Al Anon

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  September 08 ,
| 3 Sources

How it Works, What to Expect

Al anon is a self-help group for people who live with or are affected by an alcoholic. Alanon is not run by a professional. It is run by the people in the group - that’s why it’s called a self-help group.

Al anon tries to keep an open atmosphere so anyone interested in joining can feel comfortable and safe. The only requirements for membership are a desire to stop being affected by another person's drinking, willingness to share experience, strength, and hope in order to solve our problems, and most importantly, a desire for positive change on our own part.

Al anon is modeled on the twelve steps on AA. Members acknowledge that they are powerless over alcohol (over the alcoholic in their lives) and that their lives have become unmanageable.

  • They stop trying to control the other person and learn to take responsibility for their own actions. 
  • They stop enabling the alcoholic.  
  • stop doing things like making excuses for him or her, calling in sick to work for him or her, and so on.

Attending an alanon group can be a powerful experience for people who live with an alcoholic. Alcoholism is often a secret disease. It can be a liberating experience to share with a group of people who all deal with the same problem.

People who attend Al anon groups often find that they are not alone in their problems. They begin to feel less isolated and gain strength from seeing other people go through the same difficulties. Many times, those people have found solutions to their problems, they share them with others so we can get better too.

I've always found it helpful hearing members of Al anon talk about their lives before attending Al anon. It gives me a better understanding of alcoholism and how it affects the families and loved ones of the alcoholic.

There are special groups for those who grew up in families where their parents were alcoholics. Adult children of alcoholics often still suffer the effects of that type of childhood.

They may deal with issues like codependency, poor self-esteem, and dysfunctional relationships today. Following the twelve steps and sharing with others in the group setting can help them with these issues.

Many in the Al-anon family groups also share tips on how to set boundaries with an alcoholic.How can this help me if I live with an alcoholic?

The first step toward solving any problem is admitting that there is a problem that needs attention and fixing it. Before you can do anything else, you must accept the fact that someone else's drinking has a negative effect on your life.

You also need to learn some skills for dealing with their drinking better than you have been doing in the past.

Once you admit they have a problem and learn how to deal with it, it will be much easier to start solving your own problems. Alcohol is only part of the problem, even if alcohol seems to be the only thing that you can see at this time.

You will find it helpful to learn more about yourself and how you got stuck in a pattern where you always end up dealing with other people's feelings and problems instead of your own.

The first step is admitting there's a problem!


What to Expect

At an alanon meeting, a member usually gives a short talk on one of the twelve steps and how it applies to his or her life. This is usually a member who has been involved with the program for some time.

After the talk, other members have the opportunity to share. They usually share how the talk relates to their own experience, but they may share other things, as well.

Other members listen without interrupting and usually without giving advice. Their role is simply to listen. It can be a powerful thing, being listened to in this way.

New members of al anon are encouraged to choose a sponsor - a long-time member of the group who can offer special support and guidance.A sponsor is not required, but it can be very helpful to have one.

There is also usually a phone list of group members willing to take telephone calls if one needs support outside of meetings.

What Not to Expect in Al Anon?

A member of al anon is not required to worry about the problems and feelings of other people in the room. If someone starts talking about something that worries you, then you can politely change the subject or leave if necessary.

There are no religious teachings at Al-anon meetings either - it's strictly non-denominational - so you won't be asked to turn over anything to any deity or give up anything as part of the program.


There are a couple of important things to know about alanon meetings.

  • Groups are strictly anonymous. 
  • Only first names are used in the meetings. 
  • Group members agree not to discuss anything discussed in the meetings outside of meetings. 
  • Furthermore, members do not share personal information such as what kind of work they do. 

That’s because all members are considered equal. It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed or if you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar company. Everyone is in the same boat.

Al anon groups are self-supporting. They rely on donations to cover any operating costs. You don’t have to pay anything to attend, but you may donate if you like. They may pass a basket around, but most likely there will be a basket at the back of the room, maybe near the coffee pot. (Coffee will be free, though).

To find an alanon group near you, you can look them up in your phone book or look online. You’ll find the district office nearest you, and they can give you the information about groups in your area.

There will likely be a number of meetings near you. You can also look up Alcoholics Anonymous, and they should be able to give you the information.

There are special groups like al anon for teenagers living with alcoholics, called ala-teen. Your local district can direct you to the ala-teen groups near you. If you need further assistance, a treatment provider may be helpful. Contact one today.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

More than al anon on our effects of alcoholism on families page

Alcoholism home page