What Is Al-Anon?
Al-Anon, not to be confused with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), is an international support group for families and friends of loved ones with alcohol use disorders (AUD). The group is not affiliated with any religion or faith system. It encourages fellowship from a variety of individuals from all backgrounds who have been affected by a loved one’s alcohol-related disorders independent of their gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. The group incorporates 12-Step teachings, principles, and traditions and thrives off the connection and shared vulnerability in supportive, self-run group settings.
The group has a main requirement stating the participant has been impacted in some way by a loved one or friend’s drinking. Presently, there are more than 24,000 members to date, in 118 countries. Oftentimes, individuals are referred by word of mouth to the group to learn more about the group’s guidelines, and when they attend regularly they can find emotional and mental benefits. Many have reported increased improvement in their emotional and mental state, improvements in their everyday life, and become more spiritual after meetings.
A Brief History
Al-Anon began in 1951 By Bill W. and Dr. Bob when his wife Annie showed concern and pain from his alcohol use disorder. AA began in 1935 and spurred the creation and evolution of Al-Anon both incorporating 12-Step principles which have improved relationships of relatives and friends of those with alcohol use disorders. Bill W. attended several AA groups and noticed the development of family groups. Lois, Bill’s wife, opened an office for Al-Anon soon after. The group still continues to this day, helping thousands of family members globally.
Facts And Findings
One study observed 251 “newcomers” to Al-Anon for 6 months and found that 57% of the new participants dropped out of the group. The conclusion noted that those who left without completing the 12 steps did not have someone refer them to the group. As a result, those who left noticed higher rates of problems than those compared to those who stayed. A survey noted 84% of members are women and 93% are White with an average age of 56 years old. Over half are married, and over half are college educated and have jobs. The majority of male participants were aged 65 to 72. Many heard about the group through a professional and 56% of members endured abuse of some kind. The majority of attendees spoke English while some spoke French and Spanish.
Al-Anon meetings are open and closed, with themes of cooperation and support in each session. Open meetings allow for all individuals in the public to attend (people who are curious, or people who want to be observers but have not been impacted by one’s drinking), where closed meetings are available for those directly impacted by another’s drinking.
Typically, local group members conduct fellowship meetings and group members are prohibited from gossiping, giving advice, talking about religion, or endorsing specific treatments. Al-Anon has both 12-steps and 12 traditions-based teachings like AA.
The 12 Traditions are present in both AA and Al-Anon groups. According to Al-Anon’s website, their 12 Steps are:
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.
- For our group purpose, there is but one limited authority-a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
- The relatives of alcoholics, when gathered together for mutual aid, may call themselves Al-Anon Family group, provided that, as a group, they have no affiliation. The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.
- Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting another group or Al-Anon or AA as a whole.
- 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.
- Our Family Groups 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 shall always cooperate with AA.
- Every group should be self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Al-Anon Twelfth step work should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- Our groups, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- The Al-Anon Family groups have no opinion on outside issues; hence our name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- 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 guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.
Find A Safe Space
Those needing a space to vent, express concern or establish a community of like-minded people may benefit from Al-Anon meetings. Local meetings can be found through Al-Anon’s website. If you have questions about getting your loved one into treatment, contact a treatment provider today.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Edited: June 23, 2022
Medical Reviewer: Dayna Smith-Slade