“Connecting Hearts and Minds Around the World”
at the 2022 International Al-Anon General Services Meeting

I’m in a taxi whizzing through the streets of London. It’s early morning, and I’ve just gotten off a very long flight. Looking out the window, I catch glimpses of centuries-old buildings as the cab driver brightly announces, “That’s the Tower of London!” And later, “Look to your right, and you’ll see Big Ben!” I’m exhausted, but his enthusiasm is contagious, and while I can only see rather motion-blurred versions of these famous London landmarks, I quite enjoy the ride.

Coming into Al‑Anon broken and desperate 13 years ago, I never could have imagined that one day I would be in London, England, for the 2022 International Al‑Anon General Services Meeting (IAGSM). I didn’t even know Al‑Anon was international. All I knew was that nothing I did could make my husband stop drinking. So, at that first meeting, I sat in the back of the room and cried. Thanks to the wonderful members there and my Higher Power (whom I had not yet met), I came back the following week. And I kept coming back.

My journey has been full of highs and lows, tears and laughter. I recognized myself in other members’ sharings and learned how to share my own experiences honestly and humbly. I grew the most in service, however. I remember becoming so critical and frustrated at the first Area Assembly I attended that I badly scraped my car when I left for lunch. Caught in a spiral of “shoulds and shouldn’ts,” I didn’t even see the large rock before I hit it. That certainly got my attention. Over time, I learned to slow down emotionally—and while driving! I learned to listen, to respect other opinions, and to be patient. Perhaps most helpfully, I learned I wasn’t always right, and maybe I didn’t have the solution to whatever problem was being discussed.

These lessons in service came with me to London, providing me with the experience, strength, and hope I needed as a WSO Staff member working at the IAGSM. As Delegates arrived from all over the world, my excitement grew. Any fear I had vanished as I realized we were the same despite our outward differences. We were all Al‑Anon members, coming together with love in service. At times, different languages filled the halls and lunchroom, blending beautifully; other times, lovely, accented English filled the rooms as Delegates connected and shared. It was an overwhelming spiritual experience.

I felt inspired by the passion and dedication these international Delegates have for carrying the message of hope and help to those affected by someone else’s drinking. Some faced enormous obstacles socially, financially, or politically, but they persevered. I was stunned by their stories and reminded of the importance of the work we all do. Al‑Anon saves lives all over the world. Can you imagine a once angry and lonely woman from Ohio sharing experience with a dear fellow member from Sweden or South Africa? Now I can, and Al‑Anon gave me that precious gift. To see the faces and hug the Delegates from around the globe was a breathtaking experience I shall never forget.

By Allison G., Programs Project Specialist

The Forum, March 2023

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.