I went to my first Al-anon meeting because I wanted to let my fellow travelers in EA, to know that there was a fellowship with deeper roots than our own newly established meeting. I felt like I was not a good enough "example" to give newcomers to EA the roots they needed for recovery, so I brought myself to Al-anon with the hope that others from our EA fellowship would follow my example.
To my surprise, I found myself identifying with almost everyone in the Al-anon fellowship. I felt like I had come home. Like the author of December 23rd's Courage to Change, "I couldn't understand it--I was positive that I didn't even know any alcoholics!" Days after my first visit, I kept remembering how comfortable I felt in that meeting. It was wonderful not to be a founder or an old-timer and to listen and learn myself. Every week that I could return, I did.
But I felt a little uncomfortable when I would read Al-anon's Third Tradition, which states, "The only requirement is that there be a problem of alcohol in a family member or friend." I did not have any alcoholic family members. But intuitively I knew I was benefitting by coming back.
It took me many months to realize why I belonged. Suddenly I understand that, though alcoholism had skipped my parents and me, both my parents probably knew about the pain of alcoholism. Alcoholism is a family disease, and my fellow Al-anon members were waiting to embrace me when I realized that I too had been affected.
"One of the signs that I have been affected by alcoholism is that I think I know what everyone else should do." Yes, that it the attitude I had brought to my EA meetings.
But, Al-anon's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions were there for me when I finally was ready to admit that Tradition Three spoke to me, directly and to no one else. I could not expect my fellow EA members to attend Al-anon and find out how to do 12-step work. I could only take myself to the "sister fellowship." In the same way that I wanted folks in EA to get the "right" way to do program by visiting an Al-anon group, I'd been judging others in the EA fellowship, by the standards of a long-ago seasoned EA group.
I had been judging and mistakenly feeling that my EA newcomers should find out how 12-step groups worked, in order to work our EA program more honestly. Instead it was me who needed to see how I fit Al-anon criteria for membership. When I attended an Al-anon meeting, it helped me to let go of my EA group and expectations for how it *should* work. I needed to extend the same courtesy to others, and let them find out for themselves how to make our program fit them.