"One Moment In Time"
The Al-Anon Slogansand Their Meanings
The Al-Anon program embraces a set of principles that are at once simple and profound. A newcomer who enters the Al-Anon/Alateen meeting room in confusion and deep pain about the drinking cannot grasp a complicated philosophy. Such a person is desperate for relief from suffering. Beyond the warmth, caring and understanding offered by other members are a handful of simple phrases they will share with the newcomer, known as the "slogans." These are often the first tools the despairing person is able to hear and hold onto; but they are more than the commonplace, well-worn phrases that they first appear to be. The slogans have opened many a closed mind and have given suffering family members the first ray of hope that life can be different.
Once an individual has experienced this capacity for change, a slogan accepted at first for its simplicity takes on deeper and deeper meaning. Understanding the principles progresses with recovery.
Each of these slogans represents a particular spiritual discipline. They provide a logical starting point for dealing with many situations. They are also easy to recall in times of stress. An individual's response to them can be used as a measuring stick in evaluating his or her progress along to the road to personal recovery.
When we come into Al-Anon, burdened with the problems and confusion, we are confronted with a bright light of hope. This may tempt us to try too hard to learn, too quickly, all there is to learn about the program. "If we could only grasp the magic formula that is doing so much for the others," we think. But alas, it is not magic, but a philosophy of living, to be learned slowly and patiently, and absorbed into our hearts and minds.When we approach each meeting, each problem, each step, in a relaxed frame of mind, what we need will come to us much more quickly than if we are strained and hurried.Readjusting our lives and changing old habits takes time, and easy does it best.
Much of our confusion and frustration is due to our failure to deal with tasks and problems in the order of their importance. It does take discipline to put aside the things we'd rather do, and attend to those of first importance first. But the rewards are great: we get things done, we enjoy a sense of accomplishment, and we learn to face issues with a real sense of value and purpose.
When members begin to focus on themselves, according to the principle of First Things First, the self-knowledge that results places them in a better position to proceed to a life of order.
First Things First, in a spiritual sense, leads to an understanding that each person should concentrate on his or her own spiritual and emotional health in order to maintain a sense of contentment with life, rather than depending upon the actions of others, alcoholic or not.
The slogan Live And Let Live speaks profoundly of relationships with alcoholics and with others.This is a reminder that most of us need--often. Our only concern should be our own conduct, our own improvement, our own lives. We are entitled to our own view of things, and we have no right to inflict it on anyone else.Those who accept the slogan Live And Let Live come to understand that tolerance adds to the quality of daily living, whereas resentment and self-pity diminish the human capacity to live joyfully.Frequently, all that is needed to lead a more rewarding life is a change in attitude, rather than a change in circumstances
When we are resentful and embittered over an alcoholic's behavior, it is well to remind ourselves that the alcoholic did not choose to carry this burden of misery and despair. But for the grace of God, we might have been afflicted by this sickness. Let us be thankful that we have the blessing of sobriety, and be willing to help the alcoholic find this blessing, too.
But for the Grace of God is a slogan about gratitude and being thankful. Another Al-Anon member makes this suggestion: One of the early things that I learned to do in Al-Anon is play a game each night at bed time called the A B C of Al-Anon Gratitude. Just before you go to sleep start with the letter A and think of something that you are grateful for -- for example, Al-Anon. Continue through the rest of the alphabet and name something that starts with each letter. It will put you in a positive place and make you realize how much you have to be grateful for. After all these years we still play the game, God and I and it gives us a peaceful and serene sleep. I hope you will try it and see how much fun it really is -- we're never to old to play a game.
"To get a good, firm hold on the Al-Anon idea," said a speaker one evening, "keep it simple!" Because it is simple, and our slogans prove it. The whole purpose of Al-Anon is to help us iron out the rough spots in our living, and that can be done only one day at a time.
The things that trouble me are often too complex to yield to human reasoning. Indeed their only reality may be in my confused thoughts. When I reach such an impasse and I remind myself to keep it simple, I will find myself being restored to composure.
-- from One Day At A Time in Al-Anon, p. 143 (May 22) & p. 205 (July 23)
No matter what the problems are that we're trying to cope with, a major source of frustration is trying to encompass too much at once. We forget that we need to deal with only one day at a time, and try to crowd too much into the waking hours of that day -- or we even extend it beyond the point of weariness. We can get more out of each hour -- and accomplish more -- if we try to cope with only as much as is possible in that one day.
Al-Anon is a twenty-four hour program. This gives us the comforting assurance that we need not burden ourselves with the woes of the pas, nor anticipate those that may come in the future.
I will keep always in mind that today is my sole concern, and that I will make it as good a day as I can. This one small span of time is mine, and I will use it to do the things that need doing, and have a little time over for enjoyment and reflection.
-- from One Day At A Time in Al-Anon, p. 19 (January 19) & p. 79 (March 19)
How many waking hours are there in this day? What will I do with them? Today, this day, is all the time I have to do anything with, so I will use it with care. I will not waste a moment of it worrying about yesterdays; nor will I let a thought of dread for tomorrow cross my mind.
I will use this time for my essential duties, perhaps tackling the hard ones first so I won't be tempted to "put off until tomorrow." I will plan some little time for enjoyment and relaxation, and some, even if only ten minutes for solitary meditation and prayer.
This day belongs to me. I can do wonderful things with it, creative things, including the creation of order in my surroundings and in my mind. Nobody else owns my particular segment of time, so it depends only on me how well I will fill every moment to my satisfaction.
Al-Anon tells me to live one day at a time. This is that day.
"Just for today I will be unafraid.
Especially I will not be afraid to
enjoy what is beautiful and to believe
that as I give to the world, so the
world will give to me."
(from Al-Anon's "Just for Today.")
-- from One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, p. 212 (July 30)
The following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abbey:
When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it too seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lay on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.
After living in the chaos of an alcoholic relationship, it can be hard to know the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major crisis. Al-Anon's slogan, "How important is it?" helps many of us to regain some sense of proportion.
When plans fall through, when unexpected bills arrive, when I am disappointed in someone's response, I can ask myself, "How important is it?" Most of the time I find that what I might have viewed as a disaster is really insignificant. If I try to keep my attention on this day instead of worrying about possible future consequences, I can take my disappointment or irritation at face value and refuse to dramatize it.
Because of this simple slogan, many days that I would once have seen as tragic are now filled with serenity and confidence.
Today, if I encounter an upsetting situation, I will ask myself, "How important is it?" before I react. I may find that it is not important enough to sacrifice my serenity.
"It is almost as important to know what is not
serious as to know what is."
-- John Kenneth Galbraith
-- from Courage to Change (One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II), p. 228 (August 15)
The slogan, "Think" always puzzled me. Wasn't it my "stinking thinking" that got me into trouble? The meaning of this slogan remained a mystery until I heard a neighbor's child reciting some safety rules he'd learned in school: Stop, Look, and Listen.
Before I get into trouble, before I open my mouth to react, or get lost in obsessive analysis of another person's behavior, or worrying about the future, I can Stop. Then I can Look at what is going on and my role in it. Then I can Listen for spiritual guidance that will remind me of my options and help me find healthy words and actions.
So when something unkind is said to me, I don't automatically have to get into a loud and vicious argument. Instead, I can take a moment to "Think." I can Stop, Look, and Listen. Then I might be able to engage calmly in discussion or simply walk away. If I do choose to enter the argument, at least I am now making this decision consciously, rather than letting life decide for me.
This day is a beautiful room that's never been seen before. Let me cherish the seconds, minutes, and hours I spend here. Help me to "Think" before I speak and pray before I act.
"The program helps me gain the freedom to make
wise choices that are good for me. I choose to
put that freedom to work in my life today."
-- from Alateen--A Day at a Time
-- from Courage to Change (One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II), p. 64 (March4)
I have often tried to avoid repeating mistakes by making strict rules for my behavior. Although I can learn from experience, I can't plan for every situation that might happen in the future. Trying to do so only limits my options. When I get lost in such limited thinking, Al-Anon reminds me to "Keep an open mind."
I'm glad it does, because I am constantly changing. I continually need to leg to of old ideas when they no longer work for me. If I don't get too attached to any one way to approach life, I adjust to change with a lot less stress and strain.
As I practice keeping an open mind, I tend to cross paths with people who are also flexible in their thinking, and we help each other to see more clearly. As a friend says, "We don't see the world as it is. We see the world as we are."
As I grow, I continue to learn and to unlearn, replacing old ideas with new ones and reclaiming others that had been cast aside. Today I welcome this flow of information that will nourish and replenish me as I become more fully myself.
"To keep our faces toward change and behave
like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength
-- Helen Keller
-- from Courage to Change (One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II), p. 147 (May 26)
[NOTE: Except as otherwise noted, all excerpts are from the Al-Anon pamphlet "Alcoholism The Family Disease" and the Al-Anon book "Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism," p. 246-252]