Lou posted about her experience of chairing a workshop on sponsorship at an Al-Anon convention and was using the Big Book as an example of working Step Four. A couple of people in the audience spoke up that it wasn't conference approved. So I thought that I'd offer some information that I have found useful as to why it isn't used in Al-Anon meetings (Note: the BB and other literature may be used in step meeting and sponsor meetings that aren't approved by WSO).
- Why can’t the A.A. “big book,” Alcoholics Anonymous, be studied at Al-Anon meetings?
- For what Traditions is use of the “big book” inconsistent with and why?
- Why is the actual source material that Al-Anon was developed from being put aside?
- The “big book” is the authority on alcoholism; why would we keep it from our membership?
“Conference Approved Literature” came about from discussions held at Al-Anon’s very first World Service Conference in 1961. The first few Conferences developed a process to give conceptual approval for the development of Al-Anon literature, and it was the will of the Conference to recommend exclusive use of CAL in Al-Anon meetings. Although the Conference grandfathered in several existing Al-Anon pieces, in keeping with Traditions One, Three, Five, and Six, the A.A. big book was not among them.
The exclusive use of CAL in Al-Anon meetings supports Al-Anon’s First Tradition: that personal progress for the greatest number depends upon unity. Al-Anon’s Third Tradition states that as a group we have no other affiliation. According to our Fifth Tradition, our one purpose is to help families of alcoholics. Our Sixth Tradition states we are a separate entity that should always cooperate with A.A.
As it states on page 94 of the 2006-2009 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual, “It is well to remember that all A.A. literature is written for and from the viewpoint of alcoholics and is not Al-Anon/Alateen Conference Approved Literature. Reliance on opinions expressed in A.A. and other outside publications can distort the Al-Anon approach, particularly for the newcomer.”
The big book is the authority on alcoholism from the perspective and experience of the alcoholic. It does not reflect the perspective or experience of the families and friends of alcoholics. It was not the original source for the Al-Anon program. The original source of the Al-Anon program was the shared experiences of families and friends of alcoholics and their application of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
Of course, as part of their personal recovery, Al-Anon members are always free to read any materials they choose outside of an Al-Anon meeting. Many find reading A.A. materials helpful in understanding the disease of alcoholism, but since time is so limited it is important to stick with Al-Anon materials in Al-Anon meetings. Those wishing to receive help in understanding the A.A. focus can usually find an open A.A. meeting.
In sponsoring, I use the BB and the AA 12 x 12, just as my sponsor had me do. I also use Al-Anon books and pamphlets. The best explanation that I have for not using the BB or AA literature in regular Al-Anon meetings is that these are separate programs. The newcomer who comes to Al-Anon is generally in a lot of pain from living with alcoholism. It could be off putting and confusing for someone coming to Al-Anon to hear information about the "other" program.
I believe in singleness of purpose for AA and the same for Al-Anon. When I go to an open AA meeting, I don't share even when called upon. I am not an alcoholic. But I get a great deal from reading and studying and going to AA meetings. Hopefully this clarifies that we always cooperate with AA but we aren't AA.
I think that Lou's willingness to do service work and step up to do a workshop is a great thing. Each of us learns how the program works. I have learned much from the traditions and why they are important in guiding our relationships with others and in keeping each program "pure".