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.

I’m having the devil of a time getting Courage to Change, the CD-ROM, to run on anything. Some machines give me an error that Macromedia Projector needs to be updated. Some machines give me no error at all, but fail to run the .exe files on it. The autorun file says that chooser.exe is supposed to run on load, but there is also an al-anon.exe – neither will run. It’s pretty frustrating, and any attempts to find the solution online are ending in nothing as well. Because the name is a phrase in a popular prayer that people often attribute in their taglines, I get lots of false results about other CD-ROMs and things to do with Macromedia Projector that have nothing to do with this issue with this disk.


I hope anyone else having this problem will find this entry. If I ever find the solution, I’ll post it here.

I bought Many Voices, One Journey because it was the new book out and I generally love Al-Anon literature. However, once it arrived, I realized that it was a year-by-year history of the organization, complete with notes from the conferences and administrative decisions.

My spirits fell. This looked dull. Oh so dull.

Nevertheless, I started to read and slowly became fascinated. I caught myself putting sticky notes on the pages I wanted to find again very soon.

The arrival of this book couldn’t be timed any better.

I may run a slight risk at breaking my anonymity by stating that my District is just about dead. It may be a slight risk because there might be many Districts with this problem – how to know? At any rate, it has been the source of some despair that there are so few meetings around here and that they are so poorly attended. I haven’t seen a business meeting at all and so far only two group conscience votes, both on the same topic. Rotation of meeting chair is likewise rare. I can count on one hand the announcements I’ve heard about events or functions in the area outside the group in the past year and a half, nearly all to do with Christmas.

And right now in my mind is the image of Lois at a table hand writing postal letters to some 30-odd scattered groups to get their opinions on matters and offer support. It’s just amazing.

I’m finding out the roots of all sorts of odd and controversial policies. I’m finding out that the issue of the role of adult child groups isn’t new at all, first emerging in the 80s. I’m finding out that the Obstacles to Success, which I’d never heard until moving to this area, is one of the oldest readings in practice. I’m finding out that our Headquarters was not always in Virginia, and how it came to be so.

The most important thing I’m finding out is how other people helped Al-Anon grow in places it didn’t occur before, or did occur but weakly. I’m finding out how people and groups honored the Traditions and Concepts in their relations, and how they didn’t, and what the results were. I’m learning stuff that can help me right now, what to do, what not to do, and most importantly, how to treasure the people of Al-Anon, rather than my own self-image.

It would be really easy for me to jump right in, take over, and get things done! That grinning little character defect in me would love to just own this District and run it as I believe it ought to be run. How Al-Anon is that?

Right here I have some fantastic examples to follow, and some illustrations of what could come up and how to handle it. In short – Experience, Strength, and Hope. All from some dry old history book!

I think I can help here. I think I can help a lot, if I can help other people get energized and if I can confine myself to some good, honest service work, not directing or controlling. I want this District to be every bit as vibrant as the one I used to live in, and this can happen. Together We Can Make It.

I have my new copy of Paths to Recovery. In rereading the text for Step 5, I find that I’m getting ahead of myself by fretting over who I’ll be doing Step 5 with. I’d already determined that I need to finish studying Step 5 before actually performing it, but even then, there are separate parts to the step, so altogether the checklist looks a bit like this:

  • Study Step 5, to include readings and answering questions.
  • Admit to God the exact nature of my wrongs. I believe a quiet place where I can address God aloud would be good for this, as it doesn’t seem quite real enough to speak with God silently. We’ll need to go through the inventory item by item.
  • Admit to myself the exact nature of my wrongs. I don’t know yet how I’ll do this part but hope to discover this during the study phase. It could involve drawing charts or summarizing what I found while going over it with God.
  • Admit to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. I have faith that by the time I get to this part, my Higher Power will either have shown me who this should be or will do so soon. So now I can let go of my concern about this part.
I have what in some places is called an “Item A”. This is an item in my inventory that is so difficult to talk about that I can’t even write about it, so it is listed as Item A. This intermediate practice helps the item stop being a secret – it sort of puts a handle on the item by which I can begin dragging it into the light. I acknowledge that it’s there, and I know what it stands for, so I can begin handling this without denial of its existence.
I believe by naming my Item A aloud to God and to myself, this will help further drag it out of secrethood so that I can name this item when I finally get to the last part. If I think about that too much right now, it will scare me, but if I set this aside and just do the part where I am now, surely it will be fine when I get there.

I can feel myself getting stressed out and worried and anxious and tense. Stress related ailments are bothering me more.

I know this is a clear signal I am not working my program. It’s not news – with my current work schedule, nearly all local meetings are unattainable. Still, there are phone meetings and online meetings which I fail to remember, or remember too late.
Still bogged down on Step 5. Have lost my Paths to Recovery, my primary study guide for the Steps. But that doesn’t mean I can’t study them. I may have to wait for payday to get another copy, but I do have other books. There is no reason I can’t use them.
In a little while I am going to take a lunch break and do a phone meeting.
This triangle is drawn according to the passage in Hope for Today p. 255 and does a really good job of illustrating why I am out of sorts. My own priorities have been topsy-turvy. To my credit, I have been remembering to take care of myself (go to the bathroom, eat, get things to drink), but I’ve been keeping my Al-Anon tools and my Higher Power at the bottom. That’s not balanced.
I pray to be more mindful of these things to bring my life back into balance and regain the serenity I have found in the program.

I wrote this whole big long post via mobile earlier today and then lost the whole thing looking at my calendar. Good lesson not to take myself so seriously.

It was about Thanksgiving going so well. No big drama. Nice bonding. My huge sorrow that one of my siblings is in so much pain from the family disease, and there’s nothing I can do but mention Al-Anon every once in a long while. And then let go the results.

Yesterday’s meeting was timely. We studied the 11 Dec entry in Courage to Change. It’s about money, which is a big huge deal for me right now. I’ve been freaking out about the many obligations on the near horizon. But my HP has always caused such things to work out in the past. If I have faith, remember that, and live in today, I will be fine. Turn it over!