Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tradition Five.

"Each Al-Anon family group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practising the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves, by encouraging and understanding our alcoholic relatives, and by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics."

One purpose - to help. This is not achieved by lengthy discussions of how to make him or her stop drinking, nor by enthusiastic recitals of the latest outrages. A newcomer to our group, when it was her turn to share, asked in astonishment, "Do I understand you guys correctly, and we're not supposed to complain? What else are we here for?" I reminded her of that the other day, and she began to laugh, recalling her amazement, saying that she was so used to - and so good at - complaining, that she felt positively threatened and nervous at the idea of stopping.

At an open AA meeting I used to attend years back, when we lived in a very small town, one old-timer jokingly spoke of Al-Anon as: "Our Ladies Of Perpetual Resentment."

This made me laugh, because I absolutely was a member of the Ladies of Perpetual Resentment when I joined Al-Anon; resentment was my usual state of mind. So the suggestion that I try "understanding and encouraging" the alcoholic was mind-boggling. I recall thinking that I would have to fight my way through a pretty dense thicket of my own animosity to achieve that.

My sponsor explained that I could "welcome and give comfort to families of alcoholics" by making a point of speaking to newcomers after the meeting. I didn't have to have acres of wisdom to bestow; a warm hello, and perhaps a comment about how it was already helping me, and a hope extended that they'd keep coming back, was enough.

When I had more time in the program, agreeing to be added to the phone list was another way for me to pass on what had been so freely given to me. Al-Anon welcomed me, and gave me the comfort I so desperately sought - I work to be that same warm welcome, and comforting presence, for others new to Al-Anon.

1 comment:

  1. I think that some in AA see us as the enemy, not realizing how much we really love (literally!) alcoholics. There are as many Al-Anon jokes as there are alcoholic jokes. I think that this tradition goes hand in hand with Step 12--we work with others and carry the message any way that we can.