Al-anon is considered a 12-Step program. It is the sister program of AA. The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, had a white light experience with God and quit drinking. He had tried to get sober on many occasions, but failed. When he was touched during the holy visitation from God he started believing at that moment and he stayed sober form that moment. In AA they clearly state that God is the one who can get the alcoholic sober and keep the alcoholic sober.
His wife, Lois Wilson, started Al-anon in her kitchen. As the husbands would meet in the living room of Bill and Lois Wilson’s home to work on staying sober, their wives would meet in the kitchen. This husband and wife team worked together to help people on both sides of the addiction to heal. Their vision was clear and their orders obviously came from a loving God who has sustained the growth of the programs for many years now. A sad observation on my part is that the two programs seem to butt heads now. It’s sad to see that the Al-anon program doesn’t even want the mention of the AA program in their meetings, yet there was a time when the two met under the same roof, in unity while fellow-shipping with each other.
The 12-steps were originally designed to gently lead someone into believing in God. I’ve always said that God was capitalized in the literature and therefore was referring to the ultimate one and only, the God of Isaac, Moses, Jacob and Jesus. You can read a letter Bill wrote—dated 1940—and published in the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book, As Bill Sees It (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1976) that clearly states in section 114 that Christ is the God who set Bill free from his addiction to alcohol. You can read the actual letter here.
Bill Wilson was a Christian and AA was founded upon Christian principles. In fact, the early meetings of Alcoholic’s Anonymous (Oxford Group) were greatly focused on getting people to commit their lives to Christ. You will find sufficient evidence on this page that Dr. Bob and Bill W. were Christians (Christian is mentioned 41 times on the page) and the early meetings where centered around getting alcoholics to give their lives to Christ.
Just like many things in our society, the Al-anon and AA programs have become watered down by disbelief, contention and freedom of choice. Which is fine because the scriptures of the Holy Bible clearly say that Jesus didn’t come to judge the world, He came to save it (see John 3:17). John 12:47 – “If anyone hears my words (Jesus) but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Many people enter either program hurting, frustrated, sick and lonely. Some find God instantly out of desperation and for others it’s a gradual process.
The intention of both AA and Al-anon are to help the sick get well. It’s like a giant hospital where people come to get healing from the disease of alcoholism. During the process of staying in the hospital God gently knocks on the hearts of those who enter. He doesn’t condemn or judge, He just gently knocks and offers the visitors an opportunity to have a relationship with the Great Physician.
In both programs people are encouraged to “come to believe that a power greater than themselves can restore them to sanity.” Somewhere along the way the term “higher power” was coined. No one is turned away for not believing in God.
In Al-anon a higher power is understood to be something that is greater than ourselves. Many people who have difficulty believing in God understand that the Al-anon program can be their higher power. Friends can be a higher power. Literature can be their higher power. Whatever it is that they are capable of humbling themselves under and learning from can be used as a higher power. Some people use the word “god” as an acromym: Good Orderly Direction.
The tough part comes when people get to the third step and it says; “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.” For those who choose to not believe in God it’s an easier process to turn their life over to a “higher power.” A higher power can be a mystical force, the universe, the group, the meeting, a sponsor or whatever they decide to be their higher power. As I said though, the step actually states “God.”
The great thing about Al-anon is that no one is judged for their beliefs or dis-beliefs. The program clearly states: “there are no musts in Al-anon.” It also says: “take what you like and leave the rest.” We all have to find our own way to God. Just keep in mind that the originators of Al-anon where Christ followers and when they created the 12-steps, they were referring to Christ as being the God who restores to sanity.
The goal of the program is to help friends and family members who are suffering from the disease of alcoholism. Actually the literature states: “Al-anon has but one purpose to help families of alcoholics.”
In closing I would like to say that the God of my understanding is Jesus Christ. He’s revealed himself and has proven himself to me in so many ways. I am confident that I am walking with the Way, the Truth and the Life, just as the founders of AA and Al-anon did.