From my earliest Al‑Anon meetings on, members stressed that “knowing myself” with the help of regular Fourth and Tenth Step inventories was essential for personal and spiritual growth. Having been raised in the family disease of alcoholism, I was terrified: Know myself? Why do you think I focus so much on everyone else?
It took time, but once I was willing to face my fears and look unflinchingly into the mirror, I started making huge strides in my recovery. My first thorough inventory was the catalyst for tremendous growth. Without it and the ones to follow, I never could have become the person I am—someone I actually love!
Like us, Al‑Anon’s Conference Approved Literature (CAL) also grows and improves with the help of regular inventories. As it states on page 212 of the 2022-2025 Al‑Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27) v3, the Literature Committee “suggests creation of material to meet new needs or changing conditions and is charged with the revision of existing books and pamphlets.” The Committee meets quarterly to discuss suggestions from the fellowship, and these continued inventories keep our literature growing.
In the late 1990s, a Structure-wide thorough and fearless literature inventory began. All Areas were involved, and hundreds of Al‑Anon members shared their thoughts. Based on that input, the Literature Committee spent several years making recommendations to the World Service Conference (WSC). As a result, numerous pamphlets and several books were updated, and a few were discontinued.
One of the updated books, for example, was From Survival to Recovery (B-21), which had been introduced in 1994. After studying the diverse input received, which ranged from “Don’t touch a word” to “Throw it out,” the Committee agreed to give the book a minor revision. Long sentences were shortened for clarity, and difficult-to-translate colloquialisms were replaced. No stories were added or removed, but two paragraphs of new text were added to the Preface to remind readers to be gentle with themselves when facing difficult truths and to reach out to other members when needed.
Long before this revision took place, considerable confusion had already occurred involving a section on pages 269–70. Early on, some members violated Al‑Anon’s copyright by creating handouts, numbering or bulleting the passage and reprinting it without permission as “The Al‑Anon Promises.” This action gave some members the impression that our fellowship as a whole had elevated this excerpt to a higher level of importance than other passages in CAL.
In 1995, the Policy Committee studied a member’s request to designate this passage as “The Al‑Anon Promises.” Following discussion, the Policy Committee reached the consensus that Al‑Anon has no “promises”—we share our experience, strength, and hope with each other, but we do not make promises. The Committee determined that the passage should not be promoted as “promises” or “gifts.” This was in keeping with previous WSC discussions.
The Literature Committee kept this determination in mind when considering changes for the revision. Rather than remove the passage on pages 269–70, the Literature Committee recommended minor changes so that it would follow our writing guidelines and avoid generalizations. The Committee kept the original ideas intact, but offered possibilities rather than guarantees. The passage, now found on pages 267–68, remains available to anyone reading the book and continues to give members hope for how Al‑Anon can help them live more fulfilling lives.
And isn’t that why taking inventory is an important part of recovery? It gives us hope, opens our hearts to the willingness to change, and helps us to live more fulfilling lives.
By Tom C., Associate Director—Literature
The Forum, February 2024
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.