Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pieces of Eight

Tradition 8: Al-Anon Twelfth Step work should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

The principle of this step is equality and the traits are guidance, sharing and humility.

This tradition is important for the health of our meetings. It means to me that each member is equal and should remain so, with no one setting him/herself above another as teacher, adviser, or in some other non Al-Anon capacity.

The 8th Tradition insures that anytime a newcomer reaches out for help, he will receive it, free of charge. Members freely share their own experience, strength, and hope with the newcomer and by doing so, help themselves by reinforcing their own recovery in the process.

The word "nonprofessional" means that I interact in a way that neither affirms nor implies that I am something other than a person in recovery just like others who come to Al-Anon. It means that if I need professional help then I should go where such help is available--outside Al-Anon.
I must also avoid taking a "professional" or know-it-all attitude. In the final analysis, personal opinions are just that - personal. Neither of us is a certified expert on alcoholism, the twelve steps, sex, marriage, medicine, child psychology, spirituality, or humility.

Unfortunately, this tradition isn't always practiced at some meetings. I've heard advice given to people not to take medication for depression or a bi-polar condition. This is not only contrary to this tradition but is dangerous advice. It isn't a good idea to play doctor or therapist where medications or relationships are concerned. A friend who is a psychiatrist asked me not long ago when I was telling him about the "experts" in meetings, "And how many people have they killed with such advice?" Good question.

I know that I have leaned hard on my sponsor more than once to give advice on relationships. But I have a wise sponsor who tells me to keep the focus on myself. I do not know what is best for another person. We should each be free to ask for outside professional help, but never set ourselves up as professionals nor set another up as a professional to us, and that includes sponsors.

The 8th Tradition is one that reminds me that what I am to do in meetings is talk about my experience, not my opinion; not give advice, but try to give hope. If I do make suggestions, they should be spiritual in nature rather than advice about actions to take. Thankfully, I don't hear much "therapy" in meetings. I want to remember that Al-Anon has a spiritual approach and that is how the message is carried.

I also need to realize that I am not an expert on the workings of Al-Anon but simply do service work as needed. We have no paid staff but volunteers in this district. Just for today, it is a good idea for me to stick close to the message of Al-Anon as I encounter it in my home group and at others.

(Check out Steve's blog Another Sober Alcoholic for the AA perspective on this tradition. We're collaborating to bring you our thoughts on the traditions that bind us together in harmony).


  1. talk about my experience, not my opinion; not give advice, but try to give hope - those are good words, in any situation in life... i like this traditin. an expert you may not be, but you 'speak' from the heart, and from experience, and i always value your opinions.

  2. I guess that this tradition helps us to recognize that all the 'expert' help we need is really already within us. Thanks Syd, for the post.

  3. I really like what you have to say in this post.

  4. I love the equality. Also identify with the bit about the great DOKTORS of AA who advise about psych meds. I've been throught that and thank God I made it through it. Always love you post.

  5. Syd, some of your thoughts on Eighth Tradition I wish I had written--HEY! I DID!. Funny how some of this is the same for both programs--well, not funny.

    Thank you for seeing this through with me--I might not have persevered without your writings and support. .

    We'll save 10, 11, and 12 for early next week if that's Ok with you.

    Your friend in recovery,
    Steve E.

  6. Hey, Syd, if you EVER come to Naples, I'd sure be quick to set up an Alanon/AA (You and Me) Speaker Hour at my home group "The Naples Group. About 200 people at that meeting hear a speaker each week, once a month, Alanon-AA-partnering for the hour. In fact, we could do one in the morning at a 7AM, then the 8PM. See, I've got it all worked out--didn't even need God! LOL

  7. The meetings I go to are run very professionally......... I'm so blessed... because they keep al-anon pure.... due to the good upholding of the Traditions.

    Great post.

  8. It would not have worked for me, if I had to pay a fee or thought that the person talking to me was only doing their job. It was in the simple act of giving, by other, that the miracle happened for me.


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