The Right of Decision makes effective leadership possible.
The Al-Anon Family Groups have delegated complete administrative and operational authority to their Conference and its service arms.
While we might all like to weigh in on every decision affecting our Al-Anon family, Al-Anon is vast – there are meetings all over the world. The Al-Anon community depends on a representative structure for support, communication and the creation and distribution of literature. Groups send Group Representatives to District meetings, Districts send District Representatives to Area meetings, Areas send Area Delegates to the World Service Conference – the entire structure forming a sort of pyramid with the Al-Anon groups as the foundation. Information flows up and down this structure, each level taking responsibility for the matters they’re best equipped to handle. World Service would certainly never be consulted on whether to open or close the windows at a Tuesday Hope for Today meeting in downtown Brooklyn. By the same token, World Service would never reach out to Inga who handles the Treasury at that Tuesday meeting and ask her to make a payment to the printer who just sent a thousand volumes of Courage to Change to the World Service warehouse.
Each level takes responsibility for the tasks they’ve been entrusted to perform and each level has the authority to do so. There are ample checks and balances in this representative system, groups regularly weighing with their group conscientious votes on matters shared with them and the choice of members to represent them. This insures that all the tasks that Al-Anon performs for members - providing meeting lists, maps, websites, phone bridges and literature - are consistent with Al-Anon’s Steps, Traditions and Concepts so that the hand of Al- Anon is always there when someone in need reaches out for help.
- A member shares, “Service is an integral part of my program. I participate in business meetings. I stay informed on issues effecting groups. I also am aware of the service arms’ responsibilities. Personally I support WSO. I consider them as the worldwide fellowship. It is the responsibility of the group to maintain humility and be democratic in thought and action. It is all of our responsibility to insure program.”
- A member shares, “In recently beginning a new career working with children, I have found there are some things that must be taken above me, to a supervisor or even a city-wide organization. This protects me and the children I am trying to serve. Growing up in alcoholism, I learned to keep problems to myself and deal with them alone. As a child, I got a deep cut on my foot, but I hid the injury from my mom to avoid worrying her and being scolded. As an adult in Al-Anon, I've learned that some rules and authorities can help me live my life and understand what is my responsibility. Just like I don't have to manage my life on my will alone, I don't have to face every problem in my professional life on my own. As delegating particular authority to the Conference helps Al-Anon groups focus on their primary spiritual aim, I can utilize systems created in my work life to keep the focus on things I can control.”
Many of us who grew up in alcoholic homes learned early to depend only on ourselves. It wasn’t safe to trust the alcoholic – or the al-anonic. The rules were always changing. We never knew where we stood, what was okay, when we’d be punished. It was just easier to do it all ourselves. As adults, however, this over-reliance on ourselves leads to all kinds of problems - isolation, distrust, hyper-vigilance, loneliness, arrogance and control topping the list. What a relief it is to learn that we came by all this honestly, that it helped us survived, but that through the practice of the Al-Anon program we can move beyond these unhelpful habits and join with others to accomplish so much more than we ever could on our own.
- A member shares, “It’s so hard for me to ask for help – to ask for anything really. I remember when I finally focused on the last phrase of Step 11 - “... asking only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.” That scared me so much. Number one I had to ask for something. Number two, someone else was in charge – which meant I wasn’t going to get what I wanted and since that had always been how I kept myself safe, I was now totally vulnerable. But I stuck with it and the longer I stayed in program, the more I started to see that I just might be able to ask for help if… well, if I were flat on my back in a hospital. Or if I planned it out ahead of time so it seemed like I was just asking for “cooperation” on a project. Or if I prayed and prayed and prayed. Which was really the answer. Because the closer I got to my Higher Power, the less I cared what other people thought and the more I was drawn to people who were actually trustworthy. That was key. I had to let go of toxic people and start depending on trustworthy people. And then I had to ask for what I wanted and be very clear about all the boundaries. And finally, I had to listen. Because that was how I finally started understanding HP’s will for me. And just like that, my life started to take off.”
This concept teaches us to rely on other people. We can’t do it all. But together we can accomplish miracles. How do we depend on one another in a healthy way? Learning how to set boundaries is important as is listening to others and assuming positive intent. We also need to learn how to let go. When we ask someone for help and delegate a responsibility, it’s important to practice humility and to hand over the authority along with the job.
- “In order to rely on others, I had to practice humility and willing give up some tasks. More difficult, in order to elicit another’s willingness to help I had to give up insisting that my way was the only way a task could be done. I realize more than ever that I am not God, that tasks will get done and that I don’t have to do them all myself. When I have done what I can, I am now able to say to another, “I need you. Will you help me?” Life has become much richer since I have learned the concept of reliance and trust in my fellow human beings.” Paths to Recovery p 260
- A member shares, “One of my specialties is diving in and taking on problems, intellectually and emotionally. I work in the service profession. So when one of my constituents is troubled, the amount of emotional agitation I spend trying to “fix” is truly breathtaking—even to me. Concept Two says “boundaries” to me. It’s “easy does it” personified. I do this. They do that.”
- A member shares, “This concept is about letting go of the things that don't belong to me, letting god handle them. When I’m far from that, I can come to a loving, supportive environment and talk to people who “get” me. When I fail at keeping out of others’ affairs again and again, I’m not scorned. I’m merely invited to do things differently and consistently presented with an array of tools to use whenever I’m ready to use them.”
We start by trusting in a Higher Power. Then we trust a sponsor in Steps four and five. Then others in steps eight through ten. Until finally we are ready in Step twelve to share our good fortune. And then here come the Traditions to help us work with others in our home groups and the Concepts to help us hold hands with members around the world. We truly are blessed.