The title is half in jest, because taking an inflexible right/wrong stance is one of my character defects and an aspect of being judgmental. Maybe it’s important to note that I am not making any character judgment of the people doing the things below. They’re as human as I, and Heaven knows I err and slip. I feel love and empathy for the people, even though I am not cool with what they are doing. I do reserve the right to speak up if I see something uncool going down.
So, anticipating possibly having a larger service role than in my last Area, I ordered the new service manual that just came out, and then I read it. This was a big surprise, not expecting the thing to be readable, much less engaging. I’d had some disquieting feelings about a couple of situations around my recovery; now they are thrown into sharp relief.
Doing it wrong #1: my sponsorship family. The service manual is very clear – we do not use materials that are not Al-Anon conference approved, and more specifically, we do not use AA literature. I’m deeply conflicted because I value highly the aspects of my recovery I gained in studying The Big Book and the AA 12&12 with my sponsor. But I also understand the reasons given for their not being conference approved. In fact, I’ve experienced some of the negative effects mentioned.
I don’t know yet what to say to my sponsor about this or when to say it. After a great deal of thought, though, I have come to decisions regarding the other aspects of this situation:
- I am committed to this course of study and will continue it myself, although my new local sponsor, whoever that turns out to be, will not likely be going there with me. I’m okay with that. I badly want to continue to learn the journey of the alcoholic through the AA program as much as I can, while I make my own journey using Conference Approved Literature too, which my sponsor also guided me to do.
- I will not use these resources when sponsoring others. Instead I will share my experience with them and suggest that if they decide to study the steps a second time after completing them with Conference Approved Literature, they might choose to try an AA self-study. And I will be happy to share my reasons for both decisions.
Doing it wrong #2: an exclusive meeting. The service manual says this about meetings with special focus:
Some relatives and friends of alcoholics find it easier to address their common problems in dealing with the effects of someone else’s drinking with those in similar life situations. These members have formed Al-Anon groups for men, women, parents, adult children of alcoholics, and gays and lesbians. The group may include this designation in its group name with the understanding that, as with all Al-Anon groups, membership remains open to anyone affected by someone else’s drinking. members of these groups are encouraged to attend other Al-Anon meetings as well.
—Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual 2010-2013, page 32
It looks very clear to me that it’s not cool to exclude someone for not being in a specific situation.
This one meeting I’ve been to advertises itself as a “closed” meeting, which is most common for Al-Anon meetings, but what they bluntly explain “closed” to mean is that people not experiencing the same situation are not welcome. (The handbook defines a closed meeting as being for Al-Anon members only, members being defined as persons whose personal life is or has been deeply affected by close contact with a problem drinker. Open meetings are for anyone interested in Al-Anon.)
This really makes my spirit itch. Not only this, but when new people come to the meeting, they are looking for and are steered toward only meetings with this same focus. It’s as though other Al-Anon meetings are not even within consideration as a possibility.
I met a newcomer tonight who fell into this category, and they asked me about other meetings of this focus. I explained that I didn’t really know, but that I find many Al-Anon meetings quite helpful, especially as a significant portion of members experience our situation. This made the newcomer blink speechlessly a bit, as as though they considered Al-Anon to be some completely separate program. Veteran members of this meeting have expressed dismissal of the idea that meetings without this focus might pertain to us.
I don’t like the thought that people who need help are denied or self-selecting out based on whether they are affected by a special focus situation or not. I don’t like the idea of avoiding this meeting myself, as it’s one of only two “local” meetings I can get to at all (local in quotes because it takes more than 2 hours travel each way to get there). I’ve only been to this meeting twice, and the negative vibes of this issue have been far numbered by the positive vibes from the sharing and caring of the members.
So, as above, I do not know yet what I will say or when to say it. This I turn over to God until God drops a clue on me. I do not know when or if this group does business meetings or group conscience. I’ll keep coming back and will wait and see, continuing to mention Al-Anon and other Al-Anon meetings as the essential elements of my recovery that they are, and not treating this group as some kind of separate entity.