When I joined Al‑Anon, the Service Manual did not exist in its present form. My group had a small three-ring binder in “the box” that held these four separate books—the pieces that now comprise the Service Manual—together in one place:

  • Al‑Anon and Alateen Groups at Work (P-24)
  • Digest of Al‑Anon and Alateen Policies
  • World Service Handbook
  • Al‑Anon’s Twelve Concepts of Service

Although I don’t remember actually using the different books when I was new in the program, I’m sure some of the members did because our group was healthy, and we had a Group Representative, other group officers, regular group business meetings, and Conference Approved Literature on hand to study, give away, and sell.

Since becoming aware that service is a part of my recovery, not an addition to it, I now use the Service Manual as a critical component of a well-rounded recovery program.

“Al‑Anon and Alateen Groups at Work” provides an opportunity to learn about our history, alcoholism as a disease, and the role I played in the family disease. My home group uses the separate booklet, Al‑Anon and Alateen Groups at Work (P-24), which includes the “Suggested Meeting Outline,” to pass around during face-to-face meetings. I even have my own copy, which has been helpful during the pandemic so that I can help with the “Suggested Meeting Readings” when attending meetings virtually.

This section of the Service Manual contains much more, such as “Considerations When Starting Either an Al‑Anon or Alateen Group,” “Structure of the Al‑Anon/Alateen Fellowship (Links of Service),” and “Basic Terms Used in Al‑Anon Service.” It’s a great resource for members and groups.

The next section of the Service Manual is the “Digest of Al‑Anon and Alateen Policies,” where I can find answers about Al‑Anon policies relating to anonymity, public outreach, and Alateen, to name a few. When I was involved in starting a group, we adhered to the policy on “Choosing a Group’s Name.” Today, as a World Service Office (WSO) Staff member, I do not serve above the group level in keeping with Al‑Anon’s “Employees in Al‑Anon Services” policy.

One of my favorite policies is “Use of Material at Al‑Anon Meetings.” The first paragraph of the policy states:

“To keep Al‑Anon’s message in focus, and to encourage unity, only Al‑Anon/Alateen Conference Approved Literature (CAL) and Al‑Anon/Alateen service tools are displayed, distributed, and used at Al‑Anon and Alateen meetings; including meetings at conferences and conventions. These items reflect the informed group conscience of the Al‑Anon Family Groups as expressed by its World Service Conference since 1961.” (page 114)

I am so grateful that no matter where I might attend a meeting—Virginia, Oklahoma, Vermont, or in cyberspace—I will find a group that is using CAL. I am free to—and do—read and follow whatever I find helpful outside of Al‑Anon, but in Al‑Anon, I will always find the Al‑Anon message!

The “World Service Handbook” section of the Service Manual “explains how Al‑Anon is held together worldwide, how it is structured, and how each member who is elected or appointed to a particular responsibility can best function in it” (page 139).

The “Handbook” delves deeper into the “Links of Service” than “Groups at Work.” In my role at the WSO, I often reference the “World Service Conference” and “Conference Procedures” portions. And, each year, the Conference Leadership Team goes over the “Purposes” and “Historical Background” of the Conference with the incoming Delegates.

And the fourth section: “‘Al‑Anon’s Twelve Concepts of Service’ deals with the ‘why’ of our service structure in such a way that the valuable experience of the past and the lessons drawn from that experience can never be forgotten or lost” (page 178). This section includes a brief “History of the Concepts” as well as descriptions of each Concept in detail.

The Service Manual also includes the “Al‑Anon World Service Conference Charter,” which “is a body of principles and relationships through which Al‑Anon as a whole can function” (page 227), and an Appendix with the full “2003 Alateen Motion from the Board of Trustees.”

What does the Service Manual mean to us? To our groups? To our Areas? To Al‑Anon worldwide? I invite you to explore for yourself! The 2022-2025 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27) v1 is available online now.

By Suzanne M., Associate Director—Conference

The Forum, May 2022

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.