Al-Anon family groups are one of the longest established and largest mutual aid family group available, offering free support to anyone affected by another’s alcoholism.
Al-Anon was founded in 1951 by Lois W and Anne B.
Lois W was the wife of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Bill W. Al-Anon is the sister group of AA.
The fellowship of Al-Anon follows a 12 step programme that is designed to free families of the daily struggles they face in being closely associated with an alcoholic and to help them recover from the past.
Over the years, Al-Anon Family Groups have helped millions of families and friends to find recovery, peace and acceptance around the suffering resulting from a loved one’s problematic drinking.
Alcoholism is a family illness, and everyone involved with the alcoholic is affected in one way or another—the effects of alcoholism spill over beyond the immediate family. Grandparents, sisters, uncles, and work colleagues can also be concerned and affected by a drinker’s behaviour.
Being with people who have been through similar problems, helps you to not feel alone in your predicament; it quells the loneliness by providing a new focus. A focus that is far healthier and is centred around your wellbeing as opposed to the person with the drink problem.
The recovery programme is like Alcoholics Anonymous, except it has been adapted to be relevant to family members and friends of alcoholics.
By following the 12 step programme of Al-Anon recovery, those affected by another person’s drinking can find freedom, recovery, and a new sense of purpose.
Al-Anon is there for any person affected by another’s drinking.
There is no requirement for membership apart from the wish to recover and receive support if you have been affected by someone else’s drinking.
Meetings, where members meet to support each other, are available worldwide to attend face-to-face meetings held in all major cities and towns. Meetings are also held over the telephone and internet to reach a larger number of suffering families.
Those who have been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism also need healing and recovery. In essence, Al-anon helps family members and friends of alcoholics to achieve this, regardless of if their loved one is still drinking or not.
It is a well-known fact that the disease of alcoholism gravely affects those who care for the person afflicted. Living with an alcoholic or loving an alcoholic is often terrifying, stressful and traumatic.
Many family members lose their own sense of identity. Their sole focus and purpose become centred on protecting the alcoholic from themselves and getting them to stop drinking alcohol.
Over time, family members adapt their own behaviours to survive their loved one’s alcoholism. These behaviours are often unhealthy and self-destructive; they serve no purpose in finding true happiness, freedom and contentment.
Al-Anon supports those seeking relief from a family or friends alcoholism and educates its members on the nature of alcoholism, helping them reach an understanding of the condition and refocus their attention and energy on rebuilding their own lives.
It is normal to feel anxious about what to expect from your first meeting. To help with this, you may wish to take a family member to support you.
Days, times and locations of local meetings are available on the Al-Anon website,
The meeting will be attended by others that have also been affected by someone else’s alcoholism. Those who have been attending for a while will be able to give you information regarding meetings and provide literature.
Once the meeting starts, members are requested to be quiet and listen. The meeting is usually facilitated by a senior member of Al-Anon (referred to as a Secretary) who will introduce a topic for discussion or a fellow member who will share their personal story with the group.
Those who attend are encouraged to listen for the similarities rather than focus on the differences in other members’ personal stories. Once the speaker has finished, members are then encouraged to share back, either on the topic of discussion or on anything that is bothering them.
Meetings are anonymous, so you are never asked to give your full name. Everything that is said during a meeting should be completely confidential. If you do not want to speak, you do not have to, and you can sit back, relax and listen.
After the meeting, experienced members may well approach you and offer to exchange telephone numbers, offering additional support outside the meeting format. This will also allow you to ask any questions you may have.
Before deciding whether Al-Anon Family Group meetings are for you, it is suggested that you attend a number of meetings and speak to different members before making up your mind.
Meetings are frequently held in private rooms in churches, halls and community centres. Al-Anon is not affiliated with any organisation, institution or religion and operates independently using only the voluntary donations it receives from its regular attendees.
Most meetings are held in quiet, public but private rooms so that members can feel safe and have their privacy respected.
Tea, coffee and refreshments are often available before a meeting starts, so it is a good idea to get there 10-15 minutes early to introduce yourself and settle in.
The meeting itself will consist of some approved readings, an outline of the meetings format, a topic or personal story from a member and time dedicated for those attending to share.
Al-Anon’s purpose is to provide support to those who have suffered due to a family member’s alcohol use. This is particularly useful to those that have spent many years trying to help someone who suffers from alcoholism.
They cannot stop your loved one from drinking, nor or they a counselling or therapy group. That is not what they are for. Their purpose is to help you and your family members to recover.
Al-Anon can also help you better understand what alcoholism is and how it affects the person afflicted and those around them.
Naturally, many that live with an alcoholic, or have an alcoholic parent, child or partner, suffer from codependency. They inadvertently enable the alcoholic to relieve their own fear, discomfort and anxiety and help them feel more in control. The enabling is detrimental to both parties long term well-being.
As well as providing insight and education on alcohol addiction, Al-Anon can also provide invaluable advice on implementing appropriate personal boundaries. Healthy boundaries keep you safe whilst ensuring you not enabling an alcoholics drinking.
Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, many members who attend meetings regularly make lasting friendships that enrich their lives. They come to understand how their loved one’s alcoholism has taken its toll and that they too need recovery and a life for themselves.
People can also share their personal experience of helping a newly sober loved one so that if your loved one does manage to stop drinking, you can support them without it hindering your own recovery.
For younger people of teenage years affected by family members drinking, Al-Anon has a sister group called Alateen.
Alateen meetings are for 12-17 years olds. They provide a safe, confidential and supportive space for teenagers to share their experience, strength and hope with one another through sharing in a common problem.
Alateen helps its attendees by educating them on the nature of alcoholism. They too follow a similar programme, which aims to set them free from feeling anger and fear around their loved ones drinking and stops them from feeling responsible in any way.
Alateen groups are overseen and facilitated by an adult who has been approved by the DBS screening process, who has good knowledge and experience of the 12 step programme and attended Al-anon for a minimum of three years. The adult can sponsor the teenagers and act as a mentor during the process of their recovery.
You can contact a local Al-Anon group by calling their helpline on 0800 0086 811.
The helpline is open 365 days a year between the hours of 10 am and 10 pm.
You can also contact Al-Anon via e-mail and find out more information about their groups and the support they offer by visiting their website.
To speak with a professional regarding help for a loved one with an alcohol problem, call Rehab Guide, who can advise you of your local private alcohol treatment options.
Our friendly addiction treatment experts at Rehab Guide will conduct a free of charge, confidential and professional assessment of your loved ones treatment needs and advise of an appropriate treatment plan.
For free alcohol support in your local area, please encourage your loved one to contact their local drug and alcohol team and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Alcohol Support Options