Usually around February, my order of the new annual public outreach magazine, “Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism” arrives. However, it is now the middle of 2022, & I haven’t received an answer yet on whether there will even be a new issue for this year. I’m guessing that since the 2021 issue was the first time a year was not printed on the cover, & with the Covid-19 pandemic still impacting publishing, deliveries, & abilities to do outreach with hard copy magazines, that perhaps there won’t be a new issue for 2022 at all. So to fulfill my desire to read some “new” outreach material, I’ve decided to go back in time to read all the previous issues of “Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism” & of course, being the Al-Anon geek that I am, I jumped right into a rabbit hole. 🐇🕳️ With the exception of the book by the same name, I’ll refer to the magazines with just the abbreviation “AFA.”
WHAT I LEARNED: 1. Before the first issue “AFA 2007” was available in September 2006, the magazine actually began as Al-Anon’s second book “Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism” way back in 1965. (You can click here to read my review of item # B-1 – the 2nd edition of that book.) Per page 369 of “Many Voices, One Journey” (item # B-31), “In the previous five years, members had distributed copies of the special September issue of The Forum as part of a fellowship-wide public outreach campaign.”
Page 76 in the “2002 World Service Conference (WSC) Summary” (item # P-46) notes: “Over 78,000 issues of the September 2001 magazine provided an opportunity for members to present Al-Anon’s hope to professionals. This special expanded edition of The Forum contained personal stories from members who were referred to Al-Anon by professionals.”
I have copies of the 2001, 2002, 2004, & 2005 September Forum editions (see animated gif below) & they do look like they are made up of half Forum articles & the other half are articles that I’m more accustomed to seeing in the “AFA” magazines. In fact, these special September editions include the “Dear Reader” letter written by the World Service Office’s Executive Director that are common at the beginning of every “AFA” (except for 2017’s edition – see my review about the 2017 issue by clicking here.) I’ll cover these September Forum issues more in detail in their own individual posts in the future… I just wanted to touch on them briefly here as part of the evolution leading up to the first true “AFA” magazine.
2. The first issue, “AFA 2007,” was similar to the September Forum issues in size & graphic design (the cover & back page are in color & the pages within are monochromatic), but it stood apart because it didn’t reference The Forum magazine at all & it was printed in 3 languages: English, French, & Spanish. Per page 71 of the “2007 WSC Summary” (P-46), “In 2006 there were over 168,475 copies sold, making this the largest Public Outreach project in the history of Al-Anon Family Groups.” (For comparison to sales of “AFA’s” recently from 2018, 2019, & 2020, click here to see my post about Al-Anon’s Best Sellers of 2020.)
3. I think the first thing that struck me about this first issue is that the articles are much longer than I’m used to seeing in current “AFA’s.” In fact, the whole magazine is 35 total pages, whereas every “AFA” since the 2012 issue has been exactly 25 pages. I was also surprised to see the following:
- Addiction was mentioned several times (pgs 2, 6, & 27);
- “Online Al-Anon meetings” was briefly referenced (pg 7);
- Only one piece of literature is pointed out: “How Al-Anon Works” (item # B-22) (a back page foldout on pg 34);
- Asterisks are peppered throughout to clarify slogans, Traditions, & Al-Anon terminology – (these all eventually get consolidated on one page though in the “AFA 2008” edition);
- An article about a priest attending an Al-Anon meeting (pg 32)!
4. In the “Dear Reader” letter on the first page, I like the line: “Al-Anon has no opinion or tenets so important that it takes positions that draw it into public controversy.” This is a different way for me to hear Tradition 10 & also to remember the slogan: “How Important Is It?” …Here are some more of my favorite lines:
From page 3: “…love was exactly what the members gave me.” 💖
From page 5: “I can’t grow when I’m feeling sorry for myself.”
From page 7: “…I know of no other prescription with such magnificent benefits, with so few side effects, without any required cost.”
From page 10: “The past didn’t have to control my future…”
From page 10 “…perspective… replaces censure with affirmation, criticism with understanding, & blame with hope.”
From page 25: “Al-Anon is a program of self-discovery & self-love.”
5. Lastly, I was paying close attention to all the words called out that described some common effects/reactions to alcoholism (or “features of this disease” as page 28 puts it). I thought of sorting them alphabetically, but I’m feeling pretty healthy today 😀 so I’ll just list them as I came across them in the magazine:
- Physical problems
- Scared / fear
- Can’t relax
- Feel unloved or uncared for
- Feel something is wrong with self or a failure
- Uniquely flawed
- Low self-esteem
- Low self-confidence
- Despondent / hopelessness
- Not listened to
- Not understood
It’s overwhelming to see this list & realize it’s not even complete… it ended only because the magazine ran out of pages. How long did I live with all of those feelings, while thinking there was only one solution that would make them all disappear? I don’t want to say I was naïve back then… I was just unaware. I had hope that changing one thing would change everything. I wanted a quick fix that would take away all my pain… & in that sense, I wasn’t much different than the other person I kept hoping would change.
Eventually I learned the change would need to be internal, rather than external, & slow was better for me than quick. I have a better sense & understanding of hope now & I don’t misuse it as often as I did. I no longer use hope to cause harm. …In my review of the subsequent “AFA 2008” edition, I decided to pay attention to all the words that described the benefits of the Al-Anon program. It’s amazing how different the magazine looked when I shifted my focus! 🔎😉 That blog post can be seen by clicking here. Thanks for reading to the end of this long one!