When I think of the word “inventory,” the image of an old-time general store comes to mind, complete with a shopkeeper using a paper list and pencil. The shopkeeper assesses the inventory on the shelves—a good quantity of cleaning solutions but no cleaning tools, a handful of outdated calendars, and a few dented soup cans. The shopkeeper takes an honest look and notes what to keep, what to throw out, and what to add to keep the store welcoming and properly stocked so customers will “Keep Coming Back.”

When I participate in my group’s inventory, I am able to practice using the tools I’ve learned in the Al‑Anon program that help me communicate clearly, and not shrink away from my responsibility as a group member. I am encouraged to share my ideas, even if they’re not the most popular. I am able to feel like a part of, rather than apart from, the group. Knowing my group takes an inventory at regular intervals assures me we are able to welcome newcomers to a healthy, growing group, and “Together We Can Make It.”

How each Al-Anon Family Group conducts an inventory is as varied as the groups. Some follow the Taking a Group Inventory Guidelines (G-8a, G-8b) from start to finish, while other groups “Keep It Simple” and use only a portion of the Guidelines or “Think” of their own questions to be answered by every member. By taking the time to conduct the inventory, the group is putting “First Things First.”

What do we hope to discover in our group inventory? We may want to know whether we are welcoming to newcomers. Rather than ask if we are welcoming, we may ask instead, “How are we welcoming?” We may want to know that we are self-supporting, through financial contributions as well as through service opportunities. We may want to know that we apply the spiritual principles of the three Legacies in all group actions to keep the message of help and hope clear and consistent for us all. We want to “Let It Begin with Me.”

How do we address the results of the inventory? It may have revealed outdated aspects of our group’s practices or processes that are no longer functional? If we “Keep an Open Mind”, we can “Listen and Learn” from each member’s ideas to keep our groups healthy and invigorating. Applying the wisdom of Al-Anon’s Twelve Traditions to each idea, we are able to arrive at an informed group conscience. Seeking “Progress Not Perfection,” we might attempt new ideas on a trial basis. Although we might not all agree with the group conscience every time, we can “Live and Let Live,” “One Day at a Time.”

By Christa A., Senior Group Services Specialist—Members

The Forum, December 2020

Feel free to reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.