At first the group may grow slowly. One reason for slow growth may have to do with the shame and denial surrounding the disease from which we are recovering. Perhaps it is not surprising that some people come to one or several meetings but then do not return. When this happens, the reasons may have more to do with the readiness of a person to deal with very difficult issues than with the welcome they receive at meetings. Some people are grateful for an introduction to the S-Anon program and for the literature, but they are not yet ready to attend meetings or work our program of recovery.
Growing slowly has a number of benefits. Experience has shown that we cannot help newcomers before we ourselves have been helped. It may be wise to wait until the group has at least several members who are well grounded in the program before engaging in a Twelfth-Step outreach effort as suggested below. If newcomers outnumber members who are living in more sanity and serenity, it may be difficult for a meeting to stay healthy. Newcomers will arrive when they are ready and when the group is strong enough to receive them with sufficient experience and sponsor availability. Each individual’s recovery strengthens the fellowship and naturally leads to demonstrating the principle of “attraction not promotion.” Given time, the group will grow. Experience has shown that it is typical and normal for a group’s growth to ebb and flow over time.
S-Anon groups have found the following suggestions might help the process:
Encourage newcomers to attend at least six meetings before they decide whether S-Anon is for them. Some groups sponsor Newcomer’s Meetings, as described above. Some groups assign a temporary sponsor for each newcomer or ask for a volunteer to call newcomers during the week after their first meeting. The best way to encourage newcomers, however, is to let them know through our sharing that we all started from the same place and that in S-Anon we have found hope and recovery.
Keep a supply of S-Anon Conference Approved Literature (CAL) on hand as group finances allow for newcomers to purchase if they wish. Our literature can be a crucial tool for carrying the message to those in need of S-Anon’s help. Even if a newcomer does not return to meetings right away, if they have purchased CAL, they are carrying with them the written experience, strength, and hope of hundreds of members and a clear statement of our program of recovery. CAL has been written, reviewed, and edited by members of S-Anon, and approved by a fellowshipwide sample of members; thus it is written about and from the S-Anon point of view (Tradition One). Using CAL in meetings helps to keep the meeting focused on recovery, and it can be an important source of help when another member cannot be contacted or when people cannot attend meetings regularly. Three times a year, the WSO produces a newsletter that provides updates, and helps us see that our fellowship is bigger than our individual group or region and keeps us informed about activities of the WSO and the Board of Trustees. There is also a blog on www.sanon.org that might be helpful.
Plan meetings in advance. It is not always possible to plan ahead, but before the close of each meeting, it works well to arrange for the leader and/or the topic of the next meeting. Some groups use a sign-up sheet or group calendar for members to volunteer in advance. Other groups have a rotating Program Chairperson, who either takes the responsibility for leading the meeting every week for a certain agreed-upon period of time or arranges for another member to do so. Planning tends to reduce anxiety (especially for newcomers) and avoids the waste of time involved in trying to decide at the last minute who will lead the meeting. Sometimes plans fall through, but having a plan for the meeting promotes the safe and sane atmosphere we need for recovery. As the helpful Al-Anon writing “Just for Today” says, “Just for today I will have a plan; I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.”
Focus on the solution, not the problem. Concentrating on S-Anon literature can help you emphasize “experience, strength, and hope.” Reporting every happening of the week, the sexaholic’s acting out, or the negative mood of the moment does not give newcomers hope for their own recovery. Profanity, obscenities, and explicit sexual details instantly detract from a spiritual atmosphere. When a meeting is healthy, it can be the first place many new members experience “conscious contact with God.” See the section below entitled “Dilution of the S-Anon Program” for additional suggestions on how to keep the meeting healthy and on track.
Rotate service positions. The group may consider frequent rotation of service positions and the assignment of service tasks like helping with the set up and clean up of the meeting area. The more service jobs there are, the more people participate and thus feel they are an integral and important part of the group (Tradition Nine). (The section in Part 2 entitled “Local Group Service Structure” includes additional information about service positions that might be created in a local S-Anon group.)
Conduct Twelfth-Step work in the community.  Each group might want to consider additional ways to attract newcomers. Twelfth-Step work is vital to our program and would make a good meeting topic from time to time. Some ideas and resources can be found at www.sanon.org or by calling the WSO.
Some groups, Intergroups, and Regional Trustees maintain a telephone contact number, hotline number and/or a website for people seeking help or information on S-Anon. When an inquirer calls the telephone or hotline number, they hear a recorded message about S-Anon, and they are invited to leave a message with a telephone number where they can be contacted. Group members volunteer to take turns picking up the messages received, returning calls, and talking to inquirers about the S-Anon program. If you have questions about how to set up a telephone contact number or hotline number, you can contact the WSO to be put in touch with groups who have used this tool in their community. A website contact page works in a similar manner. Someone leaves a message with contact information, or asks questions, and volunteers in the group receive the message and respond.
Another way to make information about your group meetings available to those who might be interested is for one or more members of your group to volunteer with the WSO to serve as a Local Contact person. To do this, you would complete the “Local Contact Person” form located in Appendix C and send it in to the WSO. Then, if the WSO receives a call from someone in or close to your local area who is either looking for a meeting or just looking for someone to talk with, information that you have indicated you are willing to share would be given to that inquirer. We ask you to complete a form because we need your written permission to give information to inquirers. Please note that the WSO uses confidential information only for official WSO and Board of Trustees business.
At first, members who are relatively new themselves may feel they do not know how to talk to an inquirer about the S-Anon program. The most important thing is to let the inquirer know that we understand how it feels to be reaching out for help because we have been there. Some additional suggestions for speaking with inquirers can be found in Working the S-Anon Program, p. 101-102.
Many groups do not publish (outside of the recovery community) the times or locations of the meetings to avoid attracting those who may simply be curious about the nature of the disease from which we are recovering. Groups who do publish announcements of the existence of their groups usually do so in conjunction with a plan to meet with newcomers (see Newcomers Welcome Meetings) before they attend a regular meeting. S-Anon Family Groups has a long history of cooperating with professionals who work with those affected by the sexual behavior of family members or friends. Local therapists, counselors, social workers, attorneys, institutions, doctors, clergy, employee assistance and human resources are just a few of the professions that can benefit from having basic information about S-Anon and S-Ateen. Letting them know that there is an S-Anon meeting in the area and providing them with the local contact telephone number may help them assist those who are affected. The pamphlet “Information for Professionals about S-Anon and S-Ateen Family Groups“ (L-9) is available as a free download at www.sanon.org. There are also letters to professionals, and a suggested outreach kit.
Conduct a group inventory. Just as taking our own Fourth Step inventory enhances our individual recovery, taking a periodic group inventory can help to enhance the effectiveness of the group, keeping it healthy and invigorated. Members can use the inventory to discuss new service opportunities and address major or minor concerns related to the principles of S-Anon before the group’s unity is disrupted. A pamphlet is available from Al-Anon, “Taking a Group Inventory,” that may be helpful if your group wishes to gather additional information. Groups who have used the Al-Anon Group Inventory report that it works well when there is total anonymity in taking the inventory to allow for more open, honest comments by group members.
1 Twelfth Step work is any individual or group effort to reach out to others who need the S-Anon program or help them to grow in their recovery. This includes everything from setting up chairs for meetings, to acting as a sponsor, to volunteering to respond to messages left on an S-Anon voicemail box, to serving as a Regional Trustee.
Last Updated February 2018