The Al-Anon Family Groups have delegated complete administrative and operational authority to their Conference and its service arms.
The ultimate responsibility and authority for Al-Anon world services
belongs to the Al-Anon groups.
In many respects, the Concepts were developed as a response to a luxury problem. In 1951, there were 50 registered Al-Anon Family Groups; by 1961 there were over 1500 groups. The Clearing House – started by Lois and Anne B. to help coordinate the original 50 groups – couldn’t keep up with the demands for information and guidance and so in 1961 a new service structure was formed – the Al-Anon World Service Conference. In 1963 it became a permanent part of the Al-Anon calendar, meeting annually to hear from delegates from all over the world and help establish policy. Once this body was formed, the question of responsibility became paramount. Who was in charge? As usual, the Traditions had the answer: “For our group purpose there is but one authority – a loving god as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” In other words, the delegates attending the World Service Conference were just that – delegates. The ultimate authority rests with the groups they represent who in turn receive their wisdom through the group conscience.
- “The groups exercise their ultimate authority by wisely electing people to speak for them, keeping these representatives informed through the group conscience, and then trusting them to do their jobs. In Al-Anon ultimate responsibility is exercised with loving care and wisdom.” Paths to Recovery p251
With authority comes responsibility. What are the groups’ responsibilities?
- “Ultimately the primary unit of Al-Anon – the group – is responsible for becoming informed, discussing the matters at hand and relaying its decisions through its representatives. An informed group conscience is essential. As members of a group, we participate by becoming informed ourselves, listening to others and adding our voice and vote to the matters being considered. Together the groups, through their representatives, decide matters that affect their district, area and the fellowship as a whole. Together the groups share responsibility for the survival of Al-Anon. They contribute their experience, strength and hope as well as their time, effort and money.” Paths to Recovery p250
- A member shares, “I’ve thought a lot about responsibility since the last election. Regardless of how you felt about either candidate, the fact is that only 58% of eligible voters voted. That leaves over 40% of the population unrepresented and the country badly served. The same applies to Al-Anon. The program needs us as much as we need it. We have to become informed about the issues facing our service organizations – LDCs, Intergroups, Districts, Areas and the WSO. Are they making their budgets? What are the outreach needs? How can we help? Without our participation, the organizations will whither away. There will be no new literature published, no PSAs or outreach, no websites with information for the newcomer, no up-to-date meeting lists. We who have spent so much time on other people might think about devoting a little bit of time to Al-Anon. Just sayin’.”
These ideas of authority, responsibility and accountability are easily extended to our personal lives, starting with the family. Boundaries are often confused in alcoholic homes.
- “Sometimes we take on all authority and responsibility because we assume the alcoholic is incapable and needs our help. At other times, the alcoholic is the driving force in everything, and we passively follow along because we are afraid of provoking an incident, or we want approval from the alcoholic. Many alcoholic families have little or no experience with shared responsibility and balanced authority.” Reaching for Personal Freedom p124
- A member shares, “Concept 1 introduced to me an alternative concept of responsibility and authority than what I learned in my dysfunctional family of origin. Growing up, messages about responsibility were all messed up. My alcoholic father had none, and there were no consequences for him or his actions. My mother had all the responsibility AND all the control - including over me. I was not allowed to question or to divert. I had to be like a soldier so as not to cause more stress on the delicately balanced system. However responsibility for everyone's happiness somehow was mine, which gave me a twisted sense of subhuman power. Concept one gives me the opportunity to be responsible for what is mine, whether I want to deal with it or not, and to give back what is not my responsibility. It gives everyone the dignity of failing or succeeding with the help of their own HP and this feels empowered and in growth. Lastly it gives me the authority over my own life, my decisions and my well-being - the only authority that I truly have.”
So where do our responsibilities lie?
- “Concept One teaches me that I am an individual person separate from other human beings, and as such I have no responsibility for or authority over them. I still have people in my life who want me to take on their responsibilities. However, Al-Anon helps to make clear delineations between what does and doesn’t belong to me. I also give me tools - such as detachment, “Live and Let Live,” Step Ten, and keeping the focus on me – to help me keep those demarcations clear.” Hope for Today p29
- A member shares, a passage from Alanon’s Reaching for Personal Freedom and what it means to her: ‘I have a kind of love/hate relationship with responsibility. When the alcoholic stole from me, I assumed responsibility because I didn’t hide my checkbooks in a safer hiding place. When my doctor challenged me to try Alanon, I didn’t want the responsibility for my recovery. Now when I use Concept One, I realize that I am not responsible for the blizzard outside. However, I am responsible for leaving 20 minutes early for work, so that I can my time and drive safely. I am not responsible for the chaos around me. I am, however, responsible for my words and actions.’ This passage not only resonated with me—it WAS me. From my very first jobs—first as a babysitter, then as a cashier in the local market—my mom instructed me to hide my wages. She explained that my brother stole from everyone in the house. But she avoided confronting him, modeling a culture of silence and shoving me into a victim role that I still hold dear. Throughout his life my now sixty-year-old brother has struggled with substance abuse. I still turn myself into a pretzel to take on responsibilities that are not mine. And, like the Reaching storyteller I often resent and resist taking care of myself and steering my own course. Yet I do have the good sense to keep coming back to Alanon.”
Concept One not only sets up a model for the healthy functioning of all kinds of organizations, it provides practical answers for our personal lives.
- A member shares, “No one in the rooms expects my behavior to be a paradigm of good health. Instead, I am offered the opportunity for self-reflection and tools like Reaching to assess my own behavior with probing questions like:
In what situations have I allowed myself to assume responsibilities that should have been mine?
The goal of the steps, traditions, and concepts is not to punish me when I fail, but to keep me honest and to warmly encourage me to move forward.”
- A member shares, “The best quote I can give is directly out of Paths to Recovery: 'Concept One reaffirms that I am responsible for my own life. I can't expect others to do for me what I can do for myself, nor do I assume responsibility for them. I have responsibility for my life and can choose when to welcome others into it. We share together, work together and grow individually.’”
The Concepts bring us full circle. Having recovered thanks to the Steps and salvaged our relationships thanks to the Traditions, we can now go back into the world in a balanced and healthy way thanks to the Concepts.
- A member shares, “I think the progression through the Legacies is really interesting. In the steps, we learn that we’re often misplacing our authority and responsibilities. I discovered that I was wasting time and energy on problems that didn’t belong to me and that I was powerless over – and that as a result I was neglecting my own life. In the Traditions, we learn to work together – that unity is the key to progress for all. This was really helpful to me when I had to make decisions about my family. When I could remember that my responsibility was progress for the greatest number, instead of focusing on blame or anger, I always chose unity. And in the Concepts, I finally discovered my ultimate responsibility – service. Service was the right place to pour my misplaced energy. It’s a lot like what happened when I had a baby. I discovered where all that “mothering” energy belonged – not cleaning up after the drunk but taking care of an infant who genuinely needed me. So thanks to the legacies, all the energy I might have used trying to fix people now goes into doing service in Al-Anon.”
The Steps, Traditions and Concepts are inspired documents, written by members practicing the principles and guided by their Higher Power. The Al-Anon Legacies, they are a unified path to recovery and a bridge back to life.