Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Al-Anon Marshal

My home group has several newcomers who are just learning about Al-Anon. They have started to hear things that make some sense. And they are also opening up to share at meetings.

I had the topic for Monday night's meeting. Here's how the meeting went:
  • Newcomers are really digging the meeting because they are cross talking all over each other.
  • I am the Al-Anon marshal (=chair) for the night so I explained that we don't interrupt each other in meetings. (Translation: let's not have a free-for-all ladies. Remember Tradition One??)
  • The next share is by a newcomer who said that she chose to leave her active alcoholic for her emotional health.
  • The next newcomer sharing asked, "Well, aren't you supposed to stay with someone in sickness and in health? If alcoholism is a disease, then aren't we supposed to stick around with the diseased person, just as we would for a person with cancer? We wouldn't leave them, so why leave the alcoholic?"
  • I, as the Al-Anon marshal, say with a great deal of sincerity that we aren't here to question the actions of another but to share our own experience, strength and hope. (Translation: Whoa, better break this up before things get nasty!)
  • Then another newcomer started quoting biblical scripture.
  • I'm hoping that the bible quoting will be brief. It was. (Translation: I'm glad that I didn't have to explain that religion is one of the obstacles in Al-Anon).
  • Another newcomer shared that she was accosted by a drunk fellow in the grocery store. He was "stalking" her, asking for help and said that he was drunk. She wheeled around and said, "I'm Al-Anon. And you stink! Get away from me!"
  • At this point, the room erupts in laughter.
  • I am realizing that I'm really not the Al-Anon marshal here. (Translation: I'm deputy to this petite, blonde newcomer who wants to take names and kick ass)
  • After the laughter died to a chuckle, I manage to mumble something about keeping the number for the AA intergroup handy to give to drunk people who follow (=stalk) us. And that we maintain anonymity (=don't shout Al-Anon at people) via Tradition 12.
  • Finally, after the meeting ended, I talked to the person who had blown my anonymity by telling my story to a relative. (Translation: I had done a Step 10 and needed to be honest about what was bothering me).
  • I was glad to get out the door and into my car for a fast get-away.
These things happen at meetings. And it seems on this night, the meeting was more about how to have a meeting than about the topic. The chair of the meeting is supposed to make sure that the meeting has some order and that the traditions are upheld.

Newcomers are important to the fellowship. Yet, as Tradition One states, our common welfare comes first. I didn't particularly like the role of having to provide a reminder to the newcomers but maybe it will help not only them but everyone else as well.

As my sponsor said later, it seems that we hit on just about every one of the three obstacles and a few of the traditions. It was a learning experience for all of us. I'm turning in my badge for a few weeks.


  1. Syd, what were you doing in an AA meeting? hee hee

  2. The next share is by a newcomer who said that she chose to leave her active alcoholic for her emotional health.The next newcomer sharing asked, "Well, aren't you supposed to stay with someone in sickness and in health?
    Oh I love that. This very morning I was listening to a radio phone-in about so-called "tough love" and not "enabling" users of drugs... some of the excuses folks use basically to dump friends and family and be disloyal are amazing!

  3. Glad you made it out with your guns still in their holsters, pardner.

  4. way to go marshal! I'm still pretty much a newcomer myself, so I know how it can be when you aren't familiar with the traditions or steps added to the fact that you're so frustrated over the alcoholism in your life. You're an asset to your group by taking it in stride and gently leading them back to the Al-Anon way.

  5. wow, you're a gutsy one. had me laughing here. well, a touch of humour is like a ray of sunlight, right?!?!?!

  6. I would of left the meeting holding my head. Very humorous outtake on the meeting. At times it's hard to have patience and realize we were all just as belligerent and outspoken in the beginning. Thankfully sobriety and the meetings helped us learn the subtle lesson of humility. (Hugs)Indigo

  7. I feel for you Syd! A bunch of wound up women can definitely get off on tangents!

  8. next time just do a book study. study a tradition or something this will keep the meeting in focus. have the room read, one member can read a paragraph and share and then move on to the next with another member.

  9. Hilarious. I've chaired meetings like that, and it's like trying to hold back the tide - all that newcomer pent-up rage and frustration in one room.
    I believe it's vitally important that the chair keeps the meeting running between the lines - many of us in Al-Anon are such people-pleasers that even when we chair, we can't speak up and point out those mistakes.
    Those boundaries and limitations are what give our meetings structure, and safety.
    Thanks for a good laugh, Syd.

  10. it's when newcomers talk like this that I realize how far I have come...really. Disruptive to group, yes, but it is a reality check that I sometimes need.

  11. It sounds like a great meeting!

  12. Oh boy have I experienced this meeting :)

  13. you are a snotty one which made me laugh allover here......
    great meeting...

  14. Oh gosh that is my worst nightmare...not really, but its up there on my list. I dread the day that I am chairing a meeting and have to tame down cross-talk or make a reminder. I hate that kind of thing. I just want everyone to get along and be happy. Sounds like you did a great job!

  15. If you are the sheriff can I be Deputy Fife?? I want to carry one bullet around in my pocket---purely symbolic of course :-)


  16. Weall, Maarshall, you really harnissed them thar Phillies and kept everyone in the corral.

  17. WOW....what a meeting... I had to laugh out loud about the lady who said, "I'm Al-Anon. And you stink! Get away from me!"

    Poor Syd.... this meeting is enough to make a person need a drink (lol-only joking).

    Betty Ann

  18. Whoa! I'd seriously be getting uncomfortable about then...because I soooo try to follow the rules and I'd hate to see others NOT doing it! LOL! Blessings to you for being of such wonderful service Syd! Lisa


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