December 23, 2010

December 23: Where Do I Belong?

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. 


  1. We do need to know the origins of our fellowships- you can delve back into the history of how 12 steps and traditions came into being.
    AA and Alanon evolved almost hand in hand. Principles applied to arrest a deadly disease.
    We are four fold beings, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. We need to be somewhat balanced in order to function. Undo the
    "Dis-ease." (Restore us to sanity-)
    It is great you went to Alanon ! Someday you might want to go to an open AA meeting too.
    I bet you will identify with some of what you hear there as well. If you are a reader delve into some of the history. The Oxford group
    helped Lois and Bill W.(et al.) find ways to help the rest of us... Merry Christmas !
    all of us

  2. I love the history of these fellowships...thanks Izzy.



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