Oh those pesky, pesky policies in the service manual. Who are they to dictate how my Al-Anon meeting is run?!?!

“They” are “we”.

For our group purpose there is but one authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants – they do not govern. — Tradition Two

The ultimate responsibility and authority for Al-Anon world services belongs to the Al-Anon groups. — Concept One

I am the GR, the Group Representative, for my home group. I get the group conscience of my group and take it to Area assemblies. My Area Delegate takes the group conscience from all us GRs to the World Service Conference.

Usually, by the time something has become a policy, it has been talked to death, with all options explored and a universe of opinions added. Policies happen by consensus and often by unanimity. That’s a Higher Power as he may express himself in our group conscience.

Al-Anon was here long before I was, and the way it was when I found it was decided by its membership. I can participate in that now. But it really helps me to remember that “they” are “we”.

I got this in an email from an Al-a-Pal and thought it worth sharing with Program friends …

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with a bag of potato chips and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park, just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him some chips. He gratefully accepted it and smiled at him.

His smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As twilight approached, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave; but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. He gave him his biggest smile ever..

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” 

He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked, “dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?”

He replied “I ate potato chips in the park with God.” However, before his son responded, he added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime! Embrace all equally!

Have lunch with God…….bring chips.

I wasn’t going to go to Area Assembly because I knew it wouldn’t be possible get the time off from work on a weekend. I was printing up flyers to bring to the meetings I attend when I tripped over a copy of the agenda for Assembly. One item popped out and hit me right in the head. It is about helping out “struggling Districts”.

My brain:
I have to go. I just have to go.
When my colleague came in for his shift, I asked him about possibly swapping some duty time, and he was completely amenable! I could be off-duty! I could go!
So there we have it. Just like that, I’m going to Assembly. Financial things have been occurring oddly lately (ever since I made a commitment to my HP to handle my debts before starting a new and costly project), and I actually have the funds to go. I hope to find out what ideas the others have for revitalizing Districts, and maybe we can use some of them in mine.

I forgot I can blog by phone. Have been sick and unable to make it to a meeting for a couple weeks now. So grateful for Al-Anon podcasts.

An Al-a-Pal gave me a very useful prayer. God, these are the things I have planned today, but if you have anything for me, please just place it before me, and I’ll take care of it right away.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.