What is Al-Anon?
Al‑Anon is a mutual support program created to help those affected by someone else’s alcohol abuse. The group brings together people who share common experiences and provides an outlet for them to discuss what they are going through in order to bring about positive changes to their individual situations.
Families and friends of those struggling with alcoholism can attend in-person or electronic meetings to give and receive support from one another. The only requirement for membership is that an individual must have been impacted by the excessive drinking of another person in their life. Although they may sound similar, Al-Anon is a separate group from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but both are based on the 12 Steps & Traditions that AA was originally founded upon.
What to Expect at an Al-Anon Meeting
Every Al-Anon meeting has its own unique format so that no two are alike. However, there are some main principles that each follows. Al-Anon actually recommends checking out at least 6 different meetings before choosing the right one for you.
Everyone at the meeting is considered equal, therefore, no one person is in a position to give advice or direction to anyone else. Whether you want to sit quietly in the back and just listen or ask questions about your situation, you can utilize your first meetings however you feel most comfortable.
Meetings will most likely begin with a reading of the 12 Steps of Al-Anon which references a divine power and the serenity prayer. Even so, they are not a religious group and are not affiliated with any one religion, regardless of meeting location. Al anon groups are self-supporting and rely on donations to cover operating costs.
In addition to in-person meetings, Al-Anon offers electronic meetings and resources over the phone or online through chat, email, blogs, bulletin boards, social media, and instant messaging.
A Few Simple Guidelines
If you’re attending your first meeting, there are a few guidelines that can be good to know ahead of time. For one, as its name suggests, all meetings are confidential and anonymous. Only first names are used, and members agree not to discuss what was said within the meetings outside of the actual meeting.
Also, to keep anonymity, members cannot share personal information (e.g., a person’s line of work, job title, place of work, etc.). This also ensures that everyone feels equal to one another—whether you are an executive at a major company or on the hunt for a job.
Coffee is free, always. Other than that, because they are a self-supporting group, you may see a donation basket passed around, but there is no obligation to donate.
Why is This Kind of Support Group Beneficial?
Alcohol use disorder (AUD), or alcoholism, is a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by the inability to quit after attempts to do so, a preoccupation with alcohol, and use despite its negative consequences. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) explains that it is an involuntary disability because it is a disease.
When a person is struggling with alcoholism, they may lie to themselves or others about their consumption, deny they have a problem, or hide how much they drink. This can make it difficult for them to get help or for loved ones to talk with them about seeking treatment. However, it is treatable and can be managed effectively.
While your loved one may be getting the help they need through treatment, a support group such as Al-Anon can help you understand that you did not cause your loved one’s alcoholism and cannot control or cure it. It can also help you begin to work on your own well-being and let go of what you can’t fix while working on changing the things you can. Through understanding alcoholism as a disease and going through the 12 Steps, Al-Anon members can begin to regain control of their lives.
Find an Al-Anon Meeting
Whether you are a friend or family member of someone who is struggling with alcoholism, support groups such as Al-Anon can be a safe space to learn to trust, share your problems or receive support from others in similar circumstances. To find an Al-Anon meeting in your area, check local listings, search their website or call 1-888-4AL-ANON.