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Learning to Relate Rather than Compare

women drinking wine at a party

One Day at a Time in Al-Anon (B-6), affectionately referred to as “the ODAT,” was the only book my first home group ever read during meetings. As a young man concerned about my mother’s drinking, I struggled to relate to the book’s perspective—primarily that of the wife of an alcoholic. I refused to buy a copy, but, by “coincidence,” I won a copy in a raffle. Slowly, my heart and mind began to expand. By learning to focus on principles instead of personal details, I began to see commonalities rather than differences between myself and the wives around me, as well as those in the ODAT. I found I related to the feelings and could easily transpose their experiences into similar ones of my own. Years later, I continue to marvel at the absolute beauty and truth in so many of the book’s pages.

My experience was similar with The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage (B-4). Why would I read that? I wasn’t married. By the time I did read it, I had learned how to “relate, not compare.” I realized how many relationship pitfalls I could have avoided had I only been willing to “Keep an Open Mind” and read the book earlier. The “Five Guides to Communication” section alone is priceless.

Many of the comments received these days by the Literature Committee about the ODAT and Dilemma express reactions similar to those I once had. Newer members find it difficult to relate to these books because they reflect outdated social conventions and lack the variety of relationships represented at many meetings today. The most common suggestions offered are to revise or discontinue printing the books.

From its beginning, Al‑Anon has been intended for anyone affected by someone else’s drinking. But because our literature is written by our members, and most of our early members were wives, the sharings in Al‑Anon’s earliest literature reflect that fact, as well as the times in which they were written. Through the years, the World Service Conference (WSC) and the Literature Committee have seen great value in keeping the experiences of our pioneer members readily available to us. So, rather than revise those early sharings and risk diminishing their value, the Literature Committee and WSC have recommended keeping the sharings in print as written, while developing newer pieces that reflect our current members. More recent books, like Discovering Choices—Recovery in Relationships (B-30) and Intimacy in Alcoholic Relationships (B-33), portray a wide variety of relationships and situations experienced by today’s members.

With these thoughts in mind, last year’s WSC voted to approve the development of new introductions for inclusion in the next printings of the ODAT and Dilemma that place them within the context of the times and circumstances in which they were written. May these new introductions help us to better hear and relate to the wisdom of all our members, including those who paved the way for our journeys today.

By Tom C., Associate Director—Literature

The Forum, March 2022

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

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