Al-Anon is a family of support groups for people who have been affected by alcoholism in their family. These groups aim to be beneficial and therapeutic.
The Story of Al-Anon
Al-Anon is a support organization, founded in 1951, for the friends and families of problem drinkers. Lois Wilson (Lois W.) founded the organization 16 years after her husband founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Because she faced difficulties in supporting a recovering alcoholic, she wanted to help people like her so the organization was founded.
Al-Anon is a self-supported organization through member donations. The key focus of the meetings is to provide support to members to let them know they are not alone in their struggles. Family members and friends of alcoholics are given support to be able to cope and better serve their loved ones.
Alcoholism as a Family Illness
Alcohol has a negative impact on the family and friends of the user. Therefore, Al-Anon treats alcoholism as a family illness. The family and friend support system plays a vital part in the alcohol’s recovery.
Family members tend to blame themselves for their loved one’s drinking. They may not understand why recovery is the user’s priority. During meeting, these issues are addressed. Help in understanding alcoholism as a family illness is given to the family and friends.
Alateen—Al-Anon Meetings for Teens
Alateen is a specific group within Al-Anon that caters to the younger members of the alcoholics family. During these meetings, young people are provided an opportunity to meet with others their own age, making the group meeting more beneficial.
What to Expect from a Meeting
Al-Anon meetings are for anyone who is affected by someone else’s drinking. If you are affected personally by someone’s drinking habits, Al-Anon can help you.
Some are hesitant to go to their first meeting. They are unsure of what to expect. When considering attending a meeting, some things for you to remember are listed below.
- Most importantly, Al-Anon is anonymous.
- Everyone in each meeting has been affected by alcoholism, whether personally or through a family member.
- No one is required to speak or discuss their problem, although it is encouraged.
- There are different types of meetings. Some may be more productive for you than others.
- Al-Anon is not a religiously based organization.
- Meetings are centered on Al-Anon’s 12 Step program.
Al-Anon meetings are conducted in such a way that allows attendees to “take what they like and leave the rest.” This allows meetings to focus on sharing experiences and hardships rather than telling attendees what they should do.
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The 12 Steps of Al-Anon
Generally, meetings start with a reading of Al Anon’s 12 Step program. These steps are adapted, almost verbatim, from the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. As with AA, Al-Anon members take on a sponsor who helps them work through the steps and who is available for support in times of hardship. The 12-Steps are:
- “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” – Members learn to accept alcoholism as a disease they cannot control in others.
- “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” -Members often drive themselves to the brink by trying to change or control their loved one. After admitting they are powerless, they learn to accept that they can be brought back to sanity.
- “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” – Learning to let go is a key step to the program and acceptance.
- “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” – A huge part of the steps is self-discovery, and this is the beginning of that. Attendees create a list of how they may have wronged themselves or their loved ones (such as with threats).
- “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” – This is an examination of each item in the member’s moral inventory, allowing them to delve into each problem.
- “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” – This step is very important as it is the full acceptance of the recovery process supported by a Higher Power.
- “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” – This part of the 12 Steps helps members understand how they may have been controlling or judgmental toward an addict and how that is counterproductive.
- “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” – Oftentimes, making amends starts with yourself. Many people blame themselves for their loved one’s addiction. They must be willing to forgive themselves and make amends.
- “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” – After you are willing to make amends, the next step is to take action.
- “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”– Going through the 12 Steps is a process that takes time. Although members have already made an inventory, slipping up is normal. Step 10 recognizes this is an ongoing process.
- “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.” – This is a personal, spiritual step that encompasses acceptance and comfort amid the stress of recovery.
- “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” – The last step is a realization that the member’s journey is not over. Members are then encouraged to support other members with what they’ve learned.
Understanding the “Higher Power”
Just like AA, Al-Anon is not a religious program. Members do have an acceptance of a hight power. However, the interpretation of “higher power” is based on one’s own personal beliefs. Al-Anon openly accepts all religions and beliefs and no one is forced to alter those beliefs by participating.
The Benefits of Al-Anon Group
Al-Anon members are introduced to other people and families who have suffered from alcoholism. Just as the addiction affects each user differently, so are the members of the alcoholics experiences with the illness are different. The main benefit of attending Al-Anon is connecting with individuals with similar experiences and being able to talk about your struggles.
There are Al-Anon meetings all across the nation. Call us to help you find one near you.