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Al-Anon & Alateen

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What is Al-Anon? 

Al-Anon is an international mutual support group/program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.

Al-Anon allows participants to share common experiences and teaches certain principles that enable the families and friends of alcoholics to bring positive changes to their situations.

Al-Anon was founded in 1951 by Lois Wilson (also known as Lois W.), 16 years after her husband founded Alcoholics Anonymous.

Al-Anon is the most popular form of help by people concerned about another’s drinking, with over 14,000 groups in the United States and Canada. 

Al-Anon is not a counseling agency, or a religious organization, or a treatment center. The group does not charge any dues or fees and is self-supported through member donations. Membership to Al-Anon is voluntary and requires only that the member’s own life has been adversely affected by someone else’s drinking problem.

Al-Anon may help members better cope with the loved one’s drinking and life stressors related to or unrelated to the drinking. Members of Al-Anon attribute improved psychological health (less depression, anger) and a better relationship and family satisfaction to attending Al-Anon meetings.  

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What Happens at an Al-Anon Meeting?

Al-Anon meetings are held in a variety of locations, including local schools, churches, and hospitals. Al-Anon meetings are held seven days a week, day and night. All meetings start at a specific time, and most last about an hour or so. Some have no formal closing time. Attendees can come into a meeting or leave anytime they choose.

Al-Anon meetings offer a safe place where people can come and talk about dealing with the effects of alcoholism on a friend or loved one.

Participants do not have to speak, but many newcomers find it helpful to share what was going on and how someone else’s drinking affects them.

Al-Anon places high importance on anonymity at their meetings to make their meetings a safe place to share. Participants only go by first names and keep personal information shared in the room anonymous.

Who is Al-Anon For?

Al-Anon is for anyone whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. Al-Anon boasts a diverse membership with participants from many walks of life. 

The main reasons people participate in Al-Anon are life stressors, such as the family’s financial problems and poor relationships, the drinker’s legal problems, and the participants’ neglect of their physical health and work responsibilities coping with drinkers. 

Al-Anon Family Groups

Al-Anon Family Groups is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that describes itself as a “worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics.” Al-Anon Family Family Groups includes two distinct support programs, Al-Anon and Alateen.


Alateen is a fellowship designed for the younger relatives and friends of alcoholics through the teen years. By attending Alateen, teenagers (13 to 18) can meet other teenagers in similar situations. 

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What are the Al-Anon Guiding Principles?

Al-Anon has three sets of guiding principles called Three Legacies. These include “Recovery through the Twelve Steps,” “Unity through the Twelve Traditions,” and “Service through the Twelve Concepts of Service.”

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What are the Al-Anon 12 Steps?

Most meetings start with a reading of Al-Anon’s Twelve Step program.

These steps are adapted from the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The twelve steps have been a spiritual growth tool for millions of Al-Anon and Alateen members. At meetings, Al-Anon and Alateen members share the personal lessons they have learned from practicing these steps.

The twelve steps are as follows:

  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 understood 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. Were 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 the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Al-Anon Newcomers and Resources

Many newcomers to Al-Anon are comforted by hearing about situations and relationships similar to their own and developing new relationships with people they can talk about their situation.

Al-Anon recommends that newcomers attend at least six meetings before deciding if the group is for them. While listening to others’ experiences, newcomers to Al-Anon should study the group’s language, principles, and literature to understand how to apply the principles in their lives in the future.

Al-Anon Questions and Answers

What does detachment mean in Al-Anon?

Al-Anon advocates for detachment, or separating oneself from the adverse effects of another person’s alcoholism.

In some cases, detachment may also require physically separating from the alcoholic. Detachment enables an individual in a relationship with an alcoholic to begin to live a happier and more manageable life.

What does qualifier mean in Al-Anon?

A “qualifier” in Al-Anon refers to the alcoholic person who inspired the member to join Al-Anon.

Membership to Al-Anon requires that the participant have someone who qualifies them to be part of the program. The individual in their life with the drinking problem would be the “Qualifier.” By referring to them only with the term “qualifier,” the member can speak about the alcoholic while retaining anonymity. 

Is there a big book for Al-Anon? 

The Al-Anon Family Groups (B-5), written by Lois B., is intended as Al-Anon’s big book.

All A.A. literature is written for and from the viewpoint of alcoholics and is not Al-Anon/Alateen Conference Approved Literature. Reliance on opinions expressed in A.A. and other outside publications can distort the Al-Anon approach, particularly for a newcomer.

Is Al-Anon the same as AA?

Al-Anon and A.A. are similar but different. Alcoholics Anonymous is intended for alcoholics, and Al-Anon is intended for their families.

Why does Al-Anon have 12 steps?

Al-Anon's 12 steps are intended as guidelines that promote harmony and growth in Al-Anon groups and the worldwide fellowship of Al-Anon as a whole.

What are the Al-Anon slogans?

The Al-Anon program includes several simple, familiar, easy-to-remember “slogans” that members have found helpful for coping with various circumstances.

Slogans include “How Important is It?,” “Easy Does it,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Keep an Open Mind.”

What is the Al-Anon prayer?

Al-Anon utilizes the serenity prayer, which reads: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

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Updated on March 24, 2022
12 sources cited
  1. “Al-Anon Guidelines The Shared Experience of Al‑Anon and Alateen Members.”, Al-Anon Family Groups,
  2. “Anon Slogans: Al-Anon Family Groups.” Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 20 Mar. 2019,
  3. “Detachment.” Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters (Canada) Inc.,
  4. “Newcomers: Al-Anon Family Groups.” Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 6 Feb. 2019,
  5. “Terms Used: Qualifier, Codependent, and Enabler.” Al-Anon Active Board, Miracles In Progress 12 Step Recovery Forums, 14 Mar. 2017,
  6. “The Twelve Steps: Al-Anon Family Groups.” Al, 6 Feb. 2019,
  7. “THREE LEGACIES.” Al-Anon Family Groups Maryland &  District of Columbia  Area 24, Maryland and District of Columbia Al-Anon and Alateen Family Group (AFG). ,'s%20Guiding%20Principles&text=Al%2DAnon%20is%20not%20allied,through%20its%20own%20voluntary%20contributions
  8. “Memorandum.” Northern California Al-Anon, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 16 Oct. 2008,
  9. “Sharing Sheet Serenity Prayer.”, AFG Headquarters, Inc,
  10. Syd. Why the Big Book Isn't Used in Al-Anon Meetings, 27 July 2009,
  11. Timko, Christine et al. “Al-Anon family groups: newcomers and members.” Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs vol. 74,6 : 965-76. doi:10.15288/jsad.2013.74.965
  12. What Is Al-Anon and Alateen and Are They Right for Me? 3 Dec. 2018,

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