Al-Anon is a support group and worldwide fellowship of people whose lives have been affected by another person’s alcohol use. These support group meetings are available throughout the United States for people who need help and guidance coping with a loved one’s drinking problem.
Here’s everything you need to know about Al-Anon and how you can find a nearby meeting in your area.
What Is Al-Anon?
Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by another person’s drinking.
People who attend Al-Anon meetings are usually families and friends of alcoholics. These individuals may need help learning how to cope with their loved one’s drinking problem or want tips on how to stop enabling their loved ones to drink. Some people may attend Al-Anon meetings to learn more about alcoholism, while others may be in denial and want confirmation from others that their loved one even has a drinking problem at all.
The goal of Al-Anon is to create an environment in which the friends and relatives of alcoholics can share common experiences and bring positive changes to their situations. Al-Anon meetings are always completely anonymous, which means you don’t have to share your full name or any other personal information. All attendees are encouraged to speak openly and honestly about their situations and can take refuge in the fact that Al-Anon is dedicated to providing a haven free of judgment and stigma.
What Is the History of Al-Anon?
Al-Anon, part of Al-Anon Family Groups, was founded in 1951, about 16 years after the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The founders of Al-Anon were Anne B. and Lois W.—wife of AA co-founder Bill W.
Al-Anon adopted the Twelve Steps used in AA except for the twelfth step, modified to be more specific to Al-Anon. It also changed the word “alcoholics” in every step to “others.” Also, like AA, the Twelve Steps in Al-Anon often refer to a “Power greater than ourselves,” intended to empower members to embrace spiritual guidance that helps them apply positive principles to their lives.
What Are the Twelve Traditions of Al-Anon?
The Twelve Traditions in Al-Anon are not the same as the Twelve Steps. According to Al-Anon, the Twelve Traditions summarize the principles used by Al-Anon that are proven to help all Al-Anon groups function effectively. The Twelve Traditions are often discussed at every Al-Anon meeting, whether for a few minutes or the entire duration of a particular meeting.
These Twelve Traditions are:
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal progress for the greatest number depends upon unity.
2. For our group purpose, there is but one authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants—they do not govern.
3. The relatives of alcoholics, when gathered together for mutual aid, may call themselves an Al-Anon Family Group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation. The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.
4. Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting another group or Al-Anon or AA as a whole.
5. Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves, by encouraging and understanding our alcoholic relatives, and by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics.
6. Our Family Groups ought never to endorse, finance, or lend our name to any outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim. Although a separate entity, we should always cooperate with AA.
7. Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Al-Anon Twelfth Step work should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. Our groups, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. The Al-Anon Family Groups have no opinion on outside issues; hence our name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need to always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and TV. We need to guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.
How Much Does Al-Anon Cost?
Al-Anon meetings are completely free to attend. There are no membership fees or dues. This makes it easy for friends and family members of alcoholics to get the help and support they need to cope with their loved one’s drinking problem. It also allows them to stay anonymous and keep their meeting attendance private in situations where their loved ones may monitor finances or share financial responsibilities.
Some Al-Anon groups accept donations and voluntary contributions. These donations usually help pay for coffee and snacks provided during meetings or costs related to Al-Anon literature and space rent for meetings. However, while donations may be mentioned briefly at every meeting, they are never obligatory or expected.
What Happens at Al-Anon Meetings?
Many Al-Anon meetings follow a structure similar to that of AA meetings. Members can decide to talk about and share their personal experiences or be quiet observers who listen to the stories of their fellow members. Meetings also usually provide members with Al-Anon literature, including the Twelve Steps and Twelve Principles.
Some Al-Anon meetings provide you with a schedule that lists the topics to be discussed at every meeting. For instance, some meetings may discuss the importance of adopting a positive attitude when dealing with an alcoholic loved one, while others may discuss the signs of enabling a loved one and encouraging them to drink.
Other topics you may discuss at Al-Anon meetings include:
• Accepting that your loved one has a drinking problem.
• Coping with denial.
• Coping with anger in the household.
• Finding the courage to change your life for the better.
• Learning how to have realistic expectations.
• Learning how to practice forgiveness.
• Practicing self-care.
• Boosting your self-esteem.
• Dealing with verbal or physical abuse.
An important factor to keep in mind is that Al-Anon meetings should focus on helping YOU and not the alcoholic. They should address your feelings and teach you how to cope. Al-Anon meetings should not revolve around how to get your loved one into treatment, how to force them to get sober, or how to get revenge or get even.
Can Alcoholics Go to Al-Anon Meetings?
Al-Anon is usually only for families and friends of alcoholics and those who need help recovering from the effects of someone else’s drinking. Al-Anon meetings are not for people who currently have a drinking problem or need help achieving sobriety. These individuals should attend AA meetings instead and receive professional treatment at an alcohol rehab center.
Bringing someone with a drinking problem to an Al-Anon meeting can be extremely detrimental, especially if the person is still intoxicated, angry, or in denial that they have a problem, to begin with. The meeting may not be productive and may lead to feelings of hostility among other members. It may also compromise the anonymity of other Al-Anon members.
On the other hand, some people in recovery from alcohol addiction can benefit from going to Al-Anon meetings, especially if they want to learn how their drinking has affected their loved ones. Some Al-Anon meetings discuss codependency and enabling, in which case the person with the drinking problem can learn more about the daily struggles their loved ones may have been facing in the past.
If you are in recovery from alcohol addiction and want to attend an Al-Anon meeting, consult with your doctor, therapist, or counselor beforehand. Your provider can talk to you about the pros and cons of attending these meetings and give you the green light if they think you’re ready.
Can People Attend Al-Anon to Discuss Drug-Related Problems?
People whose lives have been affected by someone else’s narcotics use—particularly opioids—can attend Nar-Anon meetings, the drug-related version of Al-Anon meetings. Al-Anon limits topics and meetings only to those who have been affected by another’s alcohol use—meaning you may not benefit by going to these meetings if your loved one misuses other substances like heroin, painkillers, or cocaine.
Al-Anon meetings may benefit you if your loved one uses alcohol with other drugs. If there are no Nar-Anon meetings in your local area, you can consider showing up to Al-Anon meetings as a listener to pick up tips and insight on coping with a loved one’s addiction, regardless of the substances being used. Another option is to look for virtual Nar-Anon meetings held online.
What Is Alateen?
Alateen is highly similar to Al-Anon but is a fellowship of teenagers whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.
Teenagers who attend Alateen meetings may have a family member in their household who suffers from alcohol addiction or close friends who binge drink or who drink heavy amounts of alcohol regularly. Teens in Alateen have the opportunity to bond with other teens in similar situations, which can be especially helpful to those who have parents addicted to alcohol and aren’t sure how to cope.
Like Al-Anon, Alateen is part of Al-Anon Family Groups. Meetings are completely anonymous, free to attend, and are available in person and online. If you are interested in becoming an Alateen member, look online for meetings in your area using the Alateen meeting map.
Who Should Attend Al-Anon Meetings?
Al-Anon meetings are open to anyone who has been affected by someone else’s drinking, whether that person is still drinking or not.
This may include spouses and children of people who have a drinking problem or anyone else who lives in the household—including roommates. This may also include friends and coworkers of the person who has a drinking problem. In some instances, adult children of alcoholics may want to become part of the Al-Anon fellowship, especially if they are still in recovery from a trauma they experienced during childhood.
There are no specific requirements regarding who should attend an Al-Anon meeting unless you are someone who thinks you have a drinking problem. In that case, you should attend an AA meeting.
If you were negatively affected by someone else’s drinking behavior, it might be a good idea to go to Al-Anon meetings so you can begin your recovery. For example, if you were in a relationship with someone many years ago whose drinking problem affected your confidence and self-esteem, going to Al-Anon meetings can help you understand what may have happened and help you feel good about yourself again.
Is Al-Anon Effective?
Al-Anon can be an effective program for people who need help coping with and recovering from the effects of someone else’s drinking. Many therapists and counselors who specialize in alcohol addiction treatment encourage the friends and relatives of their patients to attend at least one Al-Anon meeting to see if they like it and find it helpful. At Al-Anon meetings, members share their experience and strength as it relates to dealing or having dealt with someone addicted to alcohol.
According to a 2015 study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, people who regularly attend Al-Anon meetings benefit from improved quality of life and learn effective skills that help them handle problems associated with the drinkers in their lives. The study adds that these benefits occur mainly on behalf of bonding between attendees and exposure to sponsors and peers in recovery. The study also infers that Al-Anon is an excellent public health resource due to it being free of charge and widely available.
Where Can I Find an Al-Anon Meeting?
Al-Anon meetings are available in nearly every city and state to support people trying to live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives while being affected by another person’s drinking problem. The easiest way to find an Al-Anon meeting is to use the interactive meeting map featured on Al-Anon’s official website. Maps are available for both Al-Anon and Alateen members.
Electronic Al-Anon meetings are also available for those who want to join a telephone or online meeting for reasons related to safety and convenience. Visit the electronic meetings page to find a telephone or online Al-Anon meeting that fits into your busy schedule.
Find Support Groups
If you want to become part of Al-Anon or know someone who has a drinking problem or seeks professional treatment, call (561) 559-9210 to find available support groups in your area. Or, visit our website to search for support group meetings in your city and state. We can help you find support groups for AA, Al-Anon, Alateen, Marijuana Anonymous, and many more that can set you on a solid path to recovery.