What is Al-Anon?
In this blog post, we answer the question “what is Al-Anon?”
In a nutshell, Al-Anon is a family support group. Al-Anon is set up to provide support for family members of problem drinkers. Here, people are encouraged to voice their experiences about their loved one’s drinking. This helps to build awareness that participants are not alone in their plight and that they can live a happy and fulfilling life despite their loved one’s decision to continue to drink alcohol.
Al-Anon is the counterpart of the more well-known Alcoholics Anonymous programme. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon is also based on the ’12-steps of recovery’. Al-Anon was established in 1951 by Lois Wilson, the wife of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson.
Determining if you are ready to attend an Al-Anon meeting
If you have never attended an Al-Anon meeting before, you may be reluctant to attend because you are nervous and unfamiliar with the process. You may also be reluctant to attend because your loved one’s addiction has exhausted all of your energy. The thought of attending an Al-Anon meeting may thus fill you with anxiety.
At ADT Healthcare, we strongly urge you to ‘get over’ these negative feelings towards Al-Anon. By attending an Al-Anon meeting, you literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Most new Al-Anon members will feel nervous when they initially engage with the group, so know that you are not alone when you say you have reservations about attending a local Al-Anon meeting.
When you attend an Al-Anon meeting, you will quickly come to see that many of these fears you initially held for Al-Anon were entirely unfounded. All members of Al-Anon are affected by a loved one’s alcoholism, so your group will be entirely sympathetic and empathetic towards your personal situation. Al-Anon is entirely non-judgemental and all information you disclose during an Al-Anon meeting is confidential.
When you initially attend an Al-Anon meeting, there will be no pressure on you to become a group member. There is likely to be several Al-Anon meetings in your local area, and we encourage you to attend several of these meetings before you decide on which particular group you to attend on a more regular basis.
How Al-Anon can help
Many people who attend Al-Anon do so because they have experienced traumatic experiences due to their loved one’s alcoholism. Their loved one may be alive or deceased, sober or still drinking. It really doesn’t matter. These traumatic experiences may mean that Al-Anon members suffer from negative emotions such as hopelessness and despair. In some cases, Al-Anon members may suffer from anxiety and depression due to past traumatic experiences linked to their loved one’s alcoholism.
Al-Anon provides members with a platform to discuss these issues. Members also benefit from listening to the experiences of their peers within the group. Members become stronger together. Collectively, members discover new ways to heal from alcoholism-induced traumatic experiences.
Locating an Al-Anon meeting
Who attends Al-Anon meetings?
Al-Anon members consist of people who have been negatively affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. This may be a father, a mother, a spouse, a child, a partner, a sibling, a friend or even a colleague. All Al-Anon members are connected by the fact that a loved one’s alcoholism has negatively impacted them in some way or another.
Will I be expected to contribute during meetings?
When you attend an Al-Anon meeting, you will not be expected to say anything if you do not wish to. When you initially attend, you will be given Al-Anon literature that educates you on the ‘ins and outs’ of Al-Anon. This will also include essential Al-Anon readings such as The Courage to Change and One Day at a Time.
When you first attend, you will be given the opportunity to listen and learn from your peers. You may benefit from ‘beginners meetings’. Check the Al-Anon website for information on ‘beginners meetings’ taking place in your area.
Is Al-Anon confidential?
Al-Anon is highly confidential. You are not expected to say your name or even to say anything at all if you do not wish to. Al-Anon is founded upon the principle of anonymity. Everything you say at Al-Anon will be kept a secret from the outside world.
How much does it cost to attend?
When you attend an Al-Anon meeting, you will not need to pay anything in order to attend. Al-Anon does not require any membership fee whatsoever. Members are allowed to make financial contributions towards the running of the group, but this is entirely voluntary. Generally, contributions are only made by regular group members.
Furthermore, you are not expected to attend Al-Anon meetings on a regular basis. You may attend as frequent or as infrequent as you desire.
Do I need to believe in God?
Sometimes, Al-Anon is confused with being a religious organisation. Whilst Al-Anon is spiritual in nature, it is not classed as religious. Members of all faiths (including atheists) are welcome. Whilst the 12-steps of Al-Anon ask you to discover a ‘power greater than yourself’, you are entirely at liberty to define that ‘power’ in any way you see fit. Al-Anon helps you connect with this ‘higher power’, something that’s greater than yourself.
What is alcoholism?
Al-Anon specifically caters for people who are affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. Because of this emphasis on alcoholism, you may wonder exactly what we mean by ‘alcoholism’. Alcoholism is an addiction marred by compulsive drinking. This means the sufferer cannot control his or her drinking. Alcoholism is not ‘curable’ but it is ‘controllable’ through abstinence. Since alcoholism is a progressive disorder, the longer the person suffers from alcoholism, the worse the disorder will become.
If I don’t suffer from alcoholism, why do I need to attend meetings?
Many people who first attend Al-Anon do so at the suggestion of a loved one who suffers from alcoholism. The loved one may have discovered Al-Anon by attending Alcoholics Anonymous. If this is how you discovered Al-Anon, you may be confused as to why you are being asked to attend these meetings, particularly since you do not suffer from alcoholism.
If you relate to this sentiment, we ask you to reassess your beliefs relating to alcoholism. Alcoholism is essentially a family disorder, and a family-wide solution is in order. It’s highly likely that you have been negatively impacted by your loved one’s alcoholism, and Al-Anon provides an outlet to allow you to heal from these experiences.
Attending Al-Anon also gives you the tools to help your loved one remain in recovery. Many people who do not directly experience alcoholism find it difficult to understand the disorder. Attending Al-Anon will educate you on the disease of addiction and also give you actionable tools and techniques to help your loved-one avoid relapse.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon also provides a sponsorship programme. Here, Al-Anon members receive personal support from a person with similar experiences to themselves. Sponsors offer their support on a purely voluntary basis and without financial remuneration. A sponsor acts as a mentor, often helping the person they sponsor through difficult situations arising due to a loved one’s alcoholism.
What is Ala-Teen?
Whilst Al-Alon is for adults, Ala-Teen is set up specifically for teens who are affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. Like Al-Alon, Ala-Teen is also 12-step focused. Ala-Teen meetings are closed to adults. However, there is always at least one adult sponsor present at Ala-Teen meetings. This adult is available to guide the group’s agenda for the day.
About ADT Healthcare
ADT Healthcare is a free addiction helpline based in the United Kingdom. To learn more about alcohol rehab treatment, contact us today on 0800 138 0722.
About the author:
Jon writes for ADT Healthcare and a number of other websites. Jon graduated with a degree in psychology in 1992. Jon has been in recovery for 19 years.