General enquiries: 0800 326 5559
International: 0330 333 8188

Al-Anon: What is it & How it Can Help

    Quick links for Al-Anon Family Group Meetings

    Al-Anon [1] is a group of people brought together to help those who are affected by a loved one’s excessive drinking.

    This could be the partners, parents, colleagues, friends, children or grandparents of someone who is currently struggling with an addiction to alcohol.

    Al-Anon is closely linked to another 12-step group called Alateen who specifically provide help for teens and young adults who struggle with drug addiction or alcohol use disorder.

    Al-Anon was formed in 1951 by Anne B and Lois W. Lois was the wife of Bill Wilson, who was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (the AA).

    Whilst forming the AA, it became very clear to Bill Wilson that there was not enough support for friends, family and loved ones, so he consulted with his wife and subsequently formed Al-Anon.

    Al-Anon groups are located throughout many cities and towns all around the world, with meetings taking place in person and online.

    As it was founded by the same people as the AA, it follows the same 12 step method and approach to alcoholism and is therefore relatable to the family members and friends of those suffering from AUD.

    Al-Anon is open to anyone who needs support whilst dealing with their loved one’s addiction

    Whilst some individuals have loved ones currently undergoing treatment, other individuals attend Al-Anon meetings whilst their loved ones are actually yet to admit or seek help for their problem.

    Who is Al-Anon for?

    People assembling for an Al-Anon Family Group Meeting

    People assembling for an Al-Anon Family Group Meeting

    Al-Anon is for anyone who needs support whilst supporting their loved one suffering from alcoholism.

    Al-Anon even supports individuals who no longer have a close relationship with the sufferer, if they’ve left the family or have passed away.

    Everyone who feels like they need support is welcomed into Al-Anon.

    Al-Anon supports anyone including the immediate family, distant family, friends and colleagues.

    Al-Anon and the immediate family

    Al-Anon is committed to helping those close to the sufferer, such as the immediate family.

    They often share a home with the individual, and their loved ones drinking often affects them more than anyone else.

    The addiction will affect each family member in a different way, and Al-Anon understands that close and immediate family members might sometimes find it hard to broach the subject with the individual.

    Al-Anon and distant family, friends and colleagues

    Even though alcoholism often affects the people closest to them, it can also affect distant family, friends and colleagues.

    The effects of alcoholism span far and wide and lots of people end up worried and concerned about the individual’s current state and what might happen in the future.

    These individuals, including close and immediate family members, might experience feelings of guilt for not being able to help enough.

    However, it’s important to remember that this feeling of guilt is coming from a place of love and care and that their addiction is not your fault.

    Al-Anon is for anyone, from any background

    Al-Anon’s fellowship of members are inclusive and strives to support anyone from any background.

    They pride themselves on being non-judgemental and want everyone to feel supported regardless of any cultural, social or racial differences.

    What to expect from Al-Anon Family Meetings

    Al-Anon Family support group sat together and smiling

    Al-Anon Family support group sat together and smiling

    At any Al-Anon meeting, you should expect to meet many different people from different backgrounds and walks of life.

    However, you will all be united in your desire to help your loved ones through their addiction. [2]

    Every member who attends the group session will practice and go through the same 12-step method, and meetings will allow individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts, stories and experiences with one another.

    It’s thanks to this that individuals are then equipped with the right tools, support and knowledge to better understand their loved ones situation and addiction, both in the long and short term.

    With this support and knowledge, they’re much more likely to help their loved ones overcome their addiction.

    Each meeting group contains on average around 5 – 25 members. This small number allows the individuals who attend to get to know each other well and therefore creates a safe and open environment for people to share stories, thoughts and experiences.

    Although every Al-Anon group is unique in its own way, meetings will usually tend to follow the same structure. [3] Meetings usually start with a short opening and introductions of all existing members and any new members.

    At this stage, newcomers are welcomed into the group and shown the ropes. They inform them of what they should expect from the meetings and emphasise that they should take things slowly – they shouldn’t expect too much personal progress too soon.

    Family members at an Al-Anon Family Group Meeting stood holding hands

    Family members at an Al-Anon Family Group Meeting stood holding hands

    The rest of the meeting is usually spent talking about any progress made since the last meeting and then sharing stories and experiences.

    If you’re interested in joining an Al-Anon group but want more insight into what a meeting consists of, below is a more detailed explanation: [4]

    • During each Al-Anon meeting, you’re allowed to ask any questions and discuss your current situation in detail. You’re also allowed to ask questions to other individuals about their situation and circumstances. However, if you’d like to stay quiet, sit back and listen, that’s also fine.
    • Each Al-Anon group is unique because the members of the group decide the structure and format of the meeting.
    • Although some Al-Anon Family Group meetings are held in religious facilities, Al-Anon is not associated with any religious organisation or faith and is open to people of all beliefs or lack thereof.
    • Although Al-Anon Family Froups aren’t anonymous, your anonymity and privacy is still respected. For example, members do not share the names of other people in the group with anyone outside of the group, under any circumstances.
    • At the start of most Al-Anon Family Group Meetings, you should expect to hear a reading of all 12 steps.
    • When it’s time for the meeting to conclude, members will be encouraged to share hugs.

    The 12-steps followed at Al-Anon Family Meetings

    Two people holding hands at an Al-Anon Family Meeting

    Two people holding hands at an Al-Anon Family Meeting

    These are the same 12-steps practices across all ‘Anonymous’ addiction support groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and many more.

    1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
    9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
    11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    It should be noted that, although the steps refer explicitly to ‘God’, this technique is not inherently religious and neither is Al-Anon.

    ‘God’ simply refers to the idea of a higher power, including any deity, the concept of nature, a wider lifestyle philosophy or the universe itself.

    How do I get started with Al-Anon Family Group Meetings?

    Empty chairs set up for an Al-Anon Family Group Meeting

    Empty chairs set up for an Al-Anon Family Group Meeting

    There are many ways you can get started with Al-Anon.

    However, the best way to find out if it’s for you or not is to attend a meeting.

    There are different ways you can get in touch, by:

    1. Using the Al-Anon ‘Find a Meeting’ Function

    This function on the Al-Anon Family Meetings website [5] helps you to find out where and when the closest meetings are taking place.

    All meetings are free and open to anyone, so use this function to find out where the nearest ones are taking place and feel free to attend.

    2. Contacting our free helpline to talk about Al-Anon Family Meetings

    The helpline is free and confidential. It’s also available 365 days of the year (including Christmas Day) between the hours of 10 am and 10 pm.

    Our free, confidential helpline is available every day of the year (even on Christmas Day!) from 10 am to 10 pm. Please call 0800 0086 811.

    The helpline volunteers are experienced, trained and very friendly and will be able to provide you with where the nearest meetings are to you.

    3. Virtual Al-Anon Family Meetings

    Al-Anon meetings take place both on the phone and are for anyone who would feel more comfortable attending meetings virtually rather than in person.

    These have been taking place throughout COVID-19 and have only got more popular with time.

    References for Al-Anon Family Group Meetings




    Subscribe to our email list to get the latest information right to your inbox