According to Al-Anon, alcoholism is a disease that affects the entire family. Children, siblings, spouses, parents, and other loved ones can suffer emotional damage caused by an alcoholic's excessive drinking.

A Brief History

Al-Anon was formed in 1951 by the wives of two members of Alcoholics Anonymous. These women realized the need for people to talk about the pain caused by a loved one's addiction. They believed that support for the entire family was a critical part of the alcoholic's recovery.

Today, Al-Anon has 26,000 groups in 115 countries across the world. The average group has 13 members. Group literature is available in 30 different languages.

Contrary to popular belief, Al-Anon is not a religious or political organization. All members are welcome, regardless of their personal beliefs. The group is supported through voluntary contributions by its members. The group has no formal affiliation with any religious or political organization.

Group Activities

The structure of Al-Anon meetings is based on the Twelve Steps and Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Confidentiality is expected of all members.

Meetings can be either open or closed. Occasionally, the group will also hold informational meetings that let newcomers learn more about the program.

Members participate in the following activities:

  • Regular group meetings
  • Telephone conversations with other members
  • Contact with personal sponsors
  • Reading informational literature
  • Completing community service projects
  • Applying the Twelve Steps of recovery to their lives

Members are expected to avoid gossip, criticism, and the promotion of specific addiction treatment options.

Do I Need Al-Anon?

The only requirement to join Al-Anon is that you have a relationship with someone who is either struggling with a drinking problem, being treated for alcoholism, or in recovery. Al-Anon has no professional counselors in attendance at group meetings. Members take turns facilitating the discussions and offering support to those in need.

The decision to join a support group such as Al-Anon is one that only you can make. However, you may benefit from the services of Al-Anon if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are troubled by someone's drinking.
  • You grew up with a problem drinker.
  • Your life has been affected by someone's drinking.

If you need help deciding if Al-Anon is right for you, the organization's website offers self-assessment quizzes that can provide additional information.

If you would like to attend a meeting, check your local phone directory to find groups in your area. Or, call 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666) for assistance.


Alateen is the part of Al-Anon that is for younger members. According to a recent membership survey, over 90 percent of Alateen members have a parent or stepparent who suffers from a drinking problem. In addition, 59 percent of Alateen members have another relative with a drinking problem and 44 percent say they have a friend who also suffers from alcoholism.

Like Al-Anon meetings, Alateen meetings are offered free of charge. An Al-Anon member sponsors the meetings, although teens are allowed to conduct group meetings as they see fit. As with Al-Anon meetings, Alateen meetings are expected to remain confidential.