“Don’t let them brainwash you.” Those words echoed through my mind as I started my new position in Group Services at Al‑Anon’s World Service Office (WSO). Well-meaning Al‑Anon friends, concerned that I was moving to the “other” side, voiced these sentiments. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was to avoid, but I understood their words to come from an “us vs. them” mentality.

I knew that my friends in Al‑Anon didn’t always agree with the decisions implemented by Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., as those decisions were viewed as coming from “The WSO,” rather than from the World Service Conference (WSC). The WSC is Al‑Anon’s largest representative group conscience and the voice of the fellowship. Recognizing that both the fellowship and the corporation share a common purpose—“to help families and friends of alcoholics”—I pressed forward.

What I quickly learned was that the WSO doesn’t share the “us vs. them” mentality. As the information clearinghouse for Al‑Anon Family Groups, the WSO and its Staff work to meet the needs of and provide services to the members on behalf of the fellowship. The Board of Trustees of AFG, Inc. provides operational oversight (the same as any other nonprofit organization). As the corporation, it is the legal entity of Al‑Anon, whereas the groups are the fellowship.

As the clearinghouse, the WSO is so much more than I realized. It is a trilingual organization where Staff members translate publications, handle correspondence, respond to telephone calls, and provide various services in English, French, and Spanish. Conference Approved Literature is developed, warehoused, and distributed to individuals, groups, Al‑Anon Information Service offices (AISs), Literature Distribution Centers (LDCs), and Areas. In addition, the Al‑Anon website and Al‑Anon Family Groups Mobile App  are continually updated by Staff.

These resources not only benefit members, but also inform newcomers and professionals as avenues of public outreach. AFG Records registers and maintains group records for the WSC Structure (United States [including Puerto Rico], Bermuda, and Canada) and international entities. Group Services answers concerns by phone, email, and postal mail from members, groups, and newcomers, and supports Alateen, the Inmate Correspondence Service, AISs, and LDCs. Staff also supports the WSC, General Service Offices and evolving structures, Public Outreach, Finance, Human Resources, Literature, Archives, Information Technology, and Building Operations.

Before I came to the WSO as a Staff member, I didn’t appreciate all that the WSO undertakes on behalf of the fellowship. Working here, I’ve gained insight and deep appreciation for Al‑Anon the fellowship, as well as Al‑Anon the business. The words, “Don’t let them brainwash you,” no longer echo in my head. Instead, I think, “I wish everyone in the fellowship could have the opportunity to see the WSO from the inside.” What happens here is important. It helps keep our fellowship functioning and sends newcomers to your group, so they can gain the hope and recovery that I am so fortunate to have found.

When the physical doors of the WSO open once again, I hope you will come for a tour and get a glimpse of your WSO.

By Anne P., Group Services Specialist

The Forum, February 2022

Feel free to reprint this article on your service arm website or newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.