are too shy, embarrassed or ashamed to identify themselves? As we are meeting remotely, we may not even be in the same geographical location. Also, note that it does not say “When any alcoholic, anywhere, reaches out…” meaning I need to be prepared to be of service to all of my fellows. However, for the purpose of this post, I will focus mainly on the alcoholic.

I think we need to come up with more creative ideas to enable a newcomer to identify themselves in a videoconference meeting. When I was a newcomer, it was blatantly obvious when I showed up to those first few meetings. Firstly, I had that newcomer look. Secondly, the regulars at those meetings recognized that they hadn’t seen me around before. But, what about at an online meeting?

At any given meeting, there may be dozens of people from all over the world, few of whom you have met before. My home group has regularly included a plan for how to deal with and approach newcomers when they come through our door. But how to deal with and recognize somebody when they come through our virtual door? Alcoholics tend to isolate, and with the current state of the world, it seems like almost everyone is isolated to a certain degree. As we all know this is very dangerous for alcoholics. I think conditions are prime for a wave of newcomers that could soon be searching for a program of recovery, and we need to be prepared.

Tradition Five – “Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

So how can we be of service to the newcomer? How can the person whom is trying to find AA for the first time, or trying to return AA, readily find our online meetings? What can we do to be as accessible as possible?

Here are a few of the ideas we have come up with so far:

Make meeting details as easy as possible to find online.
Keep your meeting details up to date, as sometimes they will need to be changed. I have recently stopped giving out meeting details and started referring people to this site where the meeting details will always be updated.
Start the online meeting at least 30 minutes early to have time to talk with the participants.
During the meeting ask if there are any newcomers or people coming back, however, this may be an intimidating question for a newcomer, and they may not wish to admit it.
Make sure users know how to use the private chat feature and encourage people that are looking to connect to send a private message to any of the group member or co-hosts of the meeting.
Hang out after the meeting and talk with anyone who wants to stay. It’s been my experience this is when you find the newcomer or the person that is just coming back. Once the crowd thins out, it seems like people become more comfortable to open up.
Breakout rooms could be used to have a separate meeting with any newcomers or people looking for sponsors.
Finally, online meetings offer new and different service opportunities, both for the newcomers and group members. Virtual door greeters, meeting room bouncers for Zoom bombers, waiting room attendant, chat room host, etc, etc.
I would love to hear how your groups are adapting to this new reality, and hear about any suggestions you may have to ensure we are available and as easily found as possible! Are you seeing newcomers show up at your meetings? Do you have any ideas on how to make your meeting details readily accessible, while still following AA’s traditions?

Finally, if you are out there and struggling in any way, please reach out to somebody. Online Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are sprouting up everywhere, as are meetings for most other fellewships. They can usually be found by searching on the web in your local area. Our meeting details can be found here: www.MyReveredLife.net
Or, if you would prefer, I would love to hear from you and help get you connected, I can be contacted through that same site.
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