Alcoholism is a debilitating disorder that affects over 107 million people worldwide – but those who grapple with alcohol addiction are not the only ones who suffer at the hands of this disease. Spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, or even coworkers can be negatively impacted by someone else’s substance abuse and struggle to cope with the burden. Being unable to stop a loved one from their destructive behavior can result in those caught in the periphery to take on feelings of guilt or shame.
Al-Anon Family Groups was created to serve as a support group for those affected by an alcoholic family member or friend. In addition to helping alcoholic-adjacent loved ones cope with the stress of a family member’s disease, it also aims to teach members how they can be a positive and helpful member of the family unit. Research has shown that alcohol abusers face higher odds of successful recovery when they are supported by family, making this not only an effective way of dealing with a stressful situation but also playing a pivotal role in resolving the issue itself.
The 12 steps of Al-Anon are derived from the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and are as follows:
Al-Anon is the name of a support group organization for family and friends who are affected by their loved one’s alcohol use. You may find these groups referred to as Al-Anon Family Groups.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship developed to help those who want to stop drinking. Although family members and friends are welcome at open AA meetings, these groups are tailored to help the individuals who are struggling and not their loved ones. Al-Anon meetings are specifically tailored to the experiences of a user’s loved one.
Just as there are multiple texts referenced in Alcoholics Anonymous, this is also true for Al-Anon. However, the original Al-Anon text is called “The Al‑Anon Family Groups—Classic Edition”.
Al-Anon was cofounded in 1951 by Lois W. (the wife of the founder of AA) and Anne B.
There are a number of slogans repeated frequently as a part of Al-Anon. These slogans also serve as principles of the program and include:
Most Al-Anon meetings are topic discussions facilitated by the leader of a ‘chairperson’. These topics can range from coping mechanisms for the affected family members to how to address the alcoholic directly. A.A’s 12 Steps and 12 Traditions are used as the organization’s guiding principles and often applied in these discussions. Common Al-Anon topics include:
Al-Anon membership is open to any and everyone who is directly affected by someone in their life with a drinking problem – although becoming a member is not necessary in order to attend a meeting. Meetings are free, confidential, and conducted on a walk-in basis. There is no type of commitment and participants can attend meetings as frequently or infrequently as they wish. All ages are welcome and children between the ages of 13 and 18 have access to a separate teen-focused support group called Alateen.
It’s important to note that Al-Anon focuses on the experiences and struggles of those close to the alcoholic – not the alcoholic themselves. While they technically can attend, Al-Anon is not designed to offer assistance for those hoping to achieve or maintain sobriety. Further, Al-Anon exclusively addresses the issue of alcohol abuse and therefore does not address other types of drug use such as cocaine or opioids.
Al-Anon is a spiritual-based group without a particular religious denomination. Those from all walks of faith – as well as those without – are welcome to join and attend meetings. Like A.A., this organization allows each member to interpret “higher power” (and other religious-mentions) in their own way.