Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tradition Four.

"Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting another group or Al-Anon or AA as a whole."

This has to be the Tradition about which I felt the most confusion - first there was that word with which I was unfamiliar, and then the idea being presented was...what? I thought I understood, but I wasn't sure. (I may have had a chaotic childhood, but I did learn some great things from the adults involved; one of these is - if you don't know, go look it up. Do some research.) My first trip was to the dictionary, which defines "autonomous" as "self-governing, independent." I then began to read everything I could find on the Fourth Tradition.

I expected to find long explanations, but what I read, time and again, was pretty simple. Each Al-Anon group should be self-managed as long as whatever choices we make don't reflect negatively back upon Al-Anon or AA.

This means we are free to run our meetings within a very loose framework - this is evidenced by the way one group will make up a topic list for an entire year ahead of time, another will put topics written on slips of paper into a hat, pull one, and that's the topic for the night, and yet another will throw it open each week for suggestions from the members. Each group evolves to have a singular feel, within the greater umbrella of "Al-Anon."

We stop to think, before making choices - both as individuals within the group, or with the group acting as a unit - is this choice going to be harmful to someone else? That someone else may be Al-Anon, AA, our group, or a family member or friend.

You will notice I didn't write "is this going to annoy" but rather "is this going to be harmful." There's a world of difference between the two. Our healthy choices in Al-Anon, when we first begin to make them, and sometimes even years later, may annoy our alcoholics, yet not be harmful to them.

This Tradition teaches me to pause and consider my actions for the effect they will have upon others, before I make them. Pausing, for me, is always a good thing, since I tend to be impulsive.

I need to be independent for my mental health, but I don't make life choices without giving thought to the way my interests may overlap the interests of my loved ones, my group,
Al-Anon, and AA as a whole.


  1. I like that there can be different formats and opportunities within each group. Some celebrate birthdays, some read the tradition of the month, some have beginner's meetings, etc. Yet all are Al-Anon.

  2. Thank God for this blog!