But One Purpose – 290

Our 5th tradition says, Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. How do we do this? How has this supported and worked in your recovery?

In full, it reads, Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves, by encouraging and understanding our alcoholic relatives, and by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics.

I explore how this tradition appeared in my life, in reverse order of the phrases in the tradition.

Welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics.

    • I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting with some fear and trepidation. I didn’t know what I was going to find there, and I was terrified that I’d meet someone who knew me. Of course, that happened even before I stepped into the room!
    • I really don’t remember what anyone said at that meeting, but by the end of the meeting, I knew one very important fact: I WAS NO LONGER ALONE!
    • I was welcomed with open and loving arms into the Al-Anon fellowship. That alone was enough for me to come back the next week, and the next, and the next.
    • I try to remember to extend this welcome whenever a new person comes to a meeting, but also to all members, whether new or “long timers”. This can be a spiritual practice: to smile, to say “hi”, and to listen with real interest.
    • In my experience, there is no comfort to be had that is greater than someone saying, “I’ve been there. This is what I did. It wasn’t easy, but I got better.”

Understanding and encouraging our alcoholic relatives.

    • Oh, this was hard. I was so angry and resentful of my loved one’s alcoholism. Initially, I was angry at her. Why couldn’t she just stop. Or maybe just drink normally? Why couldn’t we go back to the “way it was”?
    • I started to learn about the disease concept by attending “friends and family” days at treatment centers (and yes, there were several of these).
    • What really drove home to me that alcoholism was a disease, and that it was not a choice of my loved one, was attending AA speaker meetings. During my first few years, I must have attended 100 of these. I started to see that the “arc” of their story was the same, even though all the details were different.
    • I could hear my wife’s story in other people’s voices, when I couldn’t hear it from her. I could start to develop compassion for her struggle.
    • “Encouraging” — What does that mean? It’s not standing on the sideline shouting “Rah!” or “Ole!” or “you can do it!” At least I don’t think so. For me, it was being loving (as best I could), whether she was drinking or not. It was not berating her when she slipped, as she did many times. And it wasn’t always easy.

Practicing the 12 steps of AA ourselves.

  • This is where recovery happened for me. I had to find (at least the concept of) a higher power. I had to look at myself and ask for help to change. I had to clean up “my side of the street.” And I had to grow into a new way of living, and finding a new emotional and spiritual center for myself.

Readings and Links

I read from Courage to Change, December 20.


Upcoming topics include quotes. What quotes have helped you or inspired you?

A listener suggested the topic of Spiritual Experiences. Have you had a spiritual experience (large or small)? Share it and help us to put together an episode.

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Singleness of Purpose – Episode 266

Why do we gather in Al-Anon groups? How do we maintain our singleness of purpose?

It’s been hard this week not to lose hope and to give in to despair about the divisiveness and even hate that seems to be the norm for society today. It’s brought me to reflect again on how amazing this program of recovery is. We come together in Al-Anon for one purpose: to recover from the effects of someone’s drinking or addiction on our own lives. This is the only reason we are here, and somehow we manage to keep the disagreements and debates out. How does this work?

Al-Anon has 12 traditions that help to guide us in how we conduct our meetings and ourselves in reaching for recovery. Several of these relate to this concept of “singleness of purpose.” These are:

Tradition 5, which defines that purpose: “Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics.”

Tradition 3 says that this is our only reason for coming together: “The relatives of alcoholics, when gathered together for mutual aid, may call themselves an Al-Anon Family Group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.”

Traditions 6, 8, and 10 set some boundaries on how we express our singleness of purpose.

6: Our Al-Anon Family Groups ought never endorse, finance, or lend our name to any outside enterprise, lest problems … divert us from our primary spiritual aim.

8: Al-Anon Twelfth-Step work should remain forever nonprofessional…

10: The Al-Anon Family Groups have no opinion on outside issues…

Let’s look at some these, guided by questions from the book Paths to Recovery.

Tradition 5

  • How do I describe our primary purpose?
  • How can I guide [newcomers] to focus on the alcohol-related aspects of [their] problems?
  • What does comfort mean to me? How can I extend that to another person?

Tradition 3

  • Do I welcome all who attend our meeting even if they are different from me…?
  • Do I treat each member and potential member with unconditional love?
  • How can my group welcome members of other programs and maintain our Al-Anon focus?
  • Do I leave my other affiliations and interests outside the doors of Al-Anon?
  • How can I treat others with tolerance, acceptance and love?

Tradition 6:

  • Why do we not “endorse, finance or lend our name to any outside enterprise”?
  • How can I discourage members, without embarrassing them, from bring outside enterprises into our meetings.

Tradition 8:

  • Do I willingly share my ESH with those who are suffering from the family disease of alcoholism?
  • How can I share with others without trying to fix them?
  • At meetings to I speak as an export or as a fellow member?

Tradition 10:

  • How do I concentrate on our common bonds rather than on our differences?
  • If someone does bring up what I think is an outside issue, how can I gently bring discussion back to our Al-Anon approach?
  • Am I defensive because someone doesn’t agree with me?  How do I respond?

Readings and links

I read from Courage to Change, February 21.

I mentioned Anne Lamott's book Help, Thanks, Wow, which I also talked about in episode 111, Prayer.

A correspondent talked about how helpful the book Choosing to Forgive by Diane DeLong Clark had been for her.


An upcoming topic is about miracles or coincidences. Maybe you call them a “Step 2 experience”.How have you experienced miracles or coincidences as messages from your higher power? Big or small? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

I didn’t get sober for this shit – Episode 212

What are you discarding from your life in your recovery? What are you keeping? And what do you want to add?

I recently found a blog post titled “I didn't get sober for this shit.

I related to it in so many ways, and I'll share a few with you in this episode. I'd love to hear how you connect. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “I didn't get sober for this shit – Episode 212”

Life on Purpose – Episode 156

Can you say what is your purpose? How do you decide what to do on a daily basis? What do you want to be “when you grow up”?

This episode is inspired by the book Life on Purpose.

  • How has recovery challenged me to articulate my values and my purpose?
  • What is the purpose of “purpose”?
    • Give direction and meaning to my life
    • Articulate what matters to me
  • Creating my life vs taking life for granted.
  • Live a longer and healthier life?
  • “So let’s imagine a drug that was shown to add years to your life; reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke; cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than half; help you relax during the day and sleep better at night; double your chances of staying drug- and alcohol-free after treatment; activate your natural killer cells; diminish your inflammatory cells; increase your good cholesterol; and repair your DNA. What if this imaginary drug reduced hospital stays so much that it put a dent in the national health-care crisis? Oh, and as a bonus, gave you better sex? The pharmaceutical company who made the drug would be worth billions. The inventors of the drug would receive Nobel Prizes and have institutes named for them! But it’s not a drug. It’s purpose. And it’s free. Oh, and the side effects? More friends. More happiness. Deeper engagement in life. And did I mention better sex?”
  • Eudaimonic (self-transcending) vs Hedonic (self-enhancing) pleasure.
    • Eudaimonic pleasure: Connecting with our (inner) divinity, living in harmony with it.
    • Hedonic pleasure: gratifying short-term desires.
    • How do we do this in recovery? Step 11!
  • How do I find and describe my purpose?
    • Consider my different roles? Do I have a purpose in each of those roles?
      • Community
      • Work
      • Family
      • Self
    • What do I want written on my headstone? (“Mentor, Husband and Father”? Or “Highest score in Candy Crush”?)
  • What are my values?
    • From episode 101: Integrity, Commitment, Acceptance, Love
    • How do these drive my purpose?
    • What other values might be part of my purpose?
    • What are the values of people I admire? How do they live their purposes?
  • Affirming values as a reason for behavior change enhances the ability to make that change. (Connecting to Steps 6 & 7.)
    • A positive approach to behavior change.
    • From AA Big Book: “On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.”
    • And “When we retire at night, we constructively review our day.”
  • What are my goals (based on my values)? (Statements starting with “To…”)
    • To lead others into recovery. (Community)
    • To create software that makes a difference in people’s lives. (Work)
    • To be a loving and committed husband, father, and son. (Family)
    • To be fully present and to enjoy life. (Personal)
  • Self-transcendance
    • Step 3 – Living according to my Higher Power’s will.
    • “Make the other band members look and sound good. Bring out the best in them; that’s your job.” – CHRISSIE HYNDE
    • Find a self-transcending “why” for what I do, and I will do better!
    • But also: set good boundaries!
  • Time management or Energy management?
    • It’s really about energy management.
    • Positive affirmation of values and purpose can increase energy. (also “gratitude list”)
    • But not just energy – it needs direction. Without a direction, all the energy in the world is unlikely to accomplish something.
    • Roughly two thousand years ago, the Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote, “When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”
  • Sources of energy
    • Positive emotions or actions.
    • Beauty
    • Doing things for myself
    • SPACE acronym:
    • Physical activity
    • Eating well
    • Sleeping well
    • Presence
    • Creativity
  • Willpower
    • “Now don’t say you can’t swear off drinking; it’s easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” W. C. FIELDS
    • Positive energy, affirming values, and considering purpose increases will power. (Also SPACE.)
    • “ psychologists have found that willpower acts in a similar manner to a muscle: it can be depleted after mental exertion, it can be strengthened, and it can be fueled.”
  • Using and achieving purpose
    • “The life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.” SENECA
    • Steps 10, 11, 12.

Upcoming topics include Step 1. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “Life on Purpose – Episode 156”

Tradition 6 – Episode 75

Tradition 6 says “Our Family Groups ought never endorse, finance or lend our name to any outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim. Although a separate entity, we should always co-operate with Alcoholics Anonymous.” What does this mean? How do we understand and apply it? How do we use it in our personal life?

Spencer and Ruth talk about Tradition 6, guided by these questions:

  • Why do I think we have this tradition?
  • What is “our primary spiritual aim”?
  • What are some examples of “outside enterprises”?
    • Religions
    • Treatment programs
    • Other 12-step programs
  • What are some hazards of promoting, endorsing, or talking about such “outside enterprises” in our meetings?
  • In what ways does Al-Anon “cooperate with AA”?
  • How can I apply this tradition in your personal life?
    • Am I allowing material or financial concerns to gain priority over my personal spiritual needs and serenity?
    • Am I allowing personal problems or successes to overwhelm me?
    • Am I letting them get in the way of how I treat others?
  • How do these slogans relate to Tradition 6?
    • Easy Does It
    • Keep It Simple
    • Live and Let Live
    • Let Go and Let God


Our topic for next week is new topic. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “Tradition 6 – Episode 75”