Every group ought to be fully self-supporting,
Declining outside contributions.
Our Al-Anon Family Groups ought never endorse, finance or lend our name
To any outside enterprise,
Lest problems of money, property and prestige
Divert us from our primary spiritual aim.
Although a separate entity,
We should always cooperate with Alcoholics Anonymous.
- “Although we are completely separate and unaffiliated with AA, we owe a debt of gratitude to the program from which we adopted the Twelve Steps. We cooperate with AA in a variety of ways. For example, we might offer our Al-Anon experience, strength and hope by serving as speakers at special AA meetings or conferences. Or we might share convention facilities or joint Al-Anon and AA information offices under certain conditions. The point is to graciously support the AA program when we can while maintaining our own identity.” (How Al-Anon Works p115)
It’s common for families to have members in both fellowships so holding events and conferences jointly can also make practical sense. But as with all joint ventures – be they Groups, Districts, Areas or families – cooperation depends on honest communication and good boundaries. As the literature states, we need to maintain our own identity.
This is also true of the program itself. There are always new therapies and treatments for alcoholism and the impacts of the disease. And members are often tempted to share the discoveries they’ve made. Tradition Six gives us a clear boundary when it comes to what we should or should not share in the rooms.
- A member shares, “Tradition Six, like all of the Traditions, keeps us focused on our primary spiritual focus. We are all free to pursue other therapies and philosophies outside of the rooms, but in Al-Anon we only speak Al-Anon. It keeps everything clear and safe.”
The Tradition is very clear about the problems that could arise – “problems of money, property and prestige.” Without this boundary, groups could become embroiled in money-making schemes, debts and litigation. Issues of competition, “compare and despair,” criticism, gossip and dominance could easily spoil the safe haven we’ve made for ourselves. No longer would it be safe to share our fears and memories and ask for help in a meeting. We’d be too busy protecting our flank – that is if we even attended anymore.
Luckily this tradition saves us from ourselves. We need to know that when we walk through the door of a meeting, we’ll find Al-Anon being practiced, not some new therapy – no matter how revolutionary. And we need the room to be peaceful, welcoming and democratic. The interactions in the rooms, after all, are a model for the interactions we want in our lives.
- A member shares, “I’d always thought of the traditions as a set of rules for the groups at large until one night when I was up at 4 am worrying about my finances. It suddenly occurred to me that all this worry was exactly what Tradition Six was warning against. I wasn’t serene, I wasn’t peaceful or patient or welcoming. I was a mess. Why? Because I was worried about my mortgage. And yes, we live in the world – we have responsibilities, we have ambitions and goals. But the amount of focus I was giving to these problems was seriously getting in the way of my serenity. I was totally wound up about what I could do to increase my “prestige” so that I’d earn more “money” so I could afford my “property.” I was tense and controlling and angry and resentful and sleepless – because of problems of money, property and prestige. The program was reminding me that these universal problems were secondary – that my serenity came first. Since then, I’ve simplified my life – less property requires less money – and when problems do occur, I’ve kept the focus on my serenity."
- A member shares, “In NYC, few things matter more than money, property (possessions and real estate), and prestige. How striking, then, that Al-Anon suggests we cast aside the worldly concerns that typically occupy so much of our psyche.”
Money, property and prestige - while potentially rewarding - can also divide us. People can make all sorts of assumptions about someone if they know what they have or do. Anonymity keeps these irrelevant facts irrelevant and reminds us that we’re all equal. Wisdom can come from anywhere.
- A member shares, “I once heard a qualification from a man who was confused about why his wife discussed their marital problems with a welder. She avoided talking to him--despite his doctoral degree. He remained baffled until coming to Al-Anon where he learned that in The Program the formal education that brought him respect in the “civilian” world was not particularly valued in the rooms. Instead, what matters to Al-Anonics is attentive listening, similar life experiences, and insights into to the Al-Anon steps/traditions.”
The Program gives us the opportunity to learn a new way of life – a life guided by spiritual principles. By limiting the habits that interfere with our adoption of new behaviors, we’re able to practice the life that we want to live and then take it back to our homes, schools, work and communities. Tradition Six protects this rare chance we have to transform our lives.