One day at a time

By Caryn J., WSO Director of Fellowship Communication
July 1998
Reprinted with permission

Last March, I walked into the World Service Office archives and stood looking into the locked, glassed-in bookcase that contains the first and subsequent editions of each book published by Al-Anon. My purpose was to look at the one-millionth copy of our One Day at a Time in Al-Anon (ODAT) daily reader. As I looked at the cover, I thought, “One million copies — wow! Where are all those books today? Are they being used? Have they been destroyed? Where are the people who bought them?”

I thought of my first ODAT. It was the first book I acquired for my recovery. I can’t remember at which meeting I bought it, but when the members of the group said it would help, I believed them. Over the next few weeks, months, and years I carried “my” ODAT to meetings. Rarely did we read from it. The reason I carried it was so I had one place to write others members’ “pearls of wisdom” that would help me in times of distress. I also marked favorite phrases or pages that helped me. My ODAT traveled everywhere with me — in the car, on trips, in my bedroom, in my office, and to restaurants after meetings.

Later that evening, I pulled my “old” ODAT from the shelf at home. It looked a bit sad. In fact, most books in this condition would have been tossed away. Much to my disgust, many years ago our new puppy spent one afternoon chewing on it. Some of the old “pearls of wisdom” are no longer readable. One-third of the back of the book is gone; strings from the stitched backing are loose, and all of the pages have puppy-teeth marks. I quietly sat down and read some of the pearls of wisdom that I hadn’t thought of in some time. “The alcoholic is addicted to alcohol; the family is addicted to the alcoholic.” Yep, I sure was. PLOMS was short for “poor little ol’ me’s” which equals self-pity. Ouch! That one was so true. “You might be right!” Oh, yes, this was a phrase I used to dispel anger. In the front of the book were some phone numbers. With tears forming in my eyes, I read the name of my first sponsor and other members who have passed away. What wonderful memories…

The purpose of my visit to the archives was not to reminisce. My job was to begin the process of helping the worldwide fellowship of Al-Anon celebrate the printing of the five-millionth copy of our beloved book, first published in 1968. Now 30 years later at the Third International Al-Anon Convention in Salt Lake City, we not only celebrate the ODAT’s birthday but we will present the five-millionth ODAT. Later that afternoon, I prepared the work-order for the five-millionth cover. Just as with the millionth copy, we will Keep It Simple. All it needs to say on the cover is “One Day at a Time in Al-Anon,” and at the bottom, “Five-millionth copy.”

In our formative years, Al-Anon’s literature was written by Al-Anon members; however, the process of seeking sharings from the fellowship had not yet begun. Alice B. was the sole writer of the ODAT. She served as Literature Committee Chairperson from 1964-1971, when she resigned and went on to become a member of the Executive Committee and then the Board of Trustees. When she heard about the one-millionth copy in print, she said, ” People ask me how I wrote the ODAT. I tell them that I just sat down at my typewriter and waited for it to come.” How personally grateful I am for her wisdom and Higher Power. In 1980, at the 45th Anniversary International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in New Orleans, Louisiana, the one-millionth copy was presented to Milton A. Maxwell, Ph.D., nonalcoholic Chairman of AA’s General Service Board.

Later, the one-millionth copy was donated back to our archives. It took 12 years to reach one million readers and 18 additional years to reach four million more. Today the book also appears in large print, as well as in translations of Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. Today the ODAT and our two other daily readers, Courage to Change and Alateen-a day at a time, continue to help innumerable Al-Anon and Alateen members.

Where are all those five million copies of the ODAT today?

What does your first ODAT mean to you? Please share your memories with us. Write them down and send them to the WSO. Today, you can be a part of the process for writing two new daily readers. Today no one has the awesome assignment that Alice had with the ODAT. We, the entire fellowship of Al-Anon and Alateen, however, do have an opportunity. Sharings are needed from Al-Anon and Alateen members for ALATEEN EVERY DAY, which is the working title for a new Alateen daily reader, and for RECOVERY TODAY, the working title of a daily reader for Al-Anon adult children.

As we celebrate this incredible achievement in Al-Anon’s history, I never, ever want to forget that there are still many families and friends of alcoholics worldwide who do not know a meeting is around the corner or down the street from where they live. They live in despair, even as we offer hope. I am making a commitment to myself and to you today that I will buy an ODAT at my next meeting for the newcomer who can’t afford it. I want to share my recovery, and maybe that newcomer will write “pearls of wisdom” in their ODAT, too. In the meantime, my new ODAT is the one I use on a daily basis, while my old one sits on a special shelf at home next to my other Al-Anon books — One Day at a Time.

This article may be reproduced in its entirety without alteration using the following credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1600 Corporate Landing Pkwy, Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617