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Al-Anon: Help And Hope For Friends And Family

Al-Anon is an organization dedicated to the family and friends of those struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Origins Of Al-Anon

Al-Anon group meeting session.Al-Anon was started by Lois W., who was married to the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) founder, and Anne B. in 1951. While AA focused on the people struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), Al-Anon strives to support those around them. Family and friends who may have suffered in helping their loved one through the disease but haven’t received any treatment. Al-Anon is also intended for those who have received treatment.

The Purpose

Lois and Anne believed that the wives and family members of those who abuse alcohol would benefit from communicating with other families who had similar struggles with a loved one. Al-Anon serves as a way for that support structure to repair itself and continue helping their loved ones in need. If an individual is in recovery from an AUD, people can still come to meetings if they feel as though they need a therapeutic experience. As the name suggests, members are allowed their anonymity when participating in meetings.

They adopted the same 12 step methodology as AA, with minor changes. The meetings allow people to share their experiences and advice with those who have gone through similar events in order to reduce the feeling of loneliness common with people living alongside someone with a use disorder.

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In 1957, a group of teenagers discovered and joined a local Al-Anon meeting. Previously, meetings had involved mostly adults related to people struggling with alcoholism, but this started the idea for a new branch of the organization.

Alateen specifically focuses on the suffering of children close to alcohol abuse. The concept is the same as Al-Anon:

  • Sharing experiences, hope, and coping skills
  • Discussing difficult challenges
  • Learning and sharing about the 12-step program

What Does An Al-Anon Meeting Look Like?

Al-Anon and AA meetings have been represented fairly accurately in their media depictions. Groups of people getting together to voluntarily talk about their experiences, oftentimes in small community spaces like churches or meeting houses.

Participation is not mandatory. People sitting in for their first time are certainly encouraged to contribute but can sit and listen if that’s more comfortable for them. Meetings generally focus on framing these shared experiences with the 12-step methodology.

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How Effective Is Al-Anon?

A study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors found that Al-Anon was effective for its participants; specifically, the study found that “sustained Al-Anon participation” was associated with “improvements on key concerns of Al-Anon attendees.” In other words, Al-Anon members made progress on the issues they came to group for — just as long as they continued going to group. There are a few factors that could contribute to the success of the program. The opportunities to form close relationships, identify and progress toward goals, and relate with individuals similar to oneself could be particularly important aspects of the program that help to make it effective.

Al-Anon’s 12-Steps

  1. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
  2. “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
  3. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”
  4. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
  5. “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
  6. “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
  7. “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
  8. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
  9. “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
  10. “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
  11. “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 a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Spirituality In Al-Anon

The 12-step methodology is predicated on the participant’s perception of a “higher power” or “God.” While these are usually associated with established, organized religion, Al-Anon stresses the individual’s understanding of those concepts. They do not discriminate based on religion or spirituality, but rather want to allow everyone to create their own experience within the structure of these steps.

In Need Of Help

If Al-Anon Seems like a good fit for you, then researching your nearest meeting spot can quickly lead to meaningful changes in your experience of alcohol abuse. If you are the one struggling with alcohol, there are resources available. Contact a treatment provider today. They can help provide therapeutic and rehabilitative information services. Diseases like alcoholism only worsen when uncontested, so reach out for help today.

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Michael Muldoon

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  • Michael Muldoon earned a B.A. in Media Studies from Penn State University, but instead of shifting into an academic career in social science, he has decided to put his skills to work in the pursuit of helping those struggling with addiction. He enjoys spending his free time at the climbing gym with friends.

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Theresa Parisi

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  • All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by Theresa Parisi, a certified addiction professional.

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