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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on February 3, 2023
8 min read

Al-Anon & Alateen

What is Al-Anon? 

Al-Anon is an international mutual support group for people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking problem.

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

Al-Anon allows participants to share common experiences. It teaches principles that enable families and friends of alcoholics to bring about positive changes.

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.

Who Started Al-Anon?

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 for people concerned about a loved one’s  drinking. They have over 14,000 groups in the United States and Canada

Al-Anon is not a counseling agency, a religious organization, or a treatment center. The group does not charge any dues or fees. Instead, they are self-supported through member donations.

How Does Al-Anon Help People?

Al-Anon can help people better cope with a loved one’s drinking. It can also provide support with stressors related or unrelated to drinking. 

Members of Al-Anon attribute improved psychological health (less depression, anger), improved relationships, and overall family satisfaction to attending Al-Anon meetings.  

Al-Anon Family Family Groups helps people by utilizing 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 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 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. We're 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.

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.

Is Al-Anon for You?

Has your life been affected by someone else's drinking? Al-Anon is made to help people who have been personally impacted by alcoholism, rather than being an alcoholic themselves.

Al-Anon offers a safe space to connect with other people who have experienced similarities. Through guided weekly meetings, attendees can connect and heal with other like minded participants. 

What Happens at an Al-Anon Meeting?

It’s important to know what to expect from an Al-Anon meeting before arriving. That way, you can feel prepared and comfortable in your environment. 

Where and When Do Al-Anon Meetings Take Place?

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.

How to Participate at an Al-Anon Meeting

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

Participants do not have to speak, but many newcomers find it helpful to share their experiences.

Al-Anon places high importance on anonymity at their meetings. Participants only go by first names and keep personal information shared in the room anonymously.


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What are the Three Legacies of Al-Anon?

Al-Anon has three sets of guiding principles called Three Legacies. These include:

  • Recovery through the Twelve Steps (listed above)
  • Unity through the Twelve Traditions
  • Service through the Twelve Concepts of Service

The 12 Traditions

The 12 Traditions of Al-Anon guide meetings and the behavior of the meeting coordinators and spokespeople. 

The 12 Traditions include:7

  1. The common goals and welfare of the group come first.
  2. The higher power is the only authority, the chairperson and the leaders of the group do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for membership is the alcoholism of a family member or a friend.
  4. Each group is an individual entity except when it concerns Al-Anon as a whole or Alcoholics Anonymous.
  5. The group only has one purpose. This purpose is to help those who have family members or friends who are alcoholics.
  6. The family groups are not to use the Al-Anon name, unless it is in relation to the group or program.
  7. The groups are self supporting and do accept donations from outside the group.
  8. Al-Anon groups are not professional organizations. They only employ people under special circumstances.
  9. The groups should never be organized except when there is a need for a board they directly serve those in the group.
  10. The groups should have no opinion on outside factors such as politics or other affiliations.
  11. Public advertising is for attraction not promotion. This is an anonymous group and anonymity must be maintained.
  12. Principles should be placed above personalities.

The 12 Concepts of Service

The 12 Concepts of Service summarize the Al-Anon principles that help their service organizations function in harmony together. 

The 12 Concepts of Service include:7

  1. The ultimate responsibility and authority for Al-Anon world services belongs to the Al-Anon groups.
  2. The Al-Anon Family Groups have delegated complete administrative and operational authority to their Conference and its service arms.
  3. The right of decision makes effective leadership possible.
  4. Participation is the key to harmony.
  5. The rights of appeal and petition protect minorities and ensure that they are heard.
  6. The Conference acknowledges the primary administrative responsibility of the Trustees.
  7. The Trustees have legal rights while the rights of the Conference are traditional.
  8. The Board of Trustees delegates full authority for routine management of Al-Anon Headquarters to its executive committees.
  9. Good personal leadership at all service levels is a necessity. In the field of world service the Board of Trustees assumes the primary leadership.
  10. Service responsibility is balanced by carefully defined service authority and double-headed management is avoided.
  11. The World Service Office is composed of selected committees, executives and staff members.
  12. The spiritual foundation for Al-Anon’s world services is contained in the General Warranties of the Conference, Article 12 of the Charter.

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.”2

Receipting these slogans during stressful or triggering situations is said to help members move through these circumstances with more ease.

What are the Three Obstacles to Success in Al-Anon?

At Al-Anon, they believe that all conversations should be helpful, constructive, and understanding. 

These include:

  • Discussions of religion
  • General gossip
  • Dominance or authority over conversations

These themes, topics, or ways of conversing are thought to distract members from their overall goal of recovery.


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Al-Anon Q&As

What does detachment mean in Al-Anon?

Al-Anon advocates for detachment, or separating oneself from the adverse effects of another person’s alcoholism.3
In some cases, detachment may also require physically separating from the alcoholic. Detachment enables a person in a relationship with an alcoholic 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.5
Membership to Al-Anon requires that the participant have someone close to them who struggles with alcoholism to be part of the program. 

The person in their life with a 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.

Why does Al-Anon have 12 steps?

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

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.”9

Updated on February 3, 2023
12 sources cited
Updated on February 3, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  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, 2019. 
  3. Detachment.” Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters (Canada) Inc.
  4. Newcomers: Al-Anon Family Groups.” Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2019.
  5. Terms Used: Qualifier, Codependent, and Enabler.” Miracles In Progress 12 Step Recovery Forums, Al-Anon Active Board, 2017.
  6. The Twelve Steps: Al-Anon Family Groups.” Al-Anon Family Groups, 2019.
  7. THREE LEGACIES.” Maryland and District of Columbia Al-Anon and Alateen Family Group (AFG).
  8. Memorandum.” Northern California Al-Anon, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2008.
  9. Sharing Sheet Serenity Prayer.” AFG Headquarters, Inc. 
  10. Syd. “Why the Big Book Isn't Used in Al-Anon Meetings.” Recovery in Al-Anon, 2009
  11. Timko, Christine et al. “Al-Anon family groups: newcomers and members.” Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 2013.
  12. What Is Al-Anon and Alateen and Are They Right for Me?” Al-Anon Family Groups, 2018.
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