Monday, February 22, 2010

Dogged and worse

I talked with my sponsor this morning.  During the conversation I mentioned that one of the events at the Al-Anon convention was lead by a declared alcoholic who also happens to be a GR for a group that he started in the area.  He is energetic, enthusiastic and glad to be of service.  The conundrum is that he is also an active member of one of the open AA meetings that I attend.  I see him there when I go, have heard him declare himself an alcoholic, and see him as a GR at our district meeting.

I know, as does my sponsor, that the World Service manual is clear that alcoholics cannot start an Al-Anon meeting nor can they serve at the level of GR.  I've written about that before on here.  My sponsor sees no problem that someone with long-term sobriety would serve as a GR.  I disagree simply because I do believe that these are separate fellowships.  Once an alcoholic serves as GR,  regardless of how enthusiastic the person is, then a precedent is set in which others will do the same.  I know that we both have strong feelings in opposition here.

There is a district meeting coming up in March.  I am struggling with whether to bring this up as a topic under new business.  Perhaps it could be handled by copying information from the service manual and stressing that "double winners" don't serve in GR capacities.  But what if the alcoholic remains silent and decides to continue as GR and the "leader" for the group?  It is a question of how dogmatic I want to be and whether I want to push the point.

One part of me says "back off" because feelings will be hurt.  The other part of me believes so much in the traditions and in keeping Al-Anon at the level of GR and above for just Al-Anons. I go to open AA meetings and don't share, much less sign up for service. I have no problem at all with other service positions being fulfilled by "double winners". They may sponsor, serve as secretary, treasurer, work in outreach, and do a host of other service activities.  And alcoholics have the right to the same recovery that I have found in the Al-Anon fellowship.  The only requirement for membership is that they are affected by alcoholism in a relative or friend.

My father used to tell me that I always wanted to carry my point.  I wonder whether this is another example of the dogmatism that has served me well at achieving goals over the years. But hurting others due to a dogmatic attitude is a different thing.  I am going to pray about this and see what my inventory tells me.  Do I need to just say "how important is it?" or do I need to make it important?


  1. I share this desire of yours, to fix the world for others. I still remember the agony of listening to a teacher in high school teach the 'slope of a line' wrong, in science class. All my classmates would be misled! I had to speak up so they wouldn't be harmed irrevocably! (Imagine going through life without knowing the right way to calculate the slope of a line... Tee hee.) I ended up in the prinicpal's office for insubordination. That teacher didn't have a sense of humor. :) I guess I didn't, either.

    Anyway, I wish you peace on this one. I find it useful to try out my concerns on a few other people (sponsor plus a few other trusted Al-Anon friends) and be guided by their response.

  2. For me, I have to get really honest and clear on my motives and intentions. Maybe this person is not aware of the "rules" and just needs to be told in private.

  3. Well, Syd, I'm the one who doesn't follow the rules, even when I should. This relates to my own childhood issues, where I was never heard. I grew up insisting on "doing my own thing" and "showing them". I'm also striving for balance.

    Could it start with a group consciense of the people who voted him GR? It's a tough one, let us know what you decide.

  4. Yep. It's a conundrum. How far do you go to get a point across, and for what motive? We had a difficult situation with a group treasurer who insisted she hadn't been intoxicated when she hit a parked car and was arrested for driving under the influence. I knew differently, since I had tried just moments before the incident to prevent her from getting behind the wheel. No one else knew but me, and the group seemed to buy her story. I ended up praying for guidance, acceptance, and good judgment. Lo and behold, an old timer handled the situation with grace and without humiliating the woman. Hm. I didn't have to take action at all. It obviously wasn't my place to do so. Good luck. Prayer can never harm anything.

  5. As a former member of both fellowships (I've not been active in Al-Anon for ~10 years), I can certainly see the utility of this "rule" and would support you in bringing it to the attention of those involved (the group, the GR, the district, etc.). It seems to be an important principle to be practiced without exception.

    Blessings and aloha...

  6. Keep talking about it and pray a little. See what happens.

  7. You say "One part of me says "back off" because feelings will be hurt."
    That would not be my reason at all. I would not go out of my way to hurt someone's feelings; however, we know there are good reasons why the different twelve step programs have separate rules. Not to separate. To keep it totally safe for each person in the separate fellowship. I know you will get this worked out within yourself and know you have come to the right conclusion for you and your community. Good post, honest and open.

  8. What precisely is a GR?

    By "declared alcoholic", I take it you mean a person still in active addiction?...

    I don't get precisely what AlAnon is, because although I'm sure we have it over here, as well as Adfam, which is for the families of drug addicts, AA and NA are far more popular. PS under the arcane British trademarking laws, which allow companies and organizations to reserve their names ONLY in the arena in which they trade, AA also means the Automobile Association. A documentary on TV some years ago included a rather amused telephonicular supervisor pointing out that often 1st thing in the morning, amongst the motorway breakdowns, you get slurry drinkers all tearful because they're lapsed yet again... which used to amuse me but these days I see nothing funny about relapse or addiction of any kind. It is all a thoroughly nasty business and I truly wish I'd never had anything to do with it.

    All the best. Gottta fly, about to be terminated by the library's computer!


  9. A difficult choice, to be sure. I've learned in Al-Anon that there will be situations with which I strongly disagree, but I can only state my opinion, calmly, and then I must let go and let God.

  10. Good luck, Syd.

    Maybe the adage "Principles over Personalities" is helpful to consider--in fact I'm sure that IS the conundrum.

    Traditions I've been recently told (again) are more important to the overall fellowship(s) than the steps.

    I like what "Enchanted Oak" wrote, that an old timer took care of it in a caring and loving manner.

  11. I think in being responsible and respectful to yourself and your own convictions bringing it up at the district meeting would be useful. What others do with the information is up to them. Whether this person comes forth and is honest is part of his program and conscience....which is something you can't control.

  12. I am a little confused. Would you be breaking his anonymity by bringing this up? IMO, if the book says he is not eligible it is open and shut. I like rules. I like everyone to follow the rules. It makes life simple. If we use the guidelines that world services so painstakingly set down for us, we cannot go wrong right? There must be a very good reason for the rule. Maybe he is not aware. We had a kind of similar issue at my intergroup. The rules clearly stated a minimum amount of sobriety for a certain position. Everyone was ready to overlook it for the "greater good." If she does not do it (unqualified person) then who will? I suggested we stick to the rules and trust God with that one. I was voted down.

  13. All I can give is my experience. I was the GR of an Alanon group when I finally came to the realization of my Alcoholism.

    I was honest with those at District level, a wonderful long time Alanon member whom I love and trust told me to continue to serve - don't ask/don't tell - that person had also provided me with a conference manual which gave me the information I needed to make an honest inventory of my situation. After that approach which showed me so much love and acceptance and in my reading of the traditions and principles myself, in my own gut it felt wrong because I wanted to live by the principles and traditions and I believed that there were others who COULD step into the position if I vacated it. I couldn't live with secrets anymore.

    After some prayer and soul searching I stepped down from the Alanon GR position, knowing there was a room full of people who should by definition of the principles be willing to uphold the group and traditions through service to the group.

    I was honest with the group and district and I served in that position through a commitment I made to help co-chair the District conference that year.

    Through that experience I learned that suggestion of a truth in my experience opens a spiritual pathway (that I don't have to be scared to uphold a group principle for consideration) but I do have to allow the group conscience to carry the final determination.

    I know another Alanon member in the district I'm in who also openly joined AA and is still, as far as I know, very active in Alanon at district levels and beyond. When she asked why she doesn't see me at district meetings any more I told her my experience and what I learned in reading the Service Manual.

    I just knew in my gut it was the right thing for me and the group around me.

    Alanon is full of love and acceptance, there are plenty of "pure" alanon members to keep the group afloat, I do often wonder about the whole idea of double-winner and how that relates to healthy group dynamics.

  14. A minefield Syd.
    Principles, principles. My advice for what it is worth is to keep it to principles. The world service book advises a particular state of equilibrium. Then stick to that. Let the traditions and world service be your guide. If a group is not sticking to it and you feel that this in someway threatens, waters down the stability of Al Anon then bring it up at the meeting. Refer to the guidelines, thats what they are there for. Then leave it in the hands of the collective conscience of the meeting to decide what to do. Speak to your sponsor first about any action you intend to take. Talk in a moderated voice low and calm. But most important of all, and I hope you take this in the right way. Be sure that this is about principles and not personalities. Take any personal feeling or emotion out and if its still right to go ahead, then have courage. Courage is something I do not believ you are short of that and wisdom. Take care of yourselfand your wife.

  15. This is tough and it's also one of the sticking points I've had with AA in WV, they are incredibly dogamtic in the town I live in and have no issue telling someone they can or can't do something without consideration nor prayer and turning it over.

    I am not an incredibly dogmatic person but I understand the need for our tradtions and our priciples indeed, there is much good advice to think/pray on here.

    Keep us posted.

  16. "The only requirement for membership is that they are affected by alcoholism in a relative or friend."

    I would have to say that this is the defining statement here Syd.

  17. I have tremendous respect for people who are willing to stand up and tell the truth, and you know what that is. There is a world of misunderstanding out there, much of which is reflected in these comments.

    I think at this juncture, most AA members are totally out of control, don't want to follow any traditions or "rules" and think those who want to retain the integrity of our programs are all kinds of negative things.

    If they have their way, they will destroy AA and apparently Alanon too. Just more self-centeredness.

    It is obvious to me that your motives are about preserving the integrity of Alanon and you should not have to second guess yourself for that.

  18. A tough call Syd -- but if the principle is important enough then you may have to push for that principle to be respected.

  19. Good luck on this Syd. I am a double winner but have been made of this rule that you are referring.

  20. Twice this morning I have found myself commenting on a Al-Anon issue to which I am really not entitled to do.
    My belief is that we stand up for the traditions and let God sort out the results.
    It's hard.
    It's always hard to be the one to speak up.

  21. I don't have any experience with this topic, but you seem to have a handle on it and prayer should deliver the answer.

  22. Hi Syd,
    This entire issue is quite a paradox. The traditions point out that any one affected by the disease of alcoholism in a relative or friend is qualified . . . And, almost hypocritically, the World Service manual points out that AA members who also practice and attend Al-Anon meetings are not eligible to hold office that may lead to a connection with the World Service.

    I have such mixed emotions about this - - - and I accept that many alcoholics are in good recovery, and want what we in Al-Anon have - - - peace and serenity.

    Al-Anon encourages its members to get into service for a well-rounded recovery, in addition to having a sponsor, working the steps and traditions, and being at least knowledgeable about the concepts. I see the light in many members' eyes' at this statement - and they become eager to follow in the footsteps of the recovering Al-Anon.

    As hard as it is to accept, alcoholism is still not a socially acceptable disorder/disease,dysfunction - whatever any one wishes to name it. This puts many of these folks on the defensive, and quite often I have seen them express embarrassment and shame at having the problem - - - thus the importance for anonymity - both from the family and friends, but from all who work both programs.

    It is truly a paradox, a dilemma - - - and I shall once again put this comment I'm making here in my God box.

    I agree that principles above personalities is an important 'tenet' - - - but I also see that this somehow creates a somewhat punitive attitude to those recovering in the program of AA.

    Enough said. I know - I am flipping from one side to the other - - - this is really a puzzlement!

    Thanks for bringing up the topic. I would reiterate something I did say to you in an earlier message - - - I think that better communication of 'rules and regulations' needs to happen - in both fellowships - thus hopefully alleviating all the misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

    God bless - - -
    Anonymous #1

  23. This is an ongoing issue in the program to the extent of some unfortunate AA members wanting to sue the WSO over the policy.

    Through it all, the lawsuit threats and the many arguments from both AA and even some Al-Anon members in favor of allowing AA members to serve above the group level, the WSO still maintains their guidelines.

    If you do a search on the web about the policies, you'll find a lot of information regarding this.

    My question would also boil down to principles - is it for the good of the group to have an AA member as their GR? How might this affect the group members?

    There are many AA members who support the limitation, too. I've heard many say "If you let us take over service positions above the group level, then we'll take it all over eventually."

    It's important for me to have MY program. Yes, I realize there's a good percentage of Al-Anon members who may later find out they belong in AA's rooms. But what of the rest of us who will never find ourselves in that position? Do we put our well-being aside, then, to appease the Alcoholics... again?

    Great discussion.

    Every situation has its gray areas, though - there is no black and white answer to these things. I admire your dedication to visit on this with your HP and ask those important questions, like "how important is it?"

  24. How can you possibly do this without breaking his privacy? If you tell the people at alanon he's an alcoholic then you are breaking many of the AA traditions. Remember, what you hear here and who you see here please let it stay here.


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