When I first came to Al‑Anon, all I wanted to know was how to get out of the mess I was in. I had no idea what it meant to form an Al‑Anon group or support the group. Since it was already there, I didn’t think much about how the group was run. It wasn’t until I became involved in service beyond the group level that I came to understand all those inner workings that made my home group an Al‑Anon group. What helped me the most was reading through the individual pamphlets that were part of the Al‑Anon Newcomer Packet (K-10). These pearls of shared wisdom helped me to understand the basics of the Al‑Anon program.
After a while, I started hearing a certain “lingo” in my group. Since I wanted to “go along to get along,” I picked up these terms, assuming the seasoned members were “speaking Al‑Anon.” But I didn’t find any references in our Conference Approved Literature (CAL) to some of the terms they used. When I got involved in service, I was introduced to the Al‑Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27). Getting active in service was scary to me. I thought I might do something wrong and damage Al‑Anon beyond repair. But I was assured that nothing I did would break Al‑Anon. As long as I used the Service Manual, I would be okay.
As I skimmed through the Service Manual, I found many answers. I came upon the policy regarding “Dilution of the Al-Anon Program,” which cautions against discussing outside therapies, focusing on problems other than those related to alcoholism, having professionals speak at meetings, and using professional jargon and labels. I realized these words I could not find in our CAL and was freely using might imply outside affiliations and be confusing to newcomers. I remembered the pamphlet Al‑Anon Spoken Here (P-53) from the Newcomer Packet and its guidance on what we say in meetings to best support our own and others’ recovery. I realized that my “go along to get along” behavior needed to change…but I wanted “their” behavior to change too! Uh-oh!
While it was not easy, little by little, I stopped using certain terms in order to keep the focus on Al‑Anon. I was able to incorporate some of these ideas in personal sharings during the meeting. I learned I could also bring this up in a business meeting as a concern that we might address as a group to keep our focus on Al‑Anon. In the end, though, I needed to “Let It Begin with Me.”
By Sue P., Associate Director—Group Services
The Forum, November 2022
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