One of the things about Conference Approved Literature (CAL) that I appreciate most today is that, unlike most “self-help” books, it is not written by any one person telling me what to do. Instead, it includes the voices and experiences of many members, simply sharing what worked for them. Our process for developing literature assures that it is truly the embodiment of the group conscience in action. Producing it is a group effort involving numerous members. Through this process, our literature becomes reflective of the Al‑Anon program in principle and practice.
I’ve been reflecting about this significant feature of our literature as the World Service Office (WSO) prepares to introduce Intimacy in Alcoholic Relationships: A Collection of Al‑Anon Personal Stories (B-33). In doing so, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the many hundreds of members who made our latest book possible.
My thanks go first to the members of several Al‑Anon groups in Florida who began the process in 2010 by requesting that the Literature Committee consider republishing or revising the discontinued booklet, Sexual Intimacy and the Alcoholic Relationship (P-77). Thanks, too, to the Committee, which agreed that the topics of intimacy and sex are concerns for many members, though they are seldom addressed at meetings. Although Committee members expressed no interest in bringing back the booklet, they recommended development of a new piece of literature about intimacy to the 2011 World Service Conference.
My gratitude extends also to the Conference, for without its agreement, the idea would have gone no further. Conference members expressed great excitement that new sharings from the fellowship could include a wide variety of relationships, situations and experiences that encompass all aspects of intimacy and alcoholism, including sexual intimacy. The Conference concurred that this new piece could fill a void in our literature that had never before been adequately covered.
However, the big question that remained was whether members of the fellowship would step forward and share their struggles with intimacy and how Al‑Anon has helped. Would members send in enough sharings for more than a brief pamphlet? Well, share they did. It took time—hence the long wait—but eventually the WSO received over 1,300 sharings. Members wrote openly and honestly, sharing facts and feelings that they might not have divulged to even those closest to them. The wide range of sharings included their experiences with emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy and, yes, sexual intimacy.
My immense gratitude is extended to each one of those members who shared on this very private topic, because without them, this book would not have been possible. Of course, space did not allow for every sharing submitted to be included in full. However, please know that everyone who wrote contributed to this book. The collective body of information included in all those writings became the basis for the introductions to each chapter.
My thanks also go to the very talented freelance writer/editor who read through all of those sharings and from them shaped a manuscript. This Al‑Anon member managed with grace and delicacy to present the topic realistically, but also with gentleness, kindness and hope. With considerable input from the Literature Committee, whose astute observations of each draft added fine-tuning, the text gradually transformed. Additional reviews from Policy Committee members, the Director of Programs and the Executive Director resulted in further changes. From there, the WSO designers worked their magic to turn a basic Word document into a beautiful 144-page book, and the Titling Committee came up with a name for it.
Early this month, Intimacy in Alcoholic Relationships will make its debut at the 2018 Al‑Anon International Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. From that point on, the rest of its story will be in the hands of our fellowship. It is my hope, and that of everyone who participated in its development, that it will fill the expressed needs of our members who have been waiting many years for a book that directly tackles the difficult issues surrounding our ability to be truly close to those we love. My sincere gratitude to all who will read this book and attempt to add a further dimension to their recovery.
By Tom C., Associate Director—Literature
The Forum, July 2018