Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion;
We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV and films.
We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.
The Al-Anon Family Groups have no opinion on outside issues;
Hence our name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- A member shares, “Tradition 10 insures that meetings are safe spaces. Putting a boundary between Al-Anon and any outside issues, be they political, social or otherwise, makes it easier to surrender to the power of Al-Anon. For me, as an agnostic, at the times when I'm doubtful of an HP, with a capital H, it makes it possible for me to still have faith in Al-Anon. The 10th tradition insures that Al-Anon remains neutral in opinion and accessible to all.”
This is not a trivial issue. If meetings aren’t safe, Al-Anon members have no place to go. We have all tried other solutions. They didn’t work. This is how we ended up in Al-Anon. We need to insure that Al-Anon recovery is always there for anyone who needs it.
- A member shares, “In reflecting on the 10th tradition what comes to mind is the enormity of alcoholism’s burden. In 2016 the disease is nominally on the public agenda. It makes the news and celebrities openly cop to it. Yet the impact on friends and families is still given short shrift. Behind the headlines, being and living with an alcoholic remains a devastating personal secret. We experience the all-consuming struggle that can seep into each segment of our lives. Undoubtedly countless kindred spirits suffer silently. With few treatment opportunities for alcoholics, there are even fewer resources for friends and family. But lack of an appropriate forum didn’t stop Lois. And it doesn’t stop us. We help ourselves, using all the bounty Al-Anon offers. In the rooms, I’ve found my only safe harbor. It’s the place where I can lighten my emotional load and loosen the overpowering shame. In the rooms, I receive the support of peers and learn coping strategies to apply to my own life. In the rooms, I find the freedom to be me, over and over again. The time I give to Al-Anon is, by comparison, a tiny drop of energy compared to the effort expended struggling with alcoholism’s impact. In this world of lackluster resources and feeling like there's no other place to go, leaving other issues behind and focusing on the disease just seems right to me.”
Without meetings and an actively engaged membership, there are few opportunities for recovery. Which is why the founders of AA and then Al-Anon saw the wisdom of establishing Tradition Ten and weren’t shy about it. The language is clear – “The Al-Anon Family Groups have no opinion on outside issues.” They didn’t say they shouldn’t have an opinion or that it would be best if they didn’t have an opinion. They said they have no opinion. Now obviously this is a matter of policy – the Al-Anon groups will not express an opinion publicly or maintain an opinion privately on anything other than Al-Anon. As for individual members, we are entitled to have opinions and these opinions may differ. For example, we may disagree on how a meeting should be run. Should it be a step meeting or a tradition meeting? Should members taking service positions have six months of service or a year of service? Should the window remain open or closed? Meetings traditionally resolve these differences through orderly business meetings where everyone gets to share, we take a group conscience and then we accept the decision. This is where the principle behind the Tradition comes into play – Live and Let Live. We may not always get our way in meetings or in life – and that’s a good thing. It opens us up to learning and helps us cooperate with each other. So that when we encounter each other outside meetings, we don’t demonize each other for having different ideas. We Live and Let Live. We practice Acceptance.
- “Many members feel the spirit of this Tradition makes controversy of any kind an unwelcome guest at Al-Anon meetings. Members coming from hostile atmospheres that often prevail at home may well be discouraged by controversy at meetings. Each of us, wounded by the effects of this disease in our lives, comes to the Al-Anon meeting seeking comfort and understanding, free from dissension. We are free to disagree with one another, but we try to do so without angry disputes. By avoiding rancor and controversy, Al-Anon members of differing political and ideological beliefs have been able to come together at meetings and share their experiences in dealing with alcoholism in an atmosphere of mutual respect. In Al-Anon, we can concentrate on our common bond and not on our opposite views of outside issues.” Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions p. 128
The boundary set by Tradition Ten is actually a wonderful gift. It helps us to learn about different points of view and get to know different kinds of people.
- “Thanks to Al-Anon’s Traditions, I am able to have a sponsor whose politics are abhorrent to me. Although we totally disagree on other issues, this person has helped me learn valuable lessons about serenity, courage, and wisdom. If I had insisted on a sponsor with political views exactly like my own, I would have missed out on an extraordinarily rich and beneficial relationship.” Courage to Change p. 52
- “There is room in our fellowship for members with every point of view. Taking sides would have to exclude somebody, and since every one of our members is important and worthy of our help and respect, such an exclusion would be a great loss to us all. Even if we come under criticism from those outside our program, we cannot afford to be lured into controversy. Just as we learn to stop reacting to an alcoholic’s provocation, we need not react to anyone’s opinions or prodding or be tempted to adopt a defensive or aggressive position. We must keep our focus on our primary purpose and not allow ourselves to be distracted.” How Al-Anon Works p. 119
Keep the Focus on Yourself is one of the fundamental principles of the program. Focusing on our differences takes us away from our recovery and can be a trap. It’s a short step from analyzing someone’s position to giving them advice and ending up in an argument. It’s rarely helpful and can make people very uncomfortable.
- A member shares, “I have not learned many great lessons from people who have shared their opinions about what I should do.”
Most meetings make a point of suggesting that members use first names only, that they not mention their professional or religious affiliations. These details only serve to divide us and keep us from focusing on what we have in common – our spiritual progress.
- A member shares, “The basic principal is anonymity. I will never mention someone’s profession or religion or politics – things that are outside issues. It doesn’t aid recovery according to our traditions.”
Mentioning personal details can also be inadvertently hurtful.
- A member shares, “When I heard a member name the prestigious university where her child was enrolled, I immediately got pulled out of the meeting. My child is home schooled and is struggling. I went right into Compare and Despair. This is why we keep outside issues outside the meeting.”
Practicing Tradition Ten helps keep meetings safe and is an important tool in personal recovery. It teaches us tolerance, acceptance and patience. It helps us build healthy boundaries, avoid controversy and self-righteousness, and learn to manage conflicts. And it keeps Al-Anon honest – we are truly an organization whose sole mission is to help the friends and families of alcoholics.