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.


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