Tuesday, March 11, 2014

There are no "musts"?

In Al-Anon, I often hear that there are no “musts”. Nobody tell others what to do about a situation. Newcomers are suggested not to make any major decisions during the first six months after coming to Al-Anon, simply because as we keep coming back and begin to get better, our perspective and attitudes change.

In healthy meetings, no one tells any one else what to do.  No one person is supposed to dominate.  And I've learned by working with those I sponsor that I can't enforce the unenforceable.

But I do know that if people are to get better and approach anything like serenity, half measures won't work. Half measures don't avail us half results; "half measures avail us nothing" (from Alcoholics Anonymous).  I heard this in a meeting a while ago: "I have to tell you from my 4 years of Half-Assing and No Musting, I think the folks that Get In, Do It, and Get Better are a WHOLE Lot Smarter than I found myself to be."

So my recovery was contingent on my working the whole program, not to cherry-pick the pieces that I liked. My sponsor told me what had worked for him and thousands of others. I took his suggestion to heart and action.  When I got stuck on a step, he described how he had gotten unstuck from the same step. 

I hear people in meetings talk about working the steps on their own. It's my opinion that trying to do these steps by ourselves constitutes attempting to fix what’s wrong with us with what’s wrong with us.  As much as we need to learn the “program”, we simply need help in it’s interpretation through the eyes and experience of someone who has made it work successfully.  

Also, I didn't want to intellectualize serenity.  I wanted a spiritual solution. If not for having an “unbiased” but caring bystander, I would not be able to see more clearly and understand those portions of myself that I have had a great deal of trouble dealing with.  And if you’re not sure what I’m referring to, there’s no doubt a sponsor or a spiritual mentor would be of great benefit.

Steps worked in solitary, are neither verifiable nor accountable, by virtue of our perversity when we first arrive. I know that I wasn't capable of applying a “program” I knew little about, and the results I would have gotten would have no doubt reflected that. 

I heard at the Al-Anon Convention this year a member say, "There are no musts in Al-Anon ... unless you want to heal and then there are twelve."


  1. Very good advice. Based on experience. Yours and as you said, thousands of others. I remember my beloved father-in-law and how he would say, "I'm not going to tell you what to do but I'll tell you how I would do it." And he would and it was your choice as to how to proceed. So wise.

  2. EXCELLENT post... in every conceivable way.

  3. we all have different stories...and how the steps play out in our lives will be different...i think it is good to hear how others got through them or through the problem itself...we cant expect our journey to be the exact same...or expect that of someone else either....

  4. food for me to think about. How would I find (or choose?) a sponsor or mentor (and what's the difference?) Rx

    1. Rachel, a sponsor is someone who is in Al-Anon who has worked the 12 steps and has a sponsor too. A spiritual mentor or advisor can be a trusted friend, clergy, or a person whom you trust. I chose a fellow within program because that is where I thought my anonymity would be protected and the person would best be able to guide me through the steps.

  5. Great post, but I especially LOVE that last sentence!

  6. Hi Syd,

    In reference to your last blog paragraph about healing through no musts, I heard something similar at an Al-Anon Convention several years ago, which stated, "If you really want to recover from the pain, the answer is in the study of the twelve steps; otherwise, we will be happy to refund your misery." I can remember how confusing this was for me when I heard it, since I was still wearing my misery 'like a crown' - - - - but, as you already pointed out in this blog, hanging on to the coattails of a longtimer was all-important, and therapeutic. I did not always have to agree with a sponsor, but I learned to listen to many voices, and make choices for myself.

    Al-Anon provided me with a new language, as well as an acceptance of situations that I could not, and still cannot understand or approve. It's amazing to me how so many change their thoughts after a thorough study of the program, using all the tools offered by a thorough sponsor (nope, you do not need to like 'em - - - just need to respect 'em).

    Love ya,
    Anonymous #1

  7. So many truths here. And one of the most important ones is doing it WITH someone. Sometimes our thinking is so warped it requires another's perspective to guide it into the right direction. Over and above the fact that something verbalised makes it more real, it also means saying that which you fear causes it to lose its hold over you. Win Win


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