Growing up in the family disease of alcoholism often gives family members a false sense of being in charge. I brought this attitude with me everywhere I went, including Al‑Anon. My rigid thinking told me that certain things needed to be in order and that it was up to me to put everyone on the right path. However, the spiritual principles of Al‑Anon reflect responsibility, trust, shared leadership, and, most of all, unity. How in the world does that filter into Al‑Anon group business meetings when important decisions need to be made? Luckily, there is a resource in the 2018-2021 Al‑Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27)!
Most of the questions I have can be answered by referring to the first portion of the Service Manual, also known as “Al‑Anon and Alateen Groups at Work.” This section provides the basics about how to serve at the group level and how to conduct business meetings. There are several areas of group business that members can keep in mind.
Not all groups need bank accounts. While it may be safer to secure money in a financial institution, banking laws have changed since 9/11, making it more challenging to open or make changes to a group’s bank account. So, what’s a group to do? We can talk to each other and reason things out to arrive at an informed decision at a group conscience meeting. There, members can discuss what kinds of expenses their group needs to meet and how to meet them. Many groups today use money orders to pay rent, make contributions, or purchase literature. Some groups use pre-paid debit cards to pay for transactions because it gives them the flexibility to order literature or make donations online. Furthermore, rotation of service presents the need for special considerations regarding financial matters. Groups can check with local links of service for guidance, sharing insight in applying Al‑Anon/Alateen’s spiritual principles, discovering alternatives along the way. Frequent Treasurer reports offer all group members the ability to participate in decisions and be a part of the group’s success.
The effects of living with someone’s problem drinking can wreak havoc on financial matters. We may not trust that we will have enough money, that it will be well-managed, or that our voice will be heard. The spiritual principles of “Financial Matters” discussed on pages 101 and 102 of the Service Manual remind us to consider abundance, anonymity, gratitude, responsibility, trust, and unity. The principles of Tradition Seven (“Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions”) allow for all to participate in group conversations about what the group budget can support. Passing the basket in meetings, regardless of the number of attendees, is every group’s responsibility. Our understanding broadens as we contribute to our service arms and we grow in thoughtfulness, discovering ways to carry the message of help and hope. The Service Manual offers guidance in our use of group funds on page 107. Additionally, the Reserve Fund Guideline (G-41), under the Members menu at al‑anon.org may offer further insight into how to disburse funds so that all service arms are supported.
Insurance…are you kidding?
Questions from group members regarding the need for insurance coverage have become more frequent with each passing day. Groups that have met in the same location for decades are now being asked to provide proof of liability insurance. Although the World Service Office (WSO) has been incorporated as a nonprofit corporation since 1956, US and Canadian regulations do not allow the WSO to extend blanket insurance coverage to groups, as the WSO has no knowledge of or control over group funds. Some Districts, Area Information Services, and/or Areas may have policies in place that can include coverage for groups. Many groups have shared they are finding policies that are affordable, but if a group is not able to be fully self-supporting, it may need to reconsider its choice of meeting location.
There is hope!
Al‑Anon will be what Al‑Anon members make it. Members can bring any concern to their group’s business meetings. They can share what “the joy of service” means and how it enhances personal recovery. As we talk to each other and reason things out, new ideas can emerge that will pave the future for Al‑Anon and Alateen.
By Christa A., Group Services Specialist—Members, and Sue P., Associate Director—Group Services