Thursday, September 13, 2012

Al-Anon’s Tradition 9

Al-Anon’s Tradition 9: Our groups, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

When I first came to Al Anon I couldn’t figure this tradition out. How could a group work if it was never organized? Weren’t we organized in some way, with the meeting format and World Service? The Al-Anon book Paths to Recovery (in the chapter on Tradition 9) describes Al-Anon as having as a “common structure”. This chapter also mentions “Although not organized in the usual sense of the word, Al-Anon does have a service structure.” (p. 214 in the 1997 edition) This, of course, made me wonder about the difference between organization and structure.

(Photo by Christa Richert.)
The first “Members Share” story in the Paths to Recovery chapter on Tradition 9 tells of how a group became “organized”, which meant lots of procedures that chased people away. Also, the story mentions some members controlled the group and left others out. In the second “Members Share” story (p. 216 in the1997 edition) the Al-Anon member wrote, “Organization implies that some members have power or authority over others.” Making things voluntary means that one person does not decide who does which jobs—rotation of service helps keeps power issues in check. OK, I got this now.

I immediately thought of issues I’ve had with my former home group over the past year. At this time this year I wrote about a conflict in myhome group that now seems to relate to Tradition 9. Some parts of the Members Share stories in Paths to Recovery seem to be just like our situation. The controlling member of our group had one of two keys, had his name on the lease to the meeting space, was the treasurer for years and was in charge of the literature. He had also started the meeting years ago and had been doing all of these things since then. One day I helped him clean up and count money. He gave me a record sheet to fill out, which included a count of how many members were in attendance! He seemed to assume that I knew how to do things his way, as that was how everyone ended up doing it. I just guessed at the number and thought, “Boy, I’ll never help him clean up again!”

That member left after a painful conflict that divided our group. This conflict is one of the reasons I chose to leave my home group as I no longer feel comfortable there and don’t feel that it is healthy.

Notes from meetings I’ve attended on Tradition 9 mention how this tradition relates to Steps 2 and 3- we have to trust the group to a Higher Power. Control issues arise if tradition 9 is not used. This is part of doing your part but not trying to make others do theirs. In our groups we can’t have the feeling that only one person can do things.  It leads to members not feeling equal. Rigid division of labor doesn’t work, as someone pointed out in one of these meetings. We should just let it flow and jump in to help where needed. 

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