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Updated on April 7, 2022

What is the Purpose of Al-Anon?

Al-Anon is a community of relatives and friends of alcoholics who may not know they have an addiction to alcohol or are already in recovery.

The fellowship shares their experiences, strengths, and hopes to solve their common problems relating to knowing someone with alcoholism.

Members of Al-Anon believe that alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can help recovery. The group's purpose is to help friends and families of alcoholics with the difficulties of caring for their loved ones.

This includes:

  • Dealing with the challenges of having an alcoholic loved one
  • Supporting members, so they don’t feel alone
  • Teaching them how to help an alcoholic friend or family member more effectively

Members are practicing the Twelve Steps to receive comfort and support. At the same time, they will learn how to understand and encourage people with alcoholism to seek treatment for their addiction and maintain recovery.

Whether an Al-Anon member’s loved one is still drinking or not, the organization provides hope and support to everyone affected by the alcoholism of a friend or family member.

The Al-Anon program of recovery is adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous. It is based on the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, and the Twelve Concepts of Service.

Al-Anon is self-supporting through voluntary contributions, and members do not have to pay to join. The organization is not allied with any sect, denomination, institution, or political entity.

The Story of Al-Anon

Lois Wilson founded Al-Anon in 1951, sixteen years after her husband, Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with Robert Smith. Lois W. wasn't an alcoholic herself. However, she personally found it challenging to support her husband, Bill W., who had been in recovery since 1934.

Al-Anon was established to help families and friends of alcoholics cope with similar struggles.

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Alcoholism as a Family Illness

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

Al-Anon teaches them not to blame themselves for their loved one's drinking. It also helps them understand why their recovery needs to be prioritized.

What are the Al-Anon Principles & 12 Steps?

The Al-Anon Twelve Steps were adapted from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps have encouraged spiritual growth for millions of Al-Anon and Alateen members. 

The Twelve Steps 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.

Practicing the Twelve Steps is a must for Al-Anon members.

Understanding the “Higher Power”

Al-Anon is not a religious organization. However, members commonly believe in a higher power. This “higher power” is open to interpretation based on members’ personal beliefs. People are welcome to join regardless of their religious views and belief systems.

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Who can go to Al-Anon?

Al-Anon members can be anyone who is closely affected by another person’s drinking. Usually, they are families of alcoholics such as parents, partners, grandparents, siblings, children, and cousins. But you don’t have to be a relative to enter the program.

Friends of alcoholics can go to Al-Anon. Employers, coworkers, or anyone in need of support, can also be members.

Everyone in Al-Anon has a shared common bond in that their lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. They provide support through meetings.

Al-Anon Meetings 

A meeting is where Al-Anon’s members discuss their personal experiences with someone who has alcoholism. These meetings can be done in person or online.

Face-to-Face Meetings

In-person meetings require the physical attendance of members. Their availability varies across U.S. states and cities.

To find them, you can conduct a meeting search on Al-Anon.org or download the official Al-Anon mobile app for Android and iOS.

Electronic Meetings

Al-Anon offers remote meetings as an alternative. These can be held online or over the phone with the help of the following platforms:

  • Landline phone
  • Live chat
  • Instant messaging (e.g., Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Discord)
  • Web conferencing (e.g., Zoom and WebEx)

Al-Anon members are also updated with meeting schedules via email, blog posts, bulletin announcements, and social media.

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What to Expect from a Meeting

Everyone at the meeting discusses as an equal and has experienced a problem with someone else’s drinking. 

Discretion to Speak, Ask, or Listen

During Al-Anon meetings, members are welcome to ask questions or talk about their situation. However, if you would rather listen, you can say ‘I pass’ or explain that you are just there to listen. 

Every meeting is different and is run how its members choose, within guidelines designed to encourage Al-Anon unity. It is recommended that you attend at least six separate meetings before you decide whether Al-Anon is helpful to you or not.

Staying Anonymous

Meetings focus on anonymity. Members are expected to respect the confidentiality of what people say, and not divulge it to anyone outside the group. They will not approach you outside the discussion in a way that comprises your privacy or anyone else who attended.

Open and Closed Meetings

Al-Anon’s meetings can also be open or closed. 

Open meetings are for anyone who wishes to join, regardless of whether or not they are affected by someone struggling with alcoholism. 

Closed meetings are exclusive to members whose lives are directly affected by another person’s drinking.

The Twelve Steps of Al-Anon

Most meetings start with a reading of the Twelve Steps of Al-Anon. If you are new to Al-Anon, it may take some time to fully understand how it can help members recover from the effects of a loved one’s drinking. Members often share the personal lessons they have learned from following these steps.

Types of Al-Anon Meetings

Since its establishment, Al-Anon no longer limits its support to families and friends of alcoholics. They now offer different kinds of meetings. Each type addresses the needs of specific members.

The availability of these meetings will depend on your location. No matter which meeting you join, Al-Anon only has one purpose: to help.

Below are the most common types of meetings:

Al-Anon Family Groups

The Al-Anon Family Group is the original format of Al-Anon group meetings. Here, relatives and close friends of drinkers provide mutual support by sharing their experiences and finding strength and hope in one another to solve their common problems.

Alateen Al-Anon Meetings for Teens

Al-Anon Alateen is similar to Al-Anon Family Groups, except the community consists of teenagers affected by someone else’s alcoholism. At Al-Anon Alateen meetings, young people share experiences, strength, and hope.

Together, they find effective ways to cope with problems and discuss the difficulties of alcoholism. Teenage members also encourage one another to learn and understand the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

Newcomers 

Also known as Beginners Meetings, ‘Newcomers’ is a type of Al-Anon group open to new members. Members who have already spent some time with Al-Anon will be present in these meetings to talk about their own experiences. 

That way, newcomers can be familiar with the program and know what to expect from Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon Alateen, and the different types of meetings.

Benefits of Al-Anon for People Affected by Alcoholism 

Relatives, partners, and friends of an alcoholic are particularly vulnerable. They may experience shame, manipulation, secrecy, financial issues, legal problems, and physical and emotional trauma due to their loved one’s alcohol addiction.

If you are personally experiencing this, Al-Anon can connect you with other friends and families of alcoholics who are going through the same struggles. Being part of the community allows you to seek confidential counsel and advice from people in a similar position to you. 

You can also share your successes, failures, and concerns — and learn from one another in a supportive and empathetic environment. 

If your loved one is still drinking alcohol or is in recovery, Al-Anon can support you there too. 

Al-Anon Family Groups and Al-Anon Alateen can help you work through any negative feelings you may have towards your alcoholic loved one. By helping you understand their chronic disease, you can learn to forgive their actions and behaviors resulting from alcoholism.

How to Join Al-Anon: Resources for Newcomers

If you want to join an Al-Anon Family Group or Al-Anon Alateen, find a meeting in your local area. Your nearest Al-Anon meeting location can be found online.

You can visit al-anon.org to check local information services. Many of those listed provide meeting information on their websites, such as where to find their office and contact details.

Worldwide Al-Anon Contacts

In addition to the United States, Al-Anon and Alateen have an office in over 60 countries worldwide. You can contact one of these offices by searching their Al-Anon Worldwide Contacts Database.

Al-Anon FAQs: Common Questions and Answers

Here are the answers to some common questions about Al-Anon:

What does AFG mean in Al-Anon meetings? 

AFG stands for Al-Anon Family Groups.

What does qualifier mean in Al-Anon?

Most people attend Al-Anon meetings because they have a qualifier in their lives. A qualifier is someone close to them who has a drinking problem.

A qualifier can be your partner, mother, daughter, coworker, friend, and so on.

What is detachment with love?

Detachment with love means caring enough about someone to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means taking responsibility for your welfare and taking care of yourself without letting someone else’s alcohol addiction affect your mental well-being.

How do you know if you need Al-Anon?

If you are unsure whether you need to attend Al-Anon meetings, it is best to ask yourself: Is somebody else’s drinking affecting you? If the answer is yes, you will benefit from Al-Anon meetings.

What is the difference between AA and Al-Anon?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helps alcoholics remain abstinent and recover from their addiction to alcohol. Al-Anon supports families of alcoholics and friends of people who are struggling with alcoholism. This applies to people who may be current alcoholics or used to be one.

Is there a big book for Al-Anon? 

The book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ is known by AA members as ‘The Big Book.’ The textbook for the original 12-step recovery program is known by the same name.

Although Al-Anon’s roots are based in AA, there is no big book for Al-Anon.

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Resources

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  1. Core Purpose, Mission and Strategic Goals.” Al-Anon.
  2. The Twelve Steps.” Al-Anon.
  3. Frequently Asked Questions.” Al-Anon.
  4. Al-Anon Meetings.” Al-Anon.
  5. What does Al-Anon do?” Al-Anon UK.
  6. Teen corner.” Al-Anon.
  7. Al-Anon guidelines.” Al-Anon.
  8. Timko, Christine et al. “Al-Anon newcomers: benefits of continuing attendance for six months.” The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse vol. 42,4, 2016, 441-9.

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