I recently learned about a conflict occurring at a group meeting in a limited access facility. A member of the group researched the subject in the “Digest of Al-Anon and Alateen Policies” section of the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27), but could not find a solution.

This facility has a gate which is locked every evening. After hours, one of the facility’s residents must unlock the gate to allow entry. Historically, the group members were somewhat inattentive to this. They arrived as their schedules and public transportation options permitted without regard to the gatehouse schedule. When representatives of the facility spoke to the group to ask the members to arrive before the gate is locked in order to minimize the disruption to residents, a conflict arose. Some members felt troubled by setting expectations of timeliness on families in crisis and seeking help, while others were willing to abide by the request of those who operate the facility.

I agreed that the answer would not be found in the “Policy Digest.” On the surface, the issue appeared to be about limited access facilities. However, in reality, it’s really about how our Al‑Anon groups and members relate to each other and conduct themselves in the world outside of meetings. In other words, the answers must be found in our Three Legacies—“a framework within which the groups can carry on their affairs in harmony” (Al‑Anon and Alateen Groups at Work [P-24], p. 14).

A significant piece of insight I gained about myself in completing my personal moral inventory (Step Four) was that I often failed to take direct action to meet my needs. Instead, I attempted to change other people and situations to suit me. Sometimes I manipulated or reinterpreted the rules. Sometimes I ignored them completely and then appealed to the emotions of those I had offended. This immature and dishonest behavior tarnished my reputation and standing with my friends and peers.

I have since learned these are common traits for those of us who grew up in alcoholic families. When we get together in a group, we sometimes collectively exhibit these traits. In a case like this group, Tradition Seven is a reminder that playing by the rules is part of being self-supporting. For ourselves and for our meetings, being in recovery means living in the real world and learning to cope with its challenges. We cannot expect the rest of the world to bend their rules to suit the needs of our members. Families living with the disease of alcoholism come to us for help. The very least we can show them is that we are living honest, respectful, responsible lives in accordance with our spiritual principles.

Tradition Four reminds me that every group is free to make decisions to meet its needs, provided that those decisions do not harm other meetings or Al‑Anon or A.A. as a whole. This group may need to find another place to meet, change its start time, post a notice to those arriving late, or come up with some other solution. They have the freedom to choose. However, choosing to disregard the expressed wishes of any facility in which they meet is an action that has the potential to harm other meetings and Al‑Anon as a whole. We are all painted with the same brush when one Al‑Anon meeting is late on the rent, damages the property, or engages in other negative behavior that doesn’t exemplify to the world how our program works to improve our lives and our spiritual conditions. We owe it to ourselves and future members to remain obedient to the unenforceable.

By Kerri K., Associate Director—International

The Forum, July 2020