The Responsibility of Alano

In the early 1940’s Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was growing at a rate unparalleled by any organization.  Meetings were held in members homes and church basements.  With limited meeting space many could only find a meeting or two each week.  Members clamored for more opportunities.  Some suggested AA purchase their own building so meetings could be held daily.  In 1940 AA had taken the position that they would have no financial holdings “…lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose”.  The trusted servants of AA pondered the situation and came up with a compromise.   The concept of Alano was formed.  70 years have passed and many Alano Clubs have adapted to changing times.   The question today is simple, what is the mission, the central responsibility, of Alano?

The word Alano comes from an acronym representing ALcoholics ANOnonymous.  The essential compromise was this:  Individual groups, or groups of individuals, would be allowed to purchase property and AA would agree to rent rooms for meetings.  Every Alano Club was to be chartered as an independent not-for-profit charitable organization in their respective State.  Every Alano Club would have a central mission of support for AA.  When Alanon was formed by Lois W. the Alano Clubs expanded their mission to include the “Al-Anon Family Groups”.  These groups had no direct affiliation with AA – other than a common interest in fighting the disease of Alcoholism.  Alano established an early tradition of support to 12 Step programs beyond AA.

Alano recognizes the three legacies of AA:  Recovery, Unity, and Service.  These are guiding principles.  12 Step Programs rent rooms at Alano, providing the essential ingredient of recovery – the opportunity to meet together.  Clubs such as the Alano of St. Joseph foster unity between AA, NA, and GA.  The very nature of the “Club” is that of Service – a critical legacy.  Without service to others no 12 Step Program can survive.

12 Step Programs blossomed.  Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was freely granted use of the AA 12 Steps in 1952.  Gamblers Anonymous (GA) followed in 1956.  Today there as many as 200 12 Step Programs operating around the world.  In 2002 the Alano Club of St. Joseph, Missouri, updated their State Charter to include support for all 12 Step Programs.  Presently the Alano Club of St. Joseph rents space to AA, NA, Al-Anon, and GA.  All social activities welcome all 12 Step Programs.

We can easily see that the mission of Alano has adapted to changing times.  The one thing that has never changed is the concept of Alano existing as a support system – Alano does not exist in a vacuum – Alano’s purpose is to support others – Alano does not stand alone.  The name itself, Al ANO, was derived from the grandfather of all 12 Step Programs – Alcoholics Anonymous.  Alano exists to foster and support the three legacies.

As Alano continues to evolve and change with new medical, psychological, social, religious, and legal changes to our world we risk losing sight of our original mission – the support of 12 Step Programs and their members.

An important word was attached in the 1940’s – that word is Club, as in Alano Club.  Wise people in Alano “Clubs” managed by retaining their mission as a support system to 12 Step Programs and ordered their Club in a manner that allowed the Club to be a financial support system.  Other Alano Clubs over the years lost sight of their mission, the support of 12 Step Programs, and focused on the socializing concept of the “Club”.  Those “Clubs” faced a whole host of organizational problems.

Some organizations focused on the social aspect of their Club.  Some had pool tables and game rooms and snack bars.  Successful Clubs recognized the need for socialization, but were wise enough to keep their focus, all activities had to conform to the three legacies.  The focus, again, is the support of 12 Step Programs.  The “Club” activities did attract new members, but all “Club” activities had to be financially solvent – the responsibility was to have the “Club” support the tenant 12 Step Programs.  No club should exist that feeds off the rent of their 12 Step tenants.  And herein lies the the problem facing the 21st Century Alano Club.

Many “Clubs” resorted to charging ‘dues’.  In the beginning this was a method of making sure voting members were invested in the Alano.  Over time the idea of dues expanded to include certain social activities.  For instance, only dues paying club members could use the facilities between 12 Step Meetings.  Amenities were added, like pool tables.  Some dues paying members lost sight of the central mission – they lost sight of the concept of service to others – they began asking, “What about me?  What do I get for my dues?”  The ‘what about me’ attitude reminds us of the ‘terminal uniqueness’ of some in active addiction.  This is a dangerous place to go mentally – this attitude can undermine years of hard work in recovery.

When Alano Clubs venture into charging dues for added amenities they provide opportunities for counter productive thinking.  We are not saying that dues for amenities should be forbidden.  We are only saying that we have to approach these ideas with great caution.

12 Step Programs do not exist to finance an Alano Club.  The Alano Club exists to support recovery, unity, and service.  The question is not what we get from our Club, the question is what do we give?


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