More and more, I am hearing the Three Obstacles to Success in Al-Anon being read at meetings. I like to hear these because it services as a reminder that Al-Anon discussions should be constructive, helpful, loving, and understanding. In striving toward these ideals, we avoid topics which can lead to dissension and that can distract us from our goals.
So here are the Three Obstacles:
1. DISCUSSION OF RELIGION: Al-Anon is not allied with any religion. It is a spiritual program, based on no particular form of religion. Everyone is welcome, no matter of what affiliation or none. Let us not defeat our purpose by entering into discussions concerning specific religious beliefs.
2. GOSSIP: We meet to help ourselves and others learn and use the Al-Anon philosophy. In such groups, gossip can have no part in our program. We do not discuss members or others, and particularly not the alcoholic. Our dedication to anonymity gives people confidence in Al-Anon. Careless repeating of matters heard at Al-Anon meetings can defeat the very purpose for which we are joined together.
3. DOMINANCE: Our leaders are chosen not to govern, but to serve. No member of Al-Anon should direct, assume authority, or give advice. Our program is based on suggestion, interchange of experience, and rotation of leadership. Any attempt to manage or direct is likely to have serious consequences for group harmony.
Religion is not something that I want to hear in meetings. I am not a religious person in the sense of being a part of an organized religion. I was raised in the Episcopal church and later attended the Presbyterian Church on the island where I live. I am glad to have experienced church school, sermons, and been brought up in the teachings of the church. But I am also glad to be among a fellowship where no one religion is The Way.
We have many "Gods of our understanding" in this world. Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Mormon, etc. They all have their own God, believe differently and are all sure their teaching is the correct way to believe. But I don't believe God created all the different religions and beliefs, people did. I'm not offended by what others believe at all. I just prefer not to have their beliefs discussed at meetings.
Al-Anon is about unity. And when religion is brought in, unity goes out the window. Scripture quoting in meetings, especially when it is done in the fashion of "It's in the Bible so it's the law of the land" is uncomfortable for me. I wonder "Who's land?" Not the land of a Muslim or Jew. If I were a Muslim and quoted from the Qur'an , that would be my Bible. If someone consistently quoted scripture from the Qur'an, Christians could be offended and given the times, such might seem blasphemous.
So, I think harmony comes when we don't bring up religion in meetings. Some groups opt to say the Lord's Prayer, but others simply say the Al-Anon declaration. I am glad that everyone is included regardless of their religion and that the "God of our understanding" can be as defined by each of us.
Gossip is another obstacle. I don't like gossip. It is hurtful and often based on false information. To me, meetings are a safe place where we do not discuss members or others, and particularly not the alcoholic. While it is important to take our own inventory, it is not part of our program to take the inventory of the alcoholic, and especially not air it out to others.
Not gossiping reminds me to keep the focus where it needs to be: on me. I spent way too much of my life making alcoholics my Higher Power. It did nothing but harm when I focused on what others did and then used that as ammunition to justify my feelings and what I was doing.
I realize now that by seeing what others do and inventorying how that affects me, I can use the information to make good decisions for myself. I cannot fix the alcoholic's problems. That is not my business. But treating others in a dignified way is my business. Gossip robs me and others of dignity.
Finally, dominance means that egos run the meetings. God has been edged out. I believe that it is important to check our egos at the door. There is no place in Al-Anon for governing and telling others what to do.
I think that reading of these obstacles in a meeting is a good idea and helps remind each of us to keep the group healthy.