CAL – How Al-Anon Works (Item # B-22, B-32, eB-22, eA-22)

How Al-Anon Works CAL Chat Podcast

WHAT I LEARNED: 1. Originally, I was going to read this book as the very last one of this blog since I was making my way up to the top seller & according to the World Service Office, this one is it. It would be like starting a climb by already being at the top – I would miss the journey!  But now that I’m venturing into doing a CAL podcast, the book my very first guest chose was “How Al-Anon Works.”  (The podcast is now officially up & running as of today!  For all the meat & potatoes, please visit the show’s website at: – or you can subscribe to it for free wherever you get your podcasts & you’ll be notified every time a new episode is posted. 📲 🔔)

2. Per page 73 of the “1996 World Service Conference (WSC) Summary” (item # P-46), “Al-Anon’s biggest book” (item # B-22) was first made available in hardcover at an International Convention in 1995.  If you happened to buy it at that Convention, you were also given a “commemorative bookplate with ‘friend’ written in 13 languages.”  By the following year there were already plans for revisions but the second printing wasn’t until 2008 & featured a new Concepts chapter, a revised Traditions chapter, & an expanded index.  (By the way, if you’d like an entirely different way to read this book, try reading it by the index keywords!  At the end of this paragraph is a link to an Excel document you can download to use a list of recovery keywords which are already sorted by page number from the preface to page 396.  Enjoy a new reading experience: “How Al-Anon Works” – List of Index Keyword by Page Number.)

3. The softcover version (item # B-32) was issued on a trial basis in 2011 “with the intent that the membership pay its gratitude forward for the program by giving the softcover version of the book, free of charge, to newcomers” per page 18 of the “2013 WSC Summary” (item # P-46).  This third printing included a full description of the “Three C’s” (“Didn’t Cause, Can’t Control, Can’t Cure”) & is found on pages 16-17.  If you have a hardcover book that has the number “11-11” in the bottom left corner of the copyright page, you’ve got the new pages!  My hardcover has “08-10” so it does not include this section, however when comparing this to the updated softcover version, it looks like the World Service Office made a very good effort to fit in the new info (through some tight kerning adjustments) so the pages & the index of the softcover & hardcover still match up. 😃

FYI: A note about the e-book version (item # eB-22): my e-Reader doesn’t show page numbers, but it still includes the new section under Chapter 4: Understanding Ourselves & Alcoholism.  I haven’t downloaded the audiobook yet (item # eA-22), but I’m assuming it’s there as well.  (*****See update below)

4. After finishing the book, I can see why this is Al-Anon’s best seller & is one of the few available in almost every format.  (Not sure when a large print version will come out though)  It’s a treasure-trove that has something for everyone.  If you want info about the Legacies (recovery, unity, & service) plus Al-Anon’s history, see Part One which goes up to page 149.  The phrase “Many of us” reoccurs frequently in Part One (78 times to be exact – thanks e-Reader!), which emphasizes the “we” part of the program.  However, if you’re looking for the individual side, proceed directly to Part Two for the personal stories.  The overwhelming theme in this section is about learning.  In fact, the word “learn” is mentioned 205 times in Part Two – which averages almost once per page!  As a final word, be sure to read one of the first: “A Special Word to Anyone Confronted with Violence” which appears after the preface right before Part One.

5. Besides the entire story “Finding Reasons to Live” on page 301, here are some of my other favorite bits:

From page 85: “No one ever found serenity through hatred.”

From page 108: “We are all experts because of our experience & we are all beginners because our lives are in a constant state of growth & change.”

From page 284: “The beauty of your writing extends beyond the written word.”

From page 323: “I have had a million dollar experience that I wouldn’t pay a nickel to repeat.”

From page 390: “I believe that recovery is a process, not an event.  The further I go into recovery, the less I know.”


**BONUS CAL QUESTION: Only 3 personal stories in this book do not include the word “learn” in them.  Which ones are they?  (Hint: the ones that begin on pages 333, 354, & 391.)


***UPDATE (7/1/16): At this year’s 2016 World Service Conference, the decision was approved to re-extend the trial basis of the softcover version for another 3 years!  Yay! 😃


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****UPDATE (4/20/17): In addition to Episode 1 of my “CAL Chat” podcast, “How Al-Anon Works” is also featured in both Episode 6 & Episode 10 where this book is discussed even further!


*****UPDATE (12/31/21): I can now confirm that the audiobook version is indeed the updated version of the book that includes the section about the “Three C’s.”  Click here for my review of the audiobook version of “How Al-Anon Works” (item #eA-22).


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******UPDATE (1/10/22): The brand new Episode #13 of my “CAL Chat” podcast also features this book (including the audiobook version) in Parts 5 thru 11.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bernie M. says:

    Wow, this is so rich. I’ve had many questions about our “biggest book” and this blog hits most of them. Can’t wait to hear the podcast!

    1. Pat A. says:

      Thanks for the compliment & hope you like the radio show/podcast about the book! 🙂

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