Nearly 30 million people in the United States had alcohol use disorder in 2020.  Alcoholism does not exist in a vacuum. It impacts families, friends, and society as a whole. Your loved one’s alcohol addiction can take a huge toll on your mental health and well-being, and you may find that you haven’t had space to focus on yourself.
Al-Anon groups, including Alateen, provide support and understanding for loved ones affected by alcohol abuse and addiction. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, individuals are able to bring about positive changes in their own lives. Many people find solace and support in this organization, the relationships they form, and the 12 steps of Al-Anon.
What is Al-Anon?
Al-Anon, which derives its name from the first syllables of each word in Alcoholics Anonymous, is a peer support group for people who have been affected by a loved one’s drinking. This free and anonymous mutual support group provides a much-needed resource for people to share their experiences, discuss problems, and disclose their feelings related to their loved one’s alcohol abuse.
Al-Anon members practice living by the 12 steps of Al-Anon, offering emotional support, comfort, and empathy to those impacted by someone else’s drinking. This support can be crucial even if the alcoholic does not admit they have a problem or is not ready to seek alcohol addiction treatment.
Al-Anon: Support for a Family Illness
Al-Anon is the most commonly used form of help for family and friends affected by someone else’s drinking. By treating alcoholism as a disease that impacts the entire family unit and not just the individual doing the drinking, Al-Anon offers support and encouragement to loved ones impacted by alcohol misuse. 
Alcohol abuse and addiction affect everyone close to the alcoholic. By treating it as a family illness, every aspect of the disease is addressed. This kind of support can aid in addressing the emotional, physical, and psychological effects problem drinking can have on loved ones.
Al-Anon for Teens: Alateen
A division of the Al-Anon program, Alateen supports teenagers (people ages 19 and younger) who are impacted by someone else’s drinking. It is a place for young people to share similar experiences and get help coping with problems and issues related to a loved one’s drinking.
Members support and encourage each other. They are able to discuss difficulties and learn how to apply the 12 steps of Al-Anon and principles to their own struggles.
Alateen also offers a wealth of resources, including a mobile app for teens between the ages of 13 and 18. They also offer virtual meetings just for teens.
How Do You Find an Al-Anon Meeting?
To find an Al-Anon meeting, go to their website, enter your address, and designate a search radius. You can choose your preferred meeting type — Al-Anon or Alateen — and your language preference and day of the week.
Some meetings may be for specific demographics, such as women-only or men-only meetings or meetings that are child-friendly. You can also browse through in-person meetings as well as ones held virtually, if that suits your schedule better.
Be sure to check with the local Al-Anon Information Service office to verify the meeting status before attending. Some meetings were moved online or temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Can You Expect During Your First Meeting?
Al-Anon meetings are all self-reliant mutual support groups, which means that each meeting structure can be a little different.
You can expect to be welcomed warmly and will likely meet a variety of different people with various types of relationships with an alcoholic. This can be an immediate family member, spouse, friend, or coworker.
Each person will have a unique perspective on how their loved one’s alcohol abuse has affected their life. At meetings, members often offer shared experiences, but you are not expected to share if you are not ready to do so.
You will only be asked your first name, as Al-Anon meetings value privacy and anonymity. Anything shared in a meeting is kept confidential. Al-Anon meetings offer a safe space to share resources and information on how to best help yourself.
It is recommended to attend at least six meetings before deciding whether or not the group is beneficial to you, as the benefits can come in unexpected ways. Don’t quit after only attending one or two meetings. You need time to get acclimated.
Learn the 3 C’s of Al-Anon
On the first day of Al-Anon, you may be taught the 3 C’s:
- We didn’t cause it
- We can’t cure it
- We can’t control it
The “it” in each of these bullet points is the alcohol addiction as well as the alcoholic. The 3 C’s can help you release some of the self-blame and guilt you’ve been carrying with you and allow you to accept that your loved one is going to make their own decisions.
Tips to Prepare for Your First Al-Anon Meeting
Most Al-Anon meetings are going to start with some kind of welcome and introductions. A member will often greet newcomers and explain how Al-Anon has benefited them. There may be a speaker, a specific topic to cover, or time for people to share if they want to.
Here are some tips for your first Al-Anon meeting:
- Recognize that you are brave for going.
- You only have to share what you are comfortable sharing.
- Most of all, listen and keep an open mind.
- Focus on your similarities with others instead of your differences.
- Keep going back.
What Are the 12 Steps of Al-Anon?
The 12 steps of Al-Anon have been adopted directly from the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They are nearly verbatim with AA’s 12 steps, with only a few minor changes.
Here is a summary of Al-Anon’s 12 steps:
- Admit that we can’t control our lives with alcohol present.
- Believe that a higher power can restore control and stability in our lives.
- Turn our life over to the higher power in whatever form we understand that to be.
- Take a full moral inventory.
- Admit to the higher power, the self, and another person exactly what we’ve done wrong.
- Are fully ready to have the higher power remove any character defects or shortcomings.
- Ask the higher power to remove these inadequacies.
- Make a list of everyone we have hurt and be willing to make good with these individuals.
- Make amends to these people except if it would hurt them to attempt to do so.
- Continue to review our character and take steps to admit wrongdoings.
- Aim to improve our relationship with the higher power.
- Carry the message of AA and Al-Anon to others, to help them in their recovery.
Much like AA, although these steps mention a higher power, this group is not associated with a religious affiliation and members welcome you to pick a higher power of your choosing.
The Al-Anon slogans are easy to learn and remember and can provide you with guidance and clarity, especially during hard times. Here are some slogans to recite:
- How important is it?
- Listen and learn
- Easy does it
- Together we can make it
- Keep an open mind
- Keep it simple
- First things first
- Progress not perfection
- Let it begin with me
- Keep coming back
- Just for today
- But for the grace of God
- Let go and let God
- One day at a time
- Live and let live
Is Al-Anon Effective?
A study on Al-Anon newcomers found that those who attended meetings for six months were more likely than those who dropped out to report improvements in various areas of their lives, such as:
- Learning how to handle drinking-related problems
- Increased well-being
- Improved functioning
- Decreased victimization behaviors
Overall, Al-Anon newcomers were much more likely to report personal improvements than alcohol-related improvements; however, some members of the study reported that the drinker had a better relationship with the concerned member of Al-Anon.
How Al-Anon Can Benefit the Whole Family
Al-Anon can provide you with support, hope, encouragement, and resources for coping with someone else’s drinking problems. Every member of the family is impacted by alcoholism in some way, and Al-Anon seeks to provide understanding and validation for every person.
Through meetings and the adaptation of the 12 steps, families and friends can learn how to best take care of themselves and each other while managing a loved one and their alcohol use disorder. It can help people to know that they are not alone in this and lean on others who can offer empathy and respect in a non-judgmental environment.
- Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (2021). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Al-Anon Family Groups: Newcomers and Members. Al-Anon Family Groups: Newcomers and Members. (November 2013). Journal of Studies on Alcoholism & Drugs.
- Al-Anon Newcomers: Benefits of Continuing Attendance for Six Months Timko, C., Laudet, A., & Moos, R. H. (2016).
- The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery for Adults. (May 2021). Alcohol Research Current Reviews.
- Family-Focused Practices in Addictions: A Scoping Review Protocol. (2018). BMJ.
- Inclusion of Family Therapy in Rehabilitation Program of Substance Abuse and Its Efficacious Implementation. (August 2019). The Family Journal.