Al-Anon: What is it & How it Can Help
Al-Anon 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 their addiction to alcohol.
Al-Anon is closely linked to another programme and group called Alateen who specifically help teens and young adults of loved ones who struggle with their addiction and 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 and so 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 it For?
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.
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.
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 as 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.
Anyone, from Any Background
Al-Anon’s fellowship of members are inclusive and support anyone from any background.
They pride themselves on being non-judgemental and want everyone to feel supported despite their cultural, social racial differences.
What to Expect?
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 .
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 . 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 confidentially and how they should expect to take things slowly; they shouldn’t expect too much progress too soon.
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: 
- During each 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 circumstance. However, if you’d like to stay quiet, sit back and listen, that’s also fine.
- Each group is unique because the members of the group decide the structure and format of the meeting.
- Although some groups are held in religious facilities, Al-Anon is not associated with any religious organisation or faith.
- Although the groups 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 circumstance.
- At the start of most meetings, you should expect to hear a reading of all 12 steps.
How Can it Help?
Your meeting will begin with a short introduction and a reading of the 12 Steps. Members will then be given the opportunity to discuss their experiences and stories with one another. When it’s time for the meeting to conclude, members will be encouraged to share hugs.
How do I get started?
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 our ‘Find a Meeting’ Function
This function 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
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 Meetings
These 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.