Updated on February 6, 2024
6 min read

What Is Al-Anon?

Alcoholism affects not only drinkers but also the people around them. Because of this, Al-Anon considers it a family illness. Providing support for friends and relatives of alcoholics is crucial to recovery.

What is Al-Anon?

Al-Anon, an affiliate of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), provides a safe space for relatives and friends of alcoholics. Lois Wilson founded Al-Anon in 1951, 16 years after her husband, Bill Wilson, founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with Robert Smith.

In Al-Anon, members share their experiences and hope regarding their alcoholic loved one. They support each other in facing common problems that arise.

The type of support they can provide includes:

  • Dealing with the challenges of being close to an alcoholic
  • An opportunity for connection
  • Instruction for how to better help the alcoholic friend or family member

The community bases itself on its Three Legacies:

  • Recovery through the 12 Steps
  • Unity through the 12 Traditions
  • Service through the 12 Concepts
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Types of Al-Anon Groups and Meetings 

The types of meetings, which can be held in person or online, include: 

  • Al-Anon Family Groups
  • Alateen Al-Anon Groups for Teens
  • Newcomers

Meetings are open to anyone affected by someone else’s drinking, whether they are a relative, friend, or co-worker.

What to Expect from a Meeting

Meetings can either be open or closed. An open meeting is for anyone, regardless of whether they know someone struggling with alcoholism. A closed meeting is for people whose lives are directly impacted by another person’s drinking.


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Resources for Newcomers

If you want to join a Family Group or Alateen meeting, find the next one in your local area. You can search online at al-anon.org.The organization also has a presence in over 60 countries. Check the Worldwide Contacts Database to see if Al-Anon World Services are available in your country.

Understanding the “Higher Power”

Al-Anon is not a religious organization. The “higher power” is open to interpretation, depending on members’ beliefs.

In its most general sense, Step 12 refers to a “spiritual awakening” as an awakening to one’s own power, through spiritual growth and values, to positively influence themselves and the world around them.

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What are Al-Anon’s Twelve Steps?

The Twelve Steps of Al-Anon are the same as the Twelve Steps of AA. Serving as principles for spiritual growth, they are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. 
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What are the 12 Principles?

The 12 principles are spiritual values, each of which carries the essence behind one of the 12 Steps. They include:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Hope
  3. Faith
  4. Courage
  5. Honesty
  6. Patience
  7. Humility
  8. Willingness
  9. Brotherly love
  10. Integrity
  11. Self-discipline
  12. Service

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What are Al-Anon’s Twelve Traditions?

Al-Anon’s 12 traditions help them foster community spirit and unity. Here are the traditions:

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 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 co-operate with Alcoholics Anonymous.

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 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 be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and TV. We need 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.

What are Al-Anon’s Twelve Concepts?

The 12 Concepts guide Al-Anon members’ service in their fellowship. These are the 12 Concepts:

1. The ultimate responsibility and authority for Al-Anon world services belongs to the Al-Anon groups.

2. The Al-Anon Family Groups have delegated complete administrative and operational authority to their Conference and its service arms.

3. The right of decision makes effective leadership possible.

4. Participation is the key to harmony.

5. The rights of appeal and petition protect minorities and insure that they be heard.

6. The Conference acknowledges the primary administrative responsibility of the Trustees.

7. The Trustees have legal rights while the rights of the Conference are traditional.

8. The Board of Trustees delegates full authority for routine management of Al-Anon Headquarters to its executive committees.

9. Good personal leadership at all service levels is a necessity. In the field of world service the Board of Trustees assumes the primary leadership.

10. Service responsibility is balanced by carefully defined service authority and double-headed management is avoided.

11. The World Service Office is composed of selected committees, executives and staff members.

12. The spiritual foundation for Al-Anon’s world services is contained in the General Warranties of the Conference, Article 12 of the Charter.

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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