WHAT I LEARNED: 1. Initially, I was dreading reading this book. I thought it was just going to be a boring history book with a litany of dates & facts that were as dry as sandpaper. Turns out, this has been one of the best well-written books I’ve come across so far!! It was designed so it could be used in group discussions (similar to a daily reader) so no section is long enough to become boring. As it encapsulates each World Service Conference from Al-Anon’s beginning up until 2010, it also switches to member sharings from those different time periods & offers questions that bring large World Service Office (WSO) issues down to a personal level.
2. The overall theme definitely seems to be how a growing worldwide organization deals with change. Whether it’s civil rights in the 60’s, acknowledging adult children of alcoholics in the 80’s, welcoming gays & lesbians in the 90’s, relocating the WSO office & owning property, establishing Alateen safety requirements, using KBDM thinking (see page 363), registering online meetings, or looking to increase diversity in the future… it has not been as smooth of a road as I thought! (Perhaps that’s why the WSO loves 3-year trial periods!) I think a line on page 185 from the 2nd edition of “Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism” (item # B-1) says it best: “…all growth is accompanied by resistance, whether it is a seed struggling through compacted earth, the birth of a newborn, or a person’s effort to surrender negative views.”
3. One of the most touching parts of the book for me was the “To Russia with Love” program in the early to mid-90’s that encouraged the “adoption” of Russian groups until they could be self-supporting. The letter from a Russian member on page 284 still makes me cry. If anybody ever asks me why I go to Al-Anon, I would quote this one line from her letter: “He drinks, but my hand shakes.”
**BONUS: In 1993, Tampa, Florida was one of 3 “narrowed-down” cities considered for the new WSO headquarters before they finally chose Virginia Beach. I guess they had beaches on their mind after being in New York for so long!