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 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.
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.
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.
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.