When I first came to Al‑Anon, I didn’t have time for patience. Although it had taken me years to recognize that I was affected by living with alcoholism, I suddenly expected an overnight recovery. In those early years, I often felt frustrated by how long everything took—not just progress in my own recovery, but within my group and Al‑Anon as a whole. My prime example of this was the process for developing Conference Approved Literature (CAL). At first I thought, why on earth would it take anyone four, five, or even up to eight years to write a book?
The more I grew in the program, however, the more patient I became as I began to embrace Al‑Anon’s “slow motion gets you there faster” philosophy. In time I realized that the power and effectiveness of our literature is directly related to the detailed process by which it materializes. To me it all comes down to two words: group conscience. Our literature is truly the embodiment of the group conscience at work.
Conference Approved Literature is written by Al‑Anon members, approved by Al‑Anon members, for Al‑Anon members from the Al‑Anon point of view. It originates with an idea (not a finished manuscript or an already published book), which can come from any Al‑Anon member, group, or service arm. The idea can be sent through the Literature Committee for recommendation to the World Service Conference, or it can be submitted through the links of service to the Area Delegate, who in turn may present a floor motion to the Conference.
According to the descriptive text of Concept Eleven in the 2018-2020 Al‑Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27), the Literature Committee’s mission is “to see that every aspect of the Al‑Anon program of recovery is presented in comprehensive written material….” The Literature Committee includes Area Delegates, as well as At-Large members, so that it covers a wide range of geographic diversity across our Conference Structure. When the Literature Committee considers an idea from the fellowship, it uses the Knowledge-Based Decision-Making Process for an Informed Group Conscience. If, after considerable discussion and much deliberation, the Committee agrees that an idea is worth pursuing, it presents the topic to the World Service Conference for further examination.
Conference members receive background information prior to discussion, so they have access to the same information that the Literature Committee considered. Although Area Delegates have the right of decision, sometimes they agree to get further input from their Areas for more discussion the following year. While all this debate may sound endless, it is anything but pointless. It ensures that by the time a motion is carried, there truly is agreement among the members of our largest representational group conscience that this proposed literature would meet the expressed needs of our fellowship in a way not already covered in existing literature.
If the Conference gives conceptual approval for a piece of literature, it then delegates the development of the project to the Literature Committee and the World Service Office (WSO) Staff. The WSO announces the need for personal sharings to the fellowship and begins gathering these from members around the world. The Literature Committee and the Staff coordinate the piece’s development based on the message in these sharings. In this way, our literature reflects the diversity of our fellowship without being limited to one person’s thoughts or ideas.
Sharings are edited and compiled into a draft, usually with the assistance of a freelance writer/editor who is an Al‑Anon member. Then the Literature Committee gives extensive independent review to assure that all material is identifiably Al‑Anon in content and feeling, responsive to identified needs, factually accurate, timely, and understandable by a broad-based reading audience.
The writer/editor receives the comments of all Committee members and reworks the draft following the direction provided by the Committee. Additional drafts go through the same process until the majority of the Committee is in agreement. If needed, the project can go through a number of drafts and a number of writer/editors to assure the piece meets Conference Approved Literature criteria.
Once approved by the Literature Committee, the manuscript is reviewed by the Policy Chairperson and four other designated members of the Policy Committee. Their responsibility is to ensure the text adheres to Al‑Anon principles and Traditions. The Executive Director provides final approval of the manuscript. This process provides a series of “checks and balances” to our literature and assures that it accurately reflects the Al‑Anon program in principle and practice, as well as in thought and deed.
With the Conference approval process complete, the project is entered into production. This includes titling, indexing, designing, translating, printing, and creating marketing materials. All Conference Approved Literature bears the Conference Approval seal—the triangle with the letters “AFG” inside the circle and the words, “World Service Conference” outside the circle. The seal is accompanied by the words, “Approved by World Service Conference, Al‑Anon Family Groups.”
The process for developing our literature constantly reminds me of what Tradition Two states—that a loving Power greater than ourselves is expressed in our group conscience. It can be hard to get three Al‑Anon members to agree on which toppings to put on a pizza, but we somehow manage through this process to come together, despite such differing views and approaches. In combining all our various thoughts, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, “together everyone achieves more,” or in the words of the Alateens, “Together We Can Make It.”
For more information about CAL, see the Al‑Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27) and Why Conference Approved Literature? (P-35), which are both available as free downloads at al‑anon.org
By Tom C., Associate Director—Literature
The Forum, May 2019