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What is Alateen?

Alateen is a group for young people, usually teenagers, whose lives have been affected by a loved one's struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is a part of the Al-Anon family group of 12-step programs. Al-Anon members sponsor Alateen groups to help the group stay on track.

The Alateen group is open to young people whether or not the loved one is still part of their life or not. Alateen is free for everyone to attend and is not associated with any religion.

What is the Difference between AA, Al Anon, and Alateen?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is for people with AUD who want to stop drinking. Al-Anon is for those who care about someone with AUD or a problem with compulsive drinking. It offers support and resources for anyone without someone in their life who has a drinking problem, whether that person is sober or not. Alateen is similar to Al-anon but attended by teens and young people.

All three of the groups bring people together affected by AUD to discuss their challenges. Groups provide support and guidance and an opportunity to speak to people with whom they share a common challenge.

You can learn more about Al-anon and its similarities to Alateen at al-anon.org.

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Alateen's Twelve Traditions

The Alateen's Twelve Traditions are as follows:

  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 only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend. The teenage relatives of alcoholics, when gathered together for mutual aid, may call themselves an Alateen Group provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.”
  4. “Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other Alateen and Al-Anon Family Groups or AA as a whole.”
  5. “Each Alateen Group has but one purpose: to help other teenagers of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves and by encouraging and understanding the members of our immediate families.”
  6. “Alateens, being part of Al-Anon 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 cooperate with Alcoholics Anonymous.”
  7. “Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alateen Twelfth Step work should remain forever nonprofessional, 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 Alateen 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.”

Purpose of Alateen 

Alateen has several purposes. The group brings young people together to:

  • Share life experiences with AUD
  • Understand that AUD is a family disease that affects everyone in the drinker’s circle
  • Provide strength and hope to one another
  • Discuss the challenges of loving someone with AUD
  • Learn effective coping skills
  • Offer encouragement to one another
  • Help other members understand the principles of Alateen’s twelve traditions and twelve steps
  • Learn about the principles of the Al-anon program and see how they apply to teens and young people
  • Gain access to Alateen literature and other intellectual resources that are available for self-study

Al-Anon and Alateen are focused entirely on challenges with alcohol. Groups do not directly address any other type of substance abuse. Like other 12-step programs, Alateen offers both open and closed meetings. Open meetings are for any young person to attend. Closed meetings are exclusive for Alateen members and young people affected by a loved one’s alcohol use. 

The only adults who attend Alateen meetings are the one or two Alateen group sponsors who are there to provide meeting guidance.

Attendance at an Alateen meeting is appropriate for anyone who: 

  • Is or has been affected by someone with AUD whether they are a family member, friend, or any other relation
  • Is affected by someone who struggles with AUD and other substance abuse issues, though meeting discussion focuses on the use of alcohol
  • Is unsure if a drinker’s problems have affected them and isn’t sure if Alateen is appropriate for them

Anyone who attends a single Alateen meeting and doesn’t feel comfortable or isn’t sure if there is value in the program is encouraged to participate in a different group meeting. There are usually several Alateen and Al-Anon meetings within an area held at different locations and/or at other times and are attended by different people.

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Benefits of Alateen Meetings

There are several benefits associated with attending Alateen meetings. These include:

Support

Though an Al-Anon meeting is open to people of all ages, teens are encouraged to attend Alateen meetings. Peer support tends to be more effective in these situations. Some teens feel embarrassed or ashamed of their loved one’s AUD. This makes Alateen the perfect venue to share concerns, issues, emotional challenges, and stories without judgment.

Guidance with Relationships

In most cases, relationships that involve AUD are hurtful and/or neglectful. This isn’t intentional, but that doesn’t make it any less of a reality. As someone attending Alateen, the person gets the tools and resources needed to cope with the negative feelings. They will learn to deal with mistreatment by their loved ones. This includes reassurance that their feelings are normal and that there is no reason to feel wrong about being angry or resentful.

Hope

Knowing that they are not the only ones dealing with AUD is a great way to build hope and feel better about the future. Everyone’s story is different, but there are commonalities among those who love someone with an alcohol problem.

Anonymity

Alateen is based on the principles of other 12-step programs, all of which place high importance on remaining anonymous. This ensures everyone can share openly and honestly without concern about discussions of their situations outside of the meetings. Meetings take place at secure and private suitable places. Attendees use only their first names.

Help for Others

Alateen not only helps young people cope with their situation, but it also allows them to be there to support others. Sharing what they have learned and supporting other people boosts their confidence and helps them heal.

Releasing Guilt, Fault, and Blame

One of the most important things young people learn when attending Alateen is that they cannot blame themselves for their loved one’s AUD. Nor are they responsible for their loved one's behavior when they are abusing alcohol. They will also learn that guilt is normal and that there are effective ways to deal with the negative emotions attached to the situation.

Control

Alateen empowers group members. Life can feel entirely out of control when people care about someone with AUD. Alateen members, like Al-Anon members, receive resources and coping skills to help them realize there are things within their control despite a loved one’s alcohol problem.

How Long Does An Alateen Meeting Last?

The length of an Alateen meeting varies from meeting to meeting. Some groups tend to run shorter meetings than others. The length is based on how long each of the Alateen members speaks at each meeting.

On average, meetings tend to last about an hour. It’s best to find a meeting that suits your schedule. 

If you have a choice between attending a portion of a meeting and opting out because of another engagement, it’s better to attend and miss part of the meeting.

Like Al-Anon, Alateen has no strict attendance rules, as long as you are considerate toward other members. And like Al-Anon, if you are concerned about time or unable to attend an in-person meeting, you can attend an online Alateen chat meeting.

How Can Alateen Help My Teen?

Alateen provides a peer group where teens can discuss their feelings and situations without concern for judgment or embarrassment. It also offers:

  • Understanding and guidance from others in similar situations
  • Access to other resources are of value to those who care about someone with AUD
  • Effective coping strategies
  • A safe and anonymous place to discuss the most challenging aspects of having a loved one with AUD
  • A foundation built on the belief that AUD is a family disease and that everyone affected needs support

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Resources

MORE
LESS

WSO. “What Is Al-Anon and Alateen and Are They Right for Me?” Al-Anon Family Groups, 2017.

H, Bob. “Alateen.” Al-Anon Family Groups

Cermak, Timmen L. “Al-Anon and Recovery.” Recent Developments in Alcoholism, 1989, pp. 91–104.

"Teen Corner." Al-Anon Family Groups.

"Alateen: A Supportive, Safe Space for Teens." Voice for the Children, NACoA.

"How do I deal with someone in my life who drinks?" Arizona State University.

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