Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Fifth Tradition: Compassion

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 really like this tradition. It's about compassion, being non-judgmental, willing, and sharing. This tradition has to do with our primary purpose. With this tradition, meetings stay focused on the primary purpose of helping families and friends of alcoholics.

This tradition also tells me that I have a primary purpose in my life: to express love, loyalty, family and unity in all that I do and to share this knowledge freely with others. I have a healthy purpose of helping others today, rather than trying to enable or control someone like I did before Al-Anon.

I can remember my sponsor suggesting to me that I could encourage and understand the alcoholics in my life by allowing them the dignity to make their own decisions. Understanding is something that has come to me over time. For so much of my life, there was no one to understand how I felt living with alcoholism. Now I am around people who understand, and by sharing my experience, strength and hope with others I gain not only insight about myself but others as well. And by going to open AA meetings, listening to speaker tapes, studying the Big Book of AA, I've been able to understand more about alcoholism--the physical craving, mental obsession, and spiritual malady. Because this tradition is about love and compassion, I am reminded that I needed to learn to love myself before I could truly love others, including the alcoholics in my life.

This tradition also mentions practicing the 12 steps which are my tools to recovery. I've learned to identify my character defects and face my resentments, make amends and move on. Working the steps has brought spirituality into my life. And by coming to trust my Higher Power, I've acquired serenity.

And as part of my recovery and this tradition, I do my part to help families and friends of alcoholics. I've been told to never say NO to an Al-Anon request. I step up to do my part, trusting that God will give me what I need in order to accomplish the task.

The bonus is -- when I am helping others, I am also helping myself get healthier by focusing on someone else instead of feeling sorry for myself. By reaching out to help and comfort others, I gain tremendous rewards myself.

A great part of this tradition for me is to welcome newcomers. I remember those who shared their phone numbers with me when I came to my first meeting. I called every single one of those people to thank them. And to say that I would keep going to meetings. They and many others made me feel that I was where I belonged. So I make it a point to offer my phone number to newcomers and make them feel welcome. I can share with those who ask for my help.Those who do not can be assured of my willingness to share should they ever be ready.They need not be judged or found lacking.

This tradition can also be applied in my life outside of Al-Anon. It is reflected when I have patience and understanding with others. I've always had empathy for others, but now I see how each person, regardless of circumstance, has something to offer.


  1. Yep! Syd, wonderful...Let's take a day off--GOOD idea!
    Steve E.

  2. Long-time members of my small home group were stunned one day, to hear a relative newcomer share how she hadn't felt welcomed when she first started coming to meetings. We took a group conscience, and realised that we'd pretty much allowed "somebody else" to do that after the meeting, as we'd each rushed off to fufill our own obligations. It was a good but painful lesson.
    We work the Fifth Tradition with much more care nowadays.
    Good post, thanks.

  3. Very cool, this tradition really puts into perspective how important we all are. For me I always thought I was nothing but today I am important and I feel empowered in this program. I am grateful for a lot of things and I am grateful for you Syd.

  4. You begin with, "I really like this tradition. It's about compassion, being non-judgmental, willing, and sharing." I love this.

    In Al-Anon I discovered how judgmental and critical I was of myself. As I worked on being less of these things, I found myself less judgmental and critical of others. I developed a level of compassion that I had not experienced before.

    And of course the 12 steps allow me to become aware of these defects (they stand between me and my God and between me and those I might help), accept them, and take action.

  5. It is not that I don't have compassion... I just don't want to be around even people with ISMS anymore.

    It is so peaceful just living a serene life......... and when I get thrown off; I know how to get back on that serenity cloud.

    I have friends in Al-anon that are on both sides of the coin...but they don't have the ISMS......

    It is hard to explain why some stop drinking and still have ISMS and others do not.

    I won't go to to OPEN AA.. I did one time (an all day AA/AL-ANON event in another borough); as lunch time there were people on line that seemed that drank the night before. I found it unsettling when they try to strike up a conversation with me. I was polite but I ate my lunch and left and did not participate in the afternoon.

    I did not want to be around those that looked hung over...

    Compassion .. yes.. but not to be around it, it reminds me of growing up with this disease... just don't like it at all.

    I love al-anon.... the people make me feel safe and secure around them. No one with any additions...

  6. always inspire me with your writing/thoughts on Al-Anon and recovery! I've left you an award at my blog because of that fact! Continued blessings! Lisa

  7. What is ISMS? Sorry if this is something commonly known. I've never seen or heard it before.

    The only thing in this post I'm not sure of is the idea one should never say no to an AlAnon request. I tend to think we ought to be able to set our own boundaries for everything. I imagine there are times when there can become too high an AlAnon imbalance over the individual where the person is losing self in duty and possibly codie issues. I'm just saying never is a little strong a word for me in this case.

  8. Another great post on the traditions. This one I can relate with as I have found the most comfort in Al-Anon by helping others and sharing my story.

  9. this tradition brought tears to my eyes.... if only i'd known about this years ago..... but 'what if's' are pointless, right?!?!?!

  10. I stumbled when I heard your qualifier was learning the steps through Al-ANON, then I said to myself, what difference does it make where? As a double winner, I am much too preoccupied with fences. This is a profound reflection on Tradition Five; self-pity is indeed the pitfall; the trick is to turn it into a learning tool. Many thanks, Syd.


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