I had a discussion with my spouse today about being inconsiderate. I did not mention that my spouse does things daily that I would categorize as inconsiderate, except that I know how much inattention and obliviousness are part of the disease, and not something a person would choose to have. I draw a distinction between not knowing and not caring, and that’s helps me keep a neutral perspective.

My spouse has expectations of consideration and gets offended if people fail to show it. Sometimes one of those people is me. I know there’s not much I can do about my spouse’s expectations. I can only affect my attitudes and behavior and make sure they are aligned with my own principles and recovery.

Part of the problem for me is telling where the line is between consideration and codependence. One of my parents and several of my step-parents raised me with a lot of faulty teaching about what consideration is, and I engaged in wildly codependent attitudes and behavior. It’s taken more than one set of 24 hours in program to veer away from that kind of thinking. I don’t want to go back to that kind of misery.

So today I am trying to think of examples and analogies that help me tell the difference between consideration and codependence. I’ve come up with one so far:

  • If I am going to the kitchen to make a sandwich, it’s considerate to ask any others if they’d like something too. 
  • It’s considerate to ask if they’d like a sandwich, or possibly something else while I’m up. 
  • It’s codependent to act on the suggestion that I cook a meal, if I don’t actually want to. 
  • It’s codependent to make them a sandwich (or meal) without asking and become offended if they don’t want it. 
  • It’s codependent to make them a sandwich (or meal) without asking, if I don’t actually want to, whether they wind up wanting it or not.
  • It’s considerate to make a sandwich without asking, if I accept that they might not want it, and I make a back-up plan, like sticking it in the fridge for my lunch later.
  • It’s codependent if they say, “No thank you,” and then I take on guilt because they are hungry. (Or I believe they are hungry but lying to save my feelings, and I feel bad about that.)
  • It does not violate consideration to say no if they ask for something I’m unwilling to do, but it’s more considerate to counter that with something I am willing to do. “No, I won’t cook spaghetti right now, but I’ll make you a ham sandwich too if you like.”
If someone expects me to do a codependent thing and I don’t, the question of consideration isn’t mine and I don’t have to take it on. I can love the person and let the whole thing go. The rest is up to them and their own Higher Power.
Somebody expressed to me one time a concern about a step study meeting. It wasn’t spelled out very clearly that the meeting was for studying the steps, rather than working them. So, what is the difference between doing step study and working the steps? Here are a few:
Step Study
Working the Steps
Involves developing as complete as possible an understanding of how to work the step, why work the step, and what the desired benefits of the step are.
Involves taking action to accomplish the steps. May include study as a component for each step, but study does not replace the need for action.
Can be done:
  • At group meetings
  • With one or more Al-a-Pals
  • With your sponsor
  • Alone
Should be done with your sponsor, with some tasks on your own or with an Al-a-Pal. You work out with your sponsor which tasks these are and when to do them.
Can be done at whatever pace you choose.
Should be done at whatever pace you agree to with your sponsor.
Should be done with Conference Approved Literature (CAL), although what an individual uses for their own benefit is strictly up to the individual and may include other sources. Any Al-Anon activities such as group study need to use CAL exclusively.
Should be done with Conference Approved Literature (CAL), although what an individual uses for their own benefit is strictly up to the individual and may include other sources. You and your sponsor work out which materials to work from.
My sibling posted this on Facebook. It’s funny this popped up right after I received a response from another sibling, a qualifier, to my 9th Step letter. The response was that what I did was unremembered and so far in the past, not to worry about it. It was loving and forgiving. I cried.
The illustration makes a point. I can apologize all day and all night and not make a damn thing better. Amends is more than apology. It is, as the word indicates, about mending. It’s about healing and making things right. I know not everyone will forgive me, and we won’t all go back to being pals, but if I clean up my side of the street and do all I can to mend the situation, I’ve done what I’m supposed to. I can look other people and myself in the eye. I gain integrity, and that’s important in defeating the family disease.

I get asked these questions all the time:

  • What book do you recommend?
  • Which book is best?
  • What’s the Al-Anon “big book”?
  • What book do you start with?
Problem is, there’s no hard and fast answer for any of these. For AA people, it’s pretty easy – the entire program is in the “big book” Alcoholics Anonymous after which the program and the fellowship are named, not the other way around. So that’s where you start.
The Al-Anon program grew organically among groups of spouses waiting for their alcoholic loved ones to get out of meetings. They found that adopting the Steps for themselves brought healing and relief, but they knew that it was a different program, because the family disease manifests differently. For us, there can be no one answer, no single right way. That’s reflected in our literature, which came after the program, not before.
I find it helpful to approach Conference Approved Literature with purpose in mind. So here’s a chart of purposes and what literature I think is best for each purpose. This is my experience, strength, and hope. Other people will have other opinions. Take what you like and leave the rest.
Purpose Title
Gaining basic familiarity with the program and how it works. How Al-Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics
Working all three Legacies (Steps, Traditions, Concepts) in depth.

  • Paths to Recovery
  • Reaching for Personal Freedom: Living the Legacies
Detailed study of the Steps and Traditions. Al-Anon’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Revised)
Immediate relief during an upsetting situation. Consult the index in

  • One Day at a Time,
  • Courage to Change,
  • Hope for Today,

or indeed any CAL

Daily reading – dated entries written by a variety of Al-Anons. Courage to Change
Daily reading – dated entries written mostly by spouses of alcoholics. One Day at a Time
Daily reading – dated entries written by adult children of alcoholics. Hope for Today
One method of working the 4th Step.

  • Blueprint for Progress (Original Version)
  • Blueprint for Progress: 4th Step Inventory (Revised)
Healthy ways of living with an alcoholic spouse. The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage
Developing healthy relationships. Discovering Choices
Coping with loss – death, divorce, relocation, etc. Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses
Dealing with crises. …In All Our Affairs: Making Crises Work for You
Recovering from growing up with alcoholism.

  • From Survival to Recovery
  • Hope for Today
Facing challenges brought on by sobriety in a family member. Living with Sobriety
Developing spirituality. As We Understood…
Furthering recovery through service. When I Got Busy, I Got Better
Understanding the history and development of the Al-Anon program.

  • Lois Remembers
  • Many Voices, One Journey
  • The Al-Anon Family Groups — Classic Edition

It’s not a book, but I also highly recommend The Forum, Al-Anon’s monthly magazine of experience, strength, and hope. Each issue gives me fresh tools and approaches to working my program. This publication is frequently described as “like having a meeting in my pocket” and I find this to be true for me too.

9th step For The Win! Actually, this is extremely weird and uncomfortable, but I’m sure it’s doing a lot of good.

Unexpected twist – reaching out to people on Facebook to get their postal address, so I can send them letters. They ask me what for. We do, after all, live in a post-postal (heh) society. So when I tell them I want to make amends, we wind up doing it all in Facebook.

Very weird. Very uncomfortable. So far each encounter has ended well, and I know what to do if it doesn’t.

Tomorrow I have phone calls to make.