In April 1961, at Al-Anon’s first World Service Conference, our Cofounder Lois W. introduced the idea of Conference Approved Literature (CAL). As Lois explained, it would serve the same purpose as the formation of the Conference—to create unity among all groups. Prior to that, groups often wrote and distributed their own literature or used various outside sources. Some of these materials were inconsistent with Al‑Anon’s Traditions and spiritual principles. They often took a religious approach or focused on trying to “cure” the alcoholic, therefore causing confusion about Al‑Anon’s identity and purpose.
The Conference’s unanimous decision and the process it developed over the following years assured that our literature would reflect the Al‑Anon program in principle and practice, undiluted by differing points of view. Over the years, CAL has continued to expand to meet new needs and changing conditions.
Within the last year and a half, as our fellowship and the World Service Office (WSO) faced the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, literature sales plummeted and The Forum lost 2,300 subscribers. An increase in contributions has helped counter this drop in sales, thanks to the generosity of Al-Anon members everywhere. For the first time since 1954 (the year before our first book was published), member contributions exceeded literature sales. While I am comforted by the idea that the fellowship will continue to support its service arms, I remain concerned about what we are losing in recovery as reliance on one of our primary tools continues to diminish.
Our literature can’t substitute for the healing that takes place at Al‑Anon meetings and in one-on-one conversations with Sponsors and other members, but it greatly supplements this help with inspirational insights from thousands of members—not only from throughout the world, but from throughout the history of our program. Between meetings and when other members are not available, CAL offers me the comfort of knowing that my problems are not unique, and I am not alone. When I am reluctant to share because I am afraid that no one will understand, CAL reassures me that others have been there too. If I feel different at a meeting because of my age, gender, relation to the alcoholic, or any other reason, CAL reminds me that we are all equal.
Our Suggested Welcome states, “The loving interchange of help among members and daily reading of Al‑Anon/Alateen literature thus make us ready to receive the priceless gift of serenity.” So please, in celebration of CAL’s 60th anniversary, when anyone reaches for help, let’s make sure that not only the hand of Al-Anon, but also the gift of Conference Approved Literature is always there, and “Let It Begin with Me.”
By Tom C., Associate Director—Literature
The Forum, September 2021
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.