WHAT I LEARNED: 1. Originally, I only read the “Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual” on an as-needed basis, but when my next podcast guest said that this was her favorite book that she wanted to talk about on my “CAL Chat” show, I had to dust off my manual & put on my scuba reading mask to do a deep dive! (FYI: The podcast show about this book (Episode #3) is now available to listen to. You can visit the “CAL Chat” webpage at: calchatpodcast.com or you can subscribe to it for free on iTunes & Google Play Music as well.)
2. First, let’s look a little bit at its history by talking about its item #: P-24/27. Even though this is a book, it has a “P-” designated pamphlet item number. That’s because it was originally 4 separate pamphlets:
1) “Manual for Al-Anon Family Groups” was first published in 1960. It was then re-titled in 1964 as “Al-Anon Family Groups at Work” (item # P-24).
–No image available for the original P-24–
2) “Digest of Al-Anon & Alateen Policies” (item # P-25) which came out in 1975.
3) “Al-Anon’s Twelve Concepts of Service” (item # P-26) came out in 1970.
4) The “World Service Handbook for Al-Anon & Alateen Groups” originally began as World Service Conference (WSC) manuals, but first appeared in pamphlet form in 1973 (item # P-27).
Back in the day, you could buy them individually for $1 each or all 4 pamphlets as a set for a reduced cost. It wasn’t until 1992 that they were combined into one book – with a separate index. (And from what I can tell, this 1992 book marks the last time in our Conference Approved Literature that the Concepts were written as Roman numerals – so for example, Concept 12 appeared as “Concept XII.”)
When I went to District Meetings or Area Assemblies, I always felt that others knew some secret – but it’s not that way at all – it’s just usually in the Service Manual. Listed below is more stuff I just found out about that I didn’t know:
A) There is a section about drugs, narcotics, & prescription medications! “Occasional discussion of this topic is acceptable at an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting as it may be one of the results of living with alcoholism.” (Page 124)
B) It’s possible that an Alateen member may be elected Delegate! (Page 141)
C) We have caucuses!??! (Page 132)
D) Why panel numbers always skip by 3. “The elections of the three panels are staggered so that a Conference always includes one panel of Delegates with two years’ experience.” (Page 133)
E) The language stating the corporation’s purpose on Al-Anon’s Certificate of Incorporation is quite a bit different than Al-Anon’s purpose found in Tradition Five. (Page 138)
F) Paid staff members at the World Service Office (WSO) don’t do Twelfth Step work – per Tradition Eight. (Page 34)
G) An Information Service Representative (ISR) is different than an Al-Anon Information Service Liaison (AISL). (Page 39)
H) Al-Anon offers an inmate correspondence service! (Page 73)
I) A state may only divide once. (Page 142) …In looking over previous WSC summaries, this decision was made so that one state (or a few states), would not gain more representation/votes than others.
J) Major revisions are coming to the manual!! “*The entire WSC committee structure is under review. Text will be updated in the next printing.” (Page 136)
3. If I had to pick a theme for this book, it would be evolution. It’s replete with sidebar markings in the margins (that reflect the new revisions added), copious footnotes, & amendments galore. In fact, this is one book that even though it’s printed only periodically (mine covers 2014-2017), revisions still come in from WSO on the Members’ website (www.al-anon.org/for-members) that are to be printed & inserted into my manual. It’s a book that I have a responsibility to keep up-to-date because it’s ever changing. I can’t say that about any other item in our catalog!
4. I was surprised to find that my favorite part is the Concepts Amendments section which begins on page 229. It shows how the original text used to be in 1969. They included it in case we ever lose our way & need to find it again. 😃 Some of the original language is emotionally charged & on page 235, the first 3 paragraphs mention how the old timers were once fearful, but eventually felt more secure about the future of the fellowship.
To me, it’s like a grandmother, let’s call her Lois W., passing down her wedding ring to me & saying “I want you to have this. It’s very special. It carries with it all my good intentions.”
And she’s a little fearful of what might happen to it so to make sure I know it’s special, she tells me the history behind it & now it’s not just any ring, because it’s imbued with all this meaning & importance.
This Service Manual is about finding out about this ring! …This fellowship that has been passed onto me & entrusted to me. And why it’s special & what I can do to look after it for the small amount of time that I have it before I pass it on too.
I found I was personally very moved by this Service Manual on an emotional level more than I thought I would be.
5. I have several favorite lines from this book:
From page 7: “…our benefits are measured by our willingness to share them with others. For we know we can never give as much as we receive.”
From page 89: “’Teaching’ is not compatible with the Al-Anon principle of sharing.”
From page 230: “Change does not necessarily spell progress.”
From page 235: “…we found that our fears had been largely groundless.”
From page 238: “Our entire Al-Anon program rests squarely on the principle of mutual trust. We trust God, we trust Al-Anon, & we trust one another.”
From page 261: “Penny-pinching could affect our services & deprive us of the confidence of our groups. Such false & unimaginative economy could prove very costly—in spirit, in service, & in money. Real prudence is neither hoarding nor recklessness. We may occasionally be compelled to risk temporary deficits…”
From page 276: “Article 12 of the Conference Charter might be called ‘The Service Bill of Rights,’ because these Warranties, & especially this one, express deep & loving respect for the spiritual liberties of our fellows. May God grant that we shall never be so unwise as to desire anything less.”
From page 279: “…Al-Anon is prepared to give away its knowledge & experience—all except the Al-Anon name itself.”
From page 281: “There is no authority that has to be supported; no prestige, power, or pride that has to be satisfied. And we have no property or money that is worth quarreling about.”
From page 289: “…no one wished to see a spiritual way of life incorporated.”
**BONUS CAL QUESTION #1: Besides this manual, only 3 other pieces of conference approved literature are spiral-bound. What are they? (Hint: see item # P-91, item # P-92, & item # P-93!)
***BONUS CAL QUESTION #2: As of 4/13/22, the brand new 2022-2025 Service Manual (Version 1 – oh by the way) is now available & one of the big changes is that the phased out terms of “Open Meeting” & “Closed Meeting” have now been replaced with: “Families, Friends, and Observers Welcome” & “Families and Friends Only” respectively. However not all references to the phrase “Open Meeting” have been removed from the new 2022-2025 Service Manual just yet. Why is this outdated term still mentioned on pages 36, 43, & 61? (Hint: see item # G-27 that, as of 2022, hasn’t been updated since 2002!)