When someone has a drinking problem, it affects everyone in their life, especially the people who are closest to them. Loved ones and families of alcoholics are also in need of a support system to overcome this difficult moment in their life. If you’re close to somebody who has an alcohol use disorder, consider Al-Anon, a powerful program that can help strengthen you and improve your life.

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What Is Al-Anon?

Founded in 1951, Al-Anon is a program that helps family members, romantic partners, and friends of alcoholics. They meet in support groups around the U.S. and the world. A related program, Alateen, is geared specifically to young people, particularly teenagers, whose lives have been affected by someone with a drinking problem.

What Is Al-Anon’s Approach to Helping People?

Al-Anon/Alateen shares a philosophy with Alcoholics Anonymous and follows the Twelve Steps Program. These steps include turning to a Higher Power as part of healing and restoration. Al-Anon’s Higher Power is a self-defined concept, so you don’t have to hold any specific set of religious beliefs. From atheists to devoutly religious people, the program welcomes everyone, and it also doesn’t promote any political stance.

Through its weekly meetings, Al-Anon facilitates mutual support. People who attend the meetings offer each other insights, guidance, and comfort. The program focuses both on you and on your relationship with a problematic drinker, such as a spouse or parent. It gives you a supportive environment to speak, listen, heal, and grow.

What Does a Typical Al-Anon Meeting Look Like?

No two Al-Anon meetings are exactly alike. Even if you stick with the same group, there will be variations. From one meeting to another, you’ll see new faces alongside the group regulars. What people choose to talk about will vary as well. Even though you can’t entirely predict the content of a meeting, you can still expect the following characteristics:

No Cost

Attending an Al-Anon meeting is completely free. There are no membership dues or fees. In most groups, the organizers pass around a basket for donations or voluntary contributions, usually to help cover the rental of a meeting space and other logistical costs. However, the donation isn’t mandatory. Also, any amount you choose to give should be based on what you can afford and feel comfortable with.

Peer-Led Format

Al-Anon meetings aren’t run by licensed therapists. The organizers or leaders aren’t required to have any professional credentials, and they don’t provide therapy or professional treatment. They help make sure that each meeting runs smoothly and that people observe basic rules of conduct.

Most groups hold meetings with a three-part format, which includes:

  1. This format typically opens with a welcoming statement and a prayer or meditation centered on the 12 Steps; there may also be a reading from some Al-Anon literature.
  2. This is followed by the discussion, which forms the bulk of the meeting.
  3. After the discussion, the meeting wraps up with reflective, gentle closing remarks, which usually include another prayer.

The discussion may focus on a particular topic, and any attendee can share their thoughts and experiences. Sometimes, group organizers arrange for one or two people to give a lengthier talk. These talks are followed by general sharing from the group.

The exact format or content varies from one meeting to another and from one group to another. Although Al-Anon provides guidelines, groups have leeway for how to structure their meetings.

No Obligation to Share

When you attend a meeting, you don’t have to share anything. Even if you want to just quietly listen to other people talk, you can benefit from hearing about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings.


What’s shared in an Al-Anon meeting stays within the meeting, and you can’t disclose anyone’s identity. Also, when someone chooses to speak, they’ll generally introduce themselves with their first name only.

What if a Group Isn’t a Good Fit?

Sometimes, people don’t immediately feel like Al-Anon is helping them. It may take two or three meetings before they start experiencing the program’s benefits. One piece of advice is to try multiple groups in your area.

The group dynamics, the meeting format, and other factors can mean that one group may work better for you than another. For instance, if you think you’re not a good fit for an in-person group meeting, you can always for electronic meetings via Zoom if you think that’ll be more comfortable for you.

What Are the Benefits of Joining a Support Group?

The devastating effects of alcohol addiction and abuse aren’t limited to the drinker. Family members, friends, and romantic partners suffer badly as well. The following are some of the issues they experience:

  • Powerful feelings of shame, fear, anger, and betrayal.
  • Chronic stress and other psychological problems.
  • Unsafe and even life-threatening situations.
  • A profound loss of trust in the problematic drinker.
  • Financial difficulties, relationship problems, job struggles, and an overall lower quality of life.

A teenager living with an alcoholic parent may not have the same problems as a parent struggling with an adult alcoholic child. Siblings don’t have the same experiences as spouses. However, they all face various hardships that are damaging to their well-being.

Joining a support group helps people realize that they’re not alone with their problems. They see that other people from all walks of life are dealing with similar issues. That alone is a powerful realization that already begins to help them feel less isolated and more supported.

In a support group, they unburden themselves. They talk about extremely painful circumstances. They share hopeful developments as well. Sometimes, they just sit quietly and reflect on what they’ve heard. Because they’re surrounded by people in similar situations, they feel understood.

The support group is also a place where they can focus on themselves and their own healing. Often, the people closest to an alcoholic feel like their own needs come a distant second to the drinking and all of the alcohol-related conflicts and crises. During Al-Anon meetings, they can confront their pain and think about ways to work on their own lives and personal development.

For many people, the 12 Steps process is helpful for healing and taking responsibility for their lives. People use this process to facilitate their emotional, mental, and spiritual growth. For example, they become more consistent about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in their relationship with a problematic drinker.

Do You Need a Sponsor for Al-Anon?

Sponsorship isn’t a requirement for Al-Anon, but it’s a possibility to consider. At some point, you may want to reach out to someone who’s trustworthy and committed to the program who are already Al-anon members.

For further guidance on this issue, you can speak to group leaders and consult the Al-Anon literature. You can also visit the official website of Al-Anon.org or find an Al-anon family group headquarters, Inc near your area to know more information.

Can You Join Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon?

You may have a drinking problem and simultaneously be struggling with someone else in your life who also drinks in an unhealthy way. If that’s the case, can you join two different kinds of support groups?

Yes, it’s possible to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon. or Alateen meetings. Of course, seek professional treatment as well, such as joining rehabilitation programs at Long Island Interventions.

Doing so can strengthen your recovery and improve your life. For example, addressing your relationship with an alcoholic parent or spouse may help you deal with triggers for drinking and reduce the chances that you’ll suffer a relapse.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to follow the guidelines for each program separately. If you’re at an Al-Anon meeting, for instance, it likely won’t be the time to start talking at length about your own drinking. The focus of the meetings will be different, and the way you engage with the 12 Steps in each program will also be distinct.

In many cases, people who attend both programs start by going to Alcoholics Anonymous. Then, after they’ve made some progress in their recovery, they also join Al-Anon.

If you aren’t sure about how to navigate both Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, you can seek advice from trusted attendees or group leaders at each program. You can also discuss the issue with other people who are part of your recovery journey, such as therapists and counselors.

Contact Long Island Interventions

If you have additional questions about Al-Anon and other support groups, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We have extensive experience helping people find the right programs to support healing and recovery.

For people struggling with alcohol or drug misuse, we offer inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, and we work with various forms of powerful therapy. We also extend our assistance to family members and other loved ones.

Don’t hesitate to call us, our highly skilled professionals look forward to giving you effective, personalized, and compassionate addiction help.

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