Does Al-Anon need more rules?

AskFlac1In meetings, it is easy to misunderstand why we insist on only Conference­Approved Literature, on suggested formats, etc, but this is misleading, because Al­Anon is not a program of rules, but of principles.

As HOW AL­ANON WORKS (p101)  points out:

“In an alcoholic environment, it is difficult to know what is expected. Rules are often unspoken but rigidly enforced, and those rules are likely to change at any moment, without warning, at the whim of the alcoholic…That’s why many of us are relieved to learn that there are no rules in Al­Anon. No one is standing over us, rule book in hand, waiting for errors. No one will tell us to leave if we don’t work the program  “correctly”, if we say the “wrong” thing, or make the wrong decision. Al­Anon doesn’t work that way.”

One of the guiding principles of Al­Anon is that groups and members practice “obedience to the unenforceable” ­ that trust is the engine that drives Al­Anon groups. People who take on service positions are not officers, but “trusted servants…they do not govern” (according to the Second Tradition). Our Traditions remind us that our groups should strive for the greatest good for the greatest number (Tradition One), and that our sole purpose is to help families and friends of alcoholics (Fifth Tradition). We do not discuss current events or outside issues (Tradition Ten), we do not affiliate ourselves with other causes or positions (Traditions Six and Eight), we do not promote ourselves in the me­ dia (Tradition 11), and that groups are free to make their own decisions…unless they affect another group or the Al­Anon fellowship (Tradition Four).

“Obedience to the unenforceable”  helps groups keep their focus on the Al­Anon program, and the Traditions work for the group the same way the Steps work for the member. To quote Al­Anon’s TWELVE STEPS & TWELVE TRADITIONS (p. 84) ­ “The Traditions are not rules. Accepting the guidance of the Traditions has been described as ‘obedience to the unenforceable’. No one member of our fellowship has the authority to say, ‘you should not do this’ or ‘You must do that’. If a group fails to observe the Traditions, however, it risks the possibility of errors and conflicts that could deprive many troubled people of the help to be found in Al­Anon.” Al­Anon is not a program of rules or mandates, but of principles and guidelines. What this allows Al­Anon to do, however, is to foster recovery in its membership.

If you have an Al­Anon related question, please feel free to send it to us at ask.flac@niafg.com, and it may appear column!

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