Amy’s Napkin Notes – Recap of Al-Anon Meeting

I wanted to share my experience going to the Al-Anon conference today because I got a lot out of it.  I'd forgotten the beauty of twelve-step programs, or any support group, which is that you never know what's going to come out of someone's mouth and where that thing you need to hear in that moment is going to come from – and it always comes. 

If you think you need the support of a twelve-step program and can't find an ACoA meeting in your area (and you don't want to start your own), then Al-Anon won't hurt. 

(But, if you do want to start your own local ACA meeting, this post explains how to get one going.)

One person said today that she gets more out of $1 Al-Anon meetings than her $150 therapist sessions!

I went because my stepmother invited me to go.  I didn't have a good excuse to say no.  I also agreed because I've been getting the feeling lately that I need to start going to ACoA meetings again, and it struck me as an appropriate gateway to that return.  I've gone to twelve-step meetings in the past, years ago (codependents anonymous and ACoA), but I used them as quick fixes and never kept going for more than a few months; this time I want to commit and keep going even after the immediate pain has eased – that's my challenge to myself. 

Index cards were passed out during the first workshop, and the following (in bold) are notes I wrote down over the course of the day, during two meetings and two additional workshops.  (I went to an "open" AA meeting (open meaning that anyone could go, even non-alcoholics), which helped me learn about that side of the fence and grow some compassion.)

If you feel resentment, don't do the thing.  Learn to recognize what resentment feels like in your body.  Say "no" with kindness, don't ignite a fire.

Our bodies tell us everything we need to know. We hold our breath, we get a cramp in our gut, we hear the word, "No" in our mind.  But there's a disconnect because we weren't supported in saying "no" as children.   When I feel resentment, I know what's up:  I agreed when I really didn't want to. And I think it'll be fine, that I won't really mind, but then there's that ache in my gut and the burn in my lungs. Resentment is an undeniable sensation.   

But, wait!  There's almost always room to go back and say your, "no." Or at least it's never to late to be sure to say your "no" at the next opportunity.

"When you make a good decision, you get a good result.  When you make a compromised decision based on someone else's stuff, you will always get crappy results.  Figure out what you're wanting to achieve, and do that."  

That sounded so wonderfully simple to me. When I have a decision to make, I want to remember to learn to shift my focus from my worry about the results (usually negative) to the positive, and to think about the decision-making between two things in terms of which thing has more "good" aspects.  It's much more simple that I make it out to be.  I know the answer.  I just get in my way.

How would I behave today, right now, if I trusted the Universe completely?  

I want to lean into life.  If I'm anxious and worried or controlling things, then there's no way that spontaneity or magic or Love will trip into my life and make it groovy and vital.  

Understand the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. 

It's not selfish or mean to get your needs met. Not in a million years.   

Have appreciation for and gratitude for your progress, shift your focus away from your continual, inevitable failures.  

Allow for grace and even the smallest progression in healing. 

One workshop focused on "trigger" events and how we react to them (a trigger event could be any conflict where you feel unnerved).  The workshop facilitator said that detachment in these situations is key, and this is the list of qualities of detachment:

Go prune the roses
Take a walk
Get off the phone 
Call the person back later
Ask yourself "How important is this?"
Go get coffee
Go to a support meeting
Stop & Think
Check your expectations
Call a sponsor/friend
Think of a mantra or slogan 

When something happens, stop.  Stop, and ask what's going on right there, in you. "What am I feeling?"  It's simple, the feeling (hurt, angry, embarrassed, shame, uncomfortable, etc.)  Let go.  Now.  "What do I want to happen here?"  Let that pure need, pure desire make itself apparent in you.

He did this, She did that, They said this…Re-focus on the craziness of my own behavior, and work on that only.  Let other people fix themselves. 

One woman said that she loves troubled people, the more troubled the more she liked them, because she liked to distract herself from her own needs and focus on fixing others, others who never asked her to fix them. She talked about how she suffocated her son.  Now she works at focusing on her own problems, which keeps her busy.

"Don't do for them what they can do for themselves."

A woman told the story of cleaning out her grown daughter's truck for her, then having a fight about it…she realized that she was doing something "for" her daughter as a "favor," which she hadn't been asked to do and which her daughter should have done for herself.  

Empower your children.  Empower your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, and yourself.  

Walk the same path with a different mind, heart, and eye.  

Your situation is only as miserable as you say it is.  Listen to how you talk about your life.

"Rationalization keeps the disease alive."  

This quote came from the AA meeting.  I think it's pretty straightforward.  Basically, the idea is that as long as you can rationalize a behavior, then you can continue the insanity.  Is there anything you're not truly happy about that you're rationalizing to yourself so that you don't have to make a change? 

Hope there's something here that resonates with you. 




  1. Michelle says:

    Lots of great stuff in this post -as usual. Thanks so much for sharing all these insights!

  2. amy eden says:

    Thanks Michelle! I was doubtful how much of the content would resonate with me, but oh man, a WHOLE lot did! Even though Im not an addict, I bet I could get a lot out of AA meetings, too. By whatever means and any which way a person has been impacted by Alcoholism…makes them part of this whole greater family – I was reminded that we all share a lot of very similar pain.

  3. OAD says:

    Thanks for posting this. We don’t have an ACoA support group in my city and I have been dragging my feet about trying Al-Anon. The notes you took from this workshop is just the stuff I want to work on for myself and helped me to realize I really need to just go.

  4. amy eden says:

    Hi OAD – Cool! I hesitated to post my notes (because I hesitate about everything but also because its not really a typical post.) But, good. Im so glad this was useful to you.
    Al-Anon should do the trick (and if for some strange reason it doesnt, you can always start your own local ACA group).
    Hooray for you! a

  5. Nak says:

    Hey – Having had a lot of trouble finding meetings in my area using Google, so I built free WordPress blog to come up in local search. Found your site and made a link, really enjoying reading all your insight. Thank you very much. A little broke these days, but I will donate to you when I get some extra cash.
    Keep up to good work !
    PS – Love the title – my take on it ? The only normal people are the ones you haven’t met !
    lol :)

  6. amy eden says:

    Hi! Great website! There is also the ACA WSO (ACA World Service Organization) website, which isnt as great to look at as yours is, but it also has up-to-date listings of meetings around the country. You can search by zip code or town. Maybe you can also link to it.

  7. Thank you for always sharing so openly and articulately.
    I could relate to so much. You are so right that our internal “knower” always knows what’s right if we let it lead us.
    I like this:
    “But, wait! There’s almost always room to go back and say your, “no.” Or at least it’s never to late to be sure to say your “no” at the next opportunity.”
    Yes! I give myself permission to make mistakes and rescind decisions. I am over trying to appear to be perfect or not “letting someone down” at the expense of my own well being. Even at the risk of having someone judge me for being “flaky” or indecisive.
    I figure that people who would judge me like that aren’t deserving of my attention anyway. True friends understand.

  8. amy eden says:

    Yeah, exactly, if people arent accepting of our way of being, our honesty, our needs, then that sure tells us something about that relationship. And by the time weve grown enough to just be ourselves and say no when we need to (no matter how late), well find it easy to disengage from the situations that arent working for us. Thanks for the note!

  9. Lorelai says:

    Love this site! Never thought I would find something like this on Pinterest, but alas here I am! It sounds like you had a very positive experience at the meetings (thanks for sharing it). I don’t know how your site works but this question is really for anyone. I recently went to an ACA meeting close to where I live. I had 2 to choose from and chose the one in the city. I overheard people talking to one another, and there was a woman who shared her story with everyone. Their stories were filled with instances of EXTREME abuse and neglect, some of which resulted in authorities removing them from their homes. My childhood was not like that at all. I identify with the characteristics of ACoAs and had considered myself one until going to that meeting. That meeting reminded me that I needed to appreciate the life I have, and I felt extremely guilty for thinking that I had it bad at all. Are all ACA meetings like this???

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