Our book of the month...
Reaching for Personal Freedom... Living the Legacies
A must-have workbook that gives practical ideas of how to use all 36 legacies in everyday life.
Then Al-Anon World Service published this remarkable new workbook, filled with experiences from members and interesting questions... with a space for answering each one. I really 'got' the personal stories of how people had used these in real life. The questions that followed the shares encouraged me to explore each idea further. I got a copy of the manual for myself. I am working through the questions and suggestions and am delighted at how much I am learning about myself, my relationships with family and friends, and even at work.
I have picked up some very useful ideas for things that have bugged me in the past. Now I have more options, I am less upset and more in control of my responses, and have some really useful skills to practice. This is a workbook that is worth a place on my bookshelf and in my hands. I find it useful going back to my earlier responses and seeing how far I have come... and where I can learn more. I hope you will try this remarkably useful tool for your own personal growth.
Go to our Books & Pamphlets section to order any of the books, workbooks or pamphlets online
Previous books of the month...
…In All Our Affairs
Making Crises Work for You
It’s a long road to serenity. This book shows us how to use each crisis as a stepping stone rather than a weight on the shoulders. It tells many stories of how people like who, like me, have been affected by someone else’s drinking, but have found that there is no situation too difficult to be bettered and no unhappiness too great to be lessened.
The 3 A’s - Awareness, Acceptance, Action
The book is full of examples of how people use the 3A’s to work their programmes. When I woke up to how useful the 3 A’s were, and then found this book, I was delighted. Often, that’s all I need to get my mind right when a particular situation seems insoluble.
Part 1 – Everyone has crises. This book starts with becoming aware of how a crisis feels, and why it can be uncomfortable, but also talks about the benefits of realising the truth about matters we may have been hiding from ourselves.
Part 2 – Seeing in a new way, is about discovering more about who is really responsible for what, and how others have learned detachment. “Something’s wrong – quick, let me fix it!” I used to think. But it doesn’t necessarily work like that. Until I accepted my situation, many of the fixes didn’t seem to work. Seeing the truth can be unbearably painful. That doesn’t mean I have to agree that it’s right or pretend that it’s good. I can just see exactly what is there, however ugly it might be. Things are the way they are. That’s acceptance for you.
Part 3 – Action – starts with possible ways we can take care of ourselves, decision-making and change. And again, there are as many options as there are individuals, and many of their solutions are ones I could consider using.
Part 4 – Moving on – can be calming, soothing, but workable. No fancy promises that fairies will wave their wands and everything will be rainbows and birdsong. But I have found that often enough, when considering my various difficulties, using the 3 A’s and learning about ways that other people addressed those same problems, I can stop, think, see what’s what, examine my choices, decide calmly and slowly which path I want to take, and move on when I’m ready. Easy does it. I am finding the going gets more interesting, more rewarding, the friendships get deeper and more honest, and my life unfolds in totally unexpected ways.
I love this book. I so enjoyed reading it again. Al-Anon books are a greater pleasure than jewellery, holidays or a new car for me. For a small outlay, I have an asset that doesn’t lose value, that I can use again and again, the rest of my life.
Living Today in Alateen
Probably the first book one buys in Al-Anon is a Daily Reader. Why? Because we get constant short messages to help us survive the day and build our recovery during/after being affected by someone else’s drinking. Daily readers. They sound so mundane, they are so incredibly effective. I can also look up issues in the index. Maybe today has been a bad one. Maybe there has been anger, or grief. Maybe I am battling with other family members. Maybe I am needing a boost, more awareness of how to look after myself better. All of these things are listed in my daily readers. They are my ‘go-to texts’. The same is true in Alateen, the part of Al-Anon designed to help and support youngsters affected by family alcoholism. For these young people, life can be unpredictable and scary. Their Daily Reader, “Living Today in Alateen” has the same 366 days of shares, and a detailed index at the back of the book. Difference is, these shares are by teenagers, talking about stuff that affects them personally, growing up amid these experiences. I found the stories so clear, honest and heart-warming that I’m adding this daily reader to my list of ‘go-to texts’. Here is an example from page 87…
“Living in the disease has brought me a lot of pain. I was overwhelmed for a long time. I felt like I was living in a maze and couldn’t find a way out. When I came to the loving rooms of Alateen, I felt like there was hope for me. I got a sponsor and started working the Steps. One day at a time it started getting easier. It was like God gave me a new pair of glasses. I could see all of those painful experiences as lessons in living. Alateen has taken me from “life is a maze” to “life is amazing”. God has given me the gift of being able to learn from my experiences. I have to remember progress, not perfection, and it gets easier with the very first Step.”
Right there… “Steps, Sponsor, Progress, not Perfection”, nuggets of wisdom. Also, each page has “Things to think about” at the bottom of the page, things we could all think about, not just teens. But imagine if your own teen had a copy of this book to help… Until we have masses more Alateen meetings, this book could aid youngsters trying to survive the trauma.
Opening our hearts, Transforming our losses
These words popped out at me, and I read them eagerly… “Just because someone is incapable of treating us with respect doesn’t mean we aren’t worthy of it. In Al-Anon we discover that we are the ones most capable of taking care of ourselves. This may be a jolting revelation to those of us who believed or were taught otherwise. Slowly we begin to reclaim our sense of self-worth. In time we discover that we are stronger and more resilient than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. By taking responsibility for our own lives, we begin to recognize that our happiness isn’t contingent upon what others do or don’t do.”
I am re-reading “Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses”, one of the remarkable Al-Anon books that has helped me re-discover myself. It has allowed me to drop the denial and slowly share the suffering and emotional pain linked to alcoholism. Before Al-Anon I remember friends saying “Don’t be silly!” “It’s not that bad, really.” “Pull yourself together!” Then I discovered that in these rooms, people understood how bad it was because they had been there too.
Alcoholism is a disease of many losses for the relatives and friends involved. This book explores issues concerning someone else’s alcoholism. On this path of self-discovery based on honest searching and sharing, I have learned that as I got stronger and more confident, I remembered more and more clearly the pain and losses. As it says on page 4, “Being able to recognize and name our losses is a vital first step toward facing our grief.”
The book deals with grief as a process, the loss of the dream, and chapters on different aspects of loss. This book helped me look at loss in a whole new way, and start my life over. What was, was. And right now, what is, is! I am more than surviving. I am recovering my whole self, and my talent and creativity is resurging. It’s quite remarkable.
Reaching for Personal Freedom – Living the Legacies
There are 36 Legacies in Al-Anon. When I first heard the 12 Steps read out, I thought some were impossible, though others made some sense. I have been learning over the years what each of them mean to me personally, and how to apply them. It was slow going but valuable. I go back to the steps whenever my life falters, and find which one I need to work, and sure enough, when I work it, I feel better.
I found the 12 Traditions even more difficult to get my mind round. But gradually I found one or two I could start applying. The Concepts of Service intrigued me but I couldn’t believe they would actually work! Slowly I am finding my way round those too, and have learned to use a few of them. Each one I learn about broadens my understanding of life and people, starting with myself.
Discovering these Legacies has been an important part of my growth in Al-Anon. What a bonus to discover that not only does the programme help me with my own personal recovery (by applying the 12 Steps), it also helps me learn how to relate to others to heal my relationships and work in harmony with others (through the Traditions and Concepts of Service).
This workbook helps me explore how I can use all the legacies in my own life. The personal sharings were collected over 4 years of postings and blogs on the Al-Anon members’ website, and show a remarkable collective wisdom. The questions that follow each of the legacies give me ways to explore how I can personally build a space around me that is democratic and supportive, first for me but also for everyone I interact with.
As it says in the preface, “The most essential part of this workbook is our personal response to these questions. As we write our answers and participate in this process, we become co-authors of the workbook. As we proceed, this workbook becomes a record of our personal path to recovery, while it also connects us to a fellowship-wide process that we have in common with other Al-Anon members around the world.”
I would suggest you get your own personal copy and write in it. Often.
Many Voices, One Journey
This book, a history of the Al-Anon Family Groups from 1925 to 2010, is an account of not only the Fellowship’s journey over 60 years, but how our infrastructure, procedures, Traditions, and Concepts came into being.
The book gives members the opportunity to peer into sections of Al-Anon’s past. While it may be considered more of a daily reader than a history book, what it does is show clearly how and why the Fellowship was founded all those years ago when Lois was struggling with firstly her husband’s drinking, and secondly his sobriety, and then his total dedication to taking the AA message to those in need, no matter where the alcoholic lives on this planet.
The Al-Anon Fellowship started almost by default by the wives of those early converts – they brought their knitting, a cake, and made endless cups of coffee while waiting for the meeting of the ‘drunks’ to finish. Of course they talked to each other. But importantly, they saw the difference the AA programme was making to their husbands.
But we can read all that in “Lois Remembers”.
Many Voices, One Journey is not primarily Lois’s story. It’s the story of how the members talked, discussed, argued (many times), requested changes to Al-Anon’s Policies, the process of making those changes (or not), and the overriding desire to listen to both our Higher Powers and the Group Conscience before making decisions that would stay with the Fellowship globally and how they evolved.
To many members who ask questions such as “what is Conference Approved Literature & why can’t we use external literature,” or “Why do we have a Conference, a Convention, an Assembly,” or “Why was it necessary to have an Adult Children’s structure,” – the book covers the often heated discussions that took place, sometimes, over several years. It brings an understanding to the reader as to why changes in Al-Anon often seem to take a very long time.
As someone who is committed to Service, at any level from Group to Global, this book is a must read. The wisdom used and shown in these pages is astounding – clearly one can feel the guiding hand of a Higher Power. It answers so many questions that each of us in the Fellowship have had at some time or another, and the answers seem so clear when they get it right. Getting stuff wrong is written about with honesty and candour, especially by those who have been stubbornly resistant to changing anything in Al-Anon. It takes guts to admit when one is wrong and the soul searching, praying, and discussions are an eye opener to those who have judged or criticized, or questioned (sometimes) decisions made at the World Service Organisation level. What’s even more surprising is the fact that so much of the questioning, proposing, disagreements and agreements were made in writing – long before email and chat rooms!
I am deeply grateful to have read this book – after 3 years in Area Service so many of my own questions have been answered. I read this book like a novel – right through in one week, from start to finish. I found it powerful and my gratitude spills over to those who wrestled with the decisions, policies and guidelines and listened to the many voices that offered their opinions, especially on contentious issues. And to the trusted servants who pushed the individual member’s opinions, the ordinary group input – thank you.
It’s my personal opinion that EVERY service member should read this book and see what went before; it records Al-Anon’s own conscience over a long period with little or no guidance from any previous organization, except to see what worked for AA & take what worked. For the ordinary member, whether you make the tea or lay out the literature at your meetings, this book is a result of your predecessors’ many voices. It’s a fascinating read.
Remember – it’s Progress not Perfection; it’s not about the destination but the Journey we take. And most of all, it’s YOUR voice that has effected where we are today. Keep speaking up.
I always thought I had masses of choices. That’s what Western Society is all about – freedom of choice. How then did I find myself in such a sick, angry state where all I could think about was the alcoholic in my life? I felt I didn’t have a choice, it was my job to fix this problem, and then everything in my life would be fine. I was wrong. What I needed was to discover what choices I really did have.
In Al-Anon I found options In Al-Anon, going to meetings, talking, reading the literature, listening to others sharing about what choices they had made, I started to find out. The book “Discovering Choices’ is full of useful personal stories of members who have found new options in their lives, ways to turn things around and recover from the damage done by the disease of alcoholism. There are many shares by children and parents of alcoholics as well as spouses and partners.
I started to feel hope “We can gain peace of mind by putting aside what we could or should have done and by accepting who and where we are right now. Al-Anon tools help us realise that the ability to start over is always within our reach, and that there’s always more hope than we may have thought.” p10, Discovering Choices
Some questions worth asking myself At the end of each chapter, after personal stories on the topic, there are questions for thought and discussion. As a way to start exploring my own situation, I found these questions insightful and encouraging. In Al-Anon we say, “It works if you work it”. This book, as part of the full Al-Anon programme, will help you ‘work it’.
How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics
"It is not our goal to be 'right'. It is not our goal to 'win'. Our goal is to do everything we can to heal ourselves and our relationships. This takes diligence, patience, and above all, practice."
p31, "How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics"
This remarkable book explains the multi-faceted package that is Al-Anon. It covers the 12 Steps, the Slogans, and the many practices of Al-Anon. it covers much more than that. It gets to the guts of the fellowship.
Until I read this book, I was puzzled. Al-Anon worked so well despite the fact that I couldn't put my finger on what it did. Month by month, year by year, I felt the gradual change in my mind, heart and life, but couldn't explain why or how it was happening. This book ties together all the various strands of Al-Anon and why they are all important, and how they work together to transform lives.
"So where do we begin in the monumental task of changing our lives? Sometimes that means bringing the body to the meeting and hoping the mind will follow."
This book is a valuable tool to add to your recovery package. You can order a copy from Al-Anon's Gauteng Office Phone +27 (0)11 683 8002.
When I Got Busy, I Got Better
Are you daunted by the idea of doing service? When I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting, if you had asked me to do anything, I would have walked out or burst into tears. But I did wash the cups, because it was something to do, and I didn’t have to talk while doing it. Service ranges from washing those cups and setting out those chairs to helping at a district or area or even national level. Because we don’t take outside contributions in order to retain our independence, we contribute time and energy to keep the organisation there for people who need it. It takes work, and funnily enough, the work is fun. After some time at Al-Anon, after finding relief, I started thinking, ‘What would have happened if the meetings weren’t there?’ The thought was horrifying. I needed my meetings, I had to do what I could to keep them going. So I got more involved in service. Some may call my motivation selfish. I call it enlightened self-interest and it worked for me, far beyond my wildest imaginings. I never knew I would find friends. I never knew I would find compatriots. Because going through the experience of alcoholism is a bit like going through a war. Your buddies who help you get through it, who’ve been through it too, become friends for life.
Which brings me to the book… Not everyone gets involved in service. I don’t really know why, but this book explains many of the reasons why we may not feel comfortable at the thought of service. Maybe we are afraid of failure, or even of success! We may be afraid that once we start we will never be able to stop. What we may not realise is that we will grow in directions that are not open to those who choose not to, and rotation of service makes sure we can opt out when our term is over.
People in service say, “You don’t have to be perfect – just willing”. I found that true. I thought my bad memory would exclude me from many service positions. I found help and support from my service sponsor, and I also found my brain got brighter and clearer. Was it chance? Was it as a result of service? I will never know for sure, but I sure feel a whole lot healthier and happier working the whole spectrum of Al-Anon, not just the meetings bit.