I finally got a hard copy of the current service manual. I’m highlighting it using the old service manual as a guide. There were several places where I found the service manual extremely helpful in the past, so those are all marked up. I’m also moving my tabs to the new manual. I like being able to speedily find what I need.

I’m reminded of the central tension in group dynamics with Al-Anon. There are no musts in Al-Anon. Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern. We practice obedience to the uninforceable. And yet, failure to adhere to the Traditions has consequences.

World Service will refuse to register a group that bars membership to any subset in Al-Anon. For instance, if you’re running a women’s meeting, and a man shows up, the group cannot bar the man without forfeiting registration. Because the only requirement for Al-Anon membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend. If you throw out that Tradition, you’re not practicing Al-Anon anymore and can’t be registered.

That can be tough to balance. Those of us in vulnerable populations need to feel that we have a safe space. And yet the whole point of the Traditions and Concepts is to make sure that we have a safe space.

Special focus meetings make a lot of sense. One reason to have them is so that when we show our experience, strength, and hope, there are other people who understand where we are coming from. They won’t try to apply viewpoints or attitudes that don’t apply to our situations. But again, the whole point of Traditions and Concepts is so that we can trust people anyway. And we have an overall principle of take what you liked and leave the rest when it comes to experience, strength, and hope.

Sometimes I feel like an Al-Anon cop and I don’t want to be. I want our Higher Power to express themselves in our group conscience. I want consensus whenever possible. And I want to feel safe and understood.

In the past, my approach to groups who are not adhering to the Traditions has been to gently suggest adherence to the Traditions, along with whatever experience, strength, and hope I might have and how to accomplish it. And then if the situation doesn’t approve over the next couple of meetings, dropping the group entirely.

I don’t know if that’s always right. I don’t know if that’s usually right or only sometimes right. Or not at all right. I’ll have to revisit that next time it comes up.