For Newcomers to Al-Anon and Alateen
Welcome to the Al-Anon fellowship (which includes Alateen for young people.) In Al-Anon, you are in the right place, and you are with others who understand. We hope you will find information in these pages that will assist you in finding the help and friendship we have been privileged to enjoy in the Al-Anon program.
(from World Services)
Who is Al-Anon for? Who attends Al-Anon meetings? Are there requirements for membership in Al-Anon?
“Al-Anon is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics, who believe their lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.” Al-Anon’s Third Tradition includes the statement, “The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.” Al-Anon is open to any one who has been affected in any way by the problem drinking of another person. There is no other requirement for participation. You do not need to be certain whether or not you belong in order to attend. You do not need to be certain whether or not the problem drinker is an alcoholic. If you think Al-Anon may possibly be right for you, you will be welcome.
material is reprinted with permission
of ©Al-Anon Family Group
The Al-Anon publication, “Are You Troubled By Someone's Drinking? Al-Anon Is For You!” may help you decide if Al-Anon might be of help to you. “Are You Troubled By Someone's Drinking? Al-Anon Is For You!” (S-17).
Reprinted with permission of ©Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.
The Al-Anon fellowship includes spouses, partners, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends, coworkers and associates of alcoholics. If you have been affected by another person’s drinking, whether the person is still drinking or not, whether the person is living with you or not, whether you have contact with the person or not, and whether the person is alive or deceased, Al-Anon may be for you, and you are welcome in the Al-Anon program!
Many people keep coming back to Al-Anon for years after the problems that first brought them to the Al-Anon program have passed, because they find the Al-Anon program enriches their lives. Meetings are often a mixture of newcomers and members who have been coming for various lengths of time.
Al-Anon is a spiritual program and is not allied with any religion, sect or denomination. Our membership includes people of various religious faiths and people of no religious affiliation or belief; members of any faith or of no faith are all equally welcome. Al-Anon’s Twelve Steps encourage us to find a "Power greater then ourselves" that can help us solve our problems and find serenity. Each member is free to define that power in his or her own way.
Al-Anon is not a program of recovery for people seeking sobriety for themselves. People seeking sobriety are welcome in Alcoholics Anonymous. However, Al-Anon welcomes people affected by another person’s drinking who also are or may be alcoholics.
The Al-Anon World Service Office (WSO) web site has interactive media information for Al-Anon newcomers:
• To read the WSO’s information for newcomers, please click here.
• To hear Al-Anon audio podcasts welcoming newcomers and introducing Al-Anon newcomers to meetings, please click here.
• To view Al-Anon public service announcements (audio plus video) targeted to potential newcomers, please click here.
Newcomers are welcomed to meetings; we consider newcomers to be the most important people at any meeting! Many meetings provide newcomers with a packet of Al-Anon literature that includes a local meeting list. You may be asked to share your first name so that you can be welcomed to the meeting, but you will not be asked for other identifying information.
Meeting formats vary. Most meetings begin with an introduction. Some meetings also begin with reading of the Al-Anon Steps and one or more Al-Anon Traditions. There may be Al-Anon related announcements. Some meetings provide an opportunity for each person to share if they choose to, some provide an opportunity for several people to share but not necessarily all, some have one or more speakers, and some may have one or more speakers followed by an opportunity for others to share. Some focus on studying the Steps or Traditions of the Al-Anon program, or include readings and/or discussions of Al-Anon literature. Some meetings offer a “beginners' table” or have a newcomer’s meeting either after or as an option to the main meeting. It is always your choice whether to speak or “pass” when there is an opportunity to share during a meeting. Many meetings open or close with the Serenity prayer, or another prayer. It is always your choice whether to join with others in saying a group opening or closing.
Newcomers are encouraged to try several meetings to discover which may be best for you. Newcomers are also welcome to ask questions of members before or after the meetings.
What happens when people speak at meetings? Do I have to speak? Will I be allowed to speak? Can I speak personally or individually with other members?
Speaking at meetings is often referred to as “sharing.” When there is an opportunity for individuals to share, it is always an individual’s choice whether to share or to choose to pass. Newcomers and members are equally welcome to share. In Al-Anon, we share our own personal stories, our experience, our strength and our hope. When we share, we speak to the group as a whole. Some groups find it helpful to have feedback from others after they share, and these groups encourage members to respond to other people's sharing by in turn sharing about what worked for them in their own experience with the issue being discussed. Other groups avoid feedback to others, and encourage members to share their experience with the topic discussed in a more general way. In meetings of any type or format, Al-Anon highly discourages giving direct advice; telling another person what to think, what to do or how to act; and questioning or interrupting the person who is sharing. Members and newcomers are welcome to speak individually with others before or after the meeting if they have questions or would like to speak personally with another member. Although it is always a personal choice of each member whether or not to do so, many members are willing to share their phone number, and newcomers are encouraged to ask for phone numbers if they would like to have the option of speaking with an Al-Anon member between meetings. Some meetings provide a phone list of people willing to be contacted between meetings.
How does Al-Anon work? How can Al-Anon help people affected by alcoholism?
In Al-Anon and Alateen, we do not tell others what to do about their own personal situation. Instead, members share their experience, strength, and hope with each other. You will meet others who share similar feelings and experiences, even if not your exact situation. In Al-Anon and Alateen, we find others who understand, and from each other, we learn new ways to deal with our problems. Al-Anon can help members find happiness, whether the alcoholic is drinking or not. We practice the Twelve Steps of Al-Anon to help ourselves recover from the effects of alcoholism, and to grow personally. We share our experiences with techniques that have worked for us, and through the Al-Anon program we learn tools that can help us find solutions to our problems and help us to continue to cope and to grow.
Will things I say in meetings be kept confidential? Will anyone outside of a meeting be informed of what I say or that I attended?
How much does Al-Anon cost?
There are no dues or fees for membership in Al-Anon. Al-Anon is self-supporting through our member’s voluntary contributions. Most meetings will “pass a basket” for members to contribute if they choose to. Voluntary member contributions support Al-Anon at the local, state, national, and international levels. Contributions are never required.
What is alcoholism? Who is affected by alcoholism?
Alcoholism is widely recognized as a chronic, progressive, primary disease, which can be arrested by abstinence from alcohol but can not be cured. Alcoholics Anonymous literature describes alcoholism as “an obsession of the mind, coupled with an allergy of the body.” Alcoholism is a family disease that affects everyone who has contact with the alcoholic. Alcoholics include people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Most alcoholics have families, friends, and jobs. Their drinking causes problems in their lives and in the lives they touch. In Al-Anon, we learn that we do not cause, can not control, and can not cure alcoholism. We can learn how to cope with the effects of alcoholism on ourselves. We find that our recovery from the effects of alcoholism through Al-Anon often has a positive impact on our families.
Al-Anon’s Sixth Tradition states, “Although a separate entity, we should always cooperate with Alcoholics Anonymous.” We can learn about the disease of alcoholism and about the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous through the Alcoholics Anonymous literature and by attending open A.A. meetings. Our Links page has links to the A.A. World Service Office and to local A.A. sites, and our Local Meetings page lists open A.A. meetings in the District 5 area.
is reprinted with permission of ©Al-Anon Family Group
How can I find an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting?
Please see our meetings
page for a schedule of Al-Anon meetings within the area served by District
Are there different types of Al-Anon meetings?
There are various types of Al-Anon meetings and meeting formats. Meetings of all Al-Anon Family Groups have in common one purpose: to help families and friends of alcoholics. An unwritten tradition of Al-Anon groups is that the newcomer is the most important person at any Al-Anon meeting! “Registered” meetings refer to meetings that are registered with the Al-Anon World Service Office (WSO) and that meet certain criteria required by the WSO for registration, e.g. to follow Al-Anon’s Traditions, and to be open to any Al-Anon member.
All Al-Anon and Alateen meetings will be either open or closed. The majority of Al-Anon meetings are “closed meetings.” All registered Al-Anon and Alateen meetings in District 5 are currently closed meetings; District 5 is looking into developing an open meeting.
- Closed meetings may be attended by anyone who feels his or her life has been or is being affected by alcoholism. Closed meetings may also fit into other categories, as described below.
- Open meetings are meetings where Al-Anon/Alateen members tell their stories and/or conduct an open discussion meeting that may be attended by anyone interested in hearing and learning about the family disease of alcoholism. Non-members such as observers or students are welcome to attend open meetings to learn about recovery in the Al-Anon program. Currently there are no registered open Al-Anon meetings in the District 5 area; there are occasional open meetings in Wayne, Oakland, Lenawee and Monroe Counties and in other areas of Michigan (please see our links page for information on how to contact an Al-Anon Information Service to ask about locating an open Al-Anon meeting in the area you are interested in.) Observers or students who are interested in learning more about recovery in the Al-Anon program are encouraged to attend an open meeting and/or to see our To Professionals page, or to contact us.
Types of meeting formats include:
- Beginners’ meetings or Newcomers’ meetings introduce newcomers to the Al-Anon program. Many groups have a “first Step” (beginners) table for newcomers attending their first meeting; if there is only one table at the meeting, many groups hold a “first Step” (beginners) discussion that will help introduce the program to newcomers whenever a newcomer attends their meeting. Some Al-Anon/Alateen meetings hold a separate meeting especially for newcomers, usually before or after the regular Al-Anon meeting. These are facilitated by an experienced Al-Anon/Alateen member, and will usually provide an opportunity for newcomers to learn more about the program, ask questions, and share about what brought them to Al-Anon if they wish to share.
- “Barefoot meeting” is a term used to describe a meeting where discussion is not focused on a particular topic; each member who shares chooses what he or she wishes to discuss.
- Speaker Meetings include one or more Al-Anon members who speak on an Al-Anon-related topic. The speaker may be followed by sharing on the topic by other members.
- Step, Tradition or Concept Discussion or Study Groups are meetings that focus on the Al-Anon Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, Twelve Concepts, and/or slogans.
- Topic meetings are meetings where discussion focuses on an Al-Anon-related topic, which will vary from week to week.
Types of meetings of specific interest to certain groups of people include:
- Al‑Anon Adult Children meetings are a type of Al-Anon meeting, and are described below. The format of an Al-Anon Adult Children meeting may be any of the above.
- Institutions Groups meet at a hospital, treatment center, correctional, or other residential facility. Membership is usually transient and there is usually a different meeting format. Experienced Al-Anon/Alateen members lead the meetings and can refer families to Al-Anon groups near their homes.
- Limited-Access groups meet in locations where general membership may not be able to attend, e.g. industrial, military, or school settings.
- Some meetings are organized especially to meet the needs of a particular group of people, e.g. meetings for men, for women, or for a particular profession, age or orientation.
On Line meetings: There are registered Al-Anon “meetings” that take place “on line;” in e-mail, chat room, or bulletin board format. Members may choose to join “on line” meetings because physical, geographic or other challenges make it difficult for them to attend Al-Anon face to face meetings, or to supplement their face to face meeting attendance, or for other reasons.
Registered on line Al-Anon meetings are expected to follow Al-Anon’s Traditions, and to be open to any Al-Anon member. It is the responsibility of the members to keep their sharing focused on Al-Anon recovery and discussion of Al-Anon related topics. On line meetings may have some special concerns, such as anonymity. For safety reasons, there are no on-line Alateen meetings.
The World Service Office will provide a list of electronic on-line meetings that are registered with the World Service Office. To see the list of the on-line meetings from the World Service Office, go to http://www.al-anon.org/. All of the meeting information is on the WSO Web site under the “How do I find a Meeting” tab.
Lone Member Service: Most lone members now use the electronic on-line meetings. People who are unable to attend face-to-face meetings may also be interested in Al-Anon’s electronic meetings which can help newcomers and members who cannot travel to the nearest Al-Anon meeting due to distance (25 miles or more from a meeting), physical impairment, illness or other reasons. Information about the meetings can be found here: http://www.al-anon.org/. All of the meeting information is on the WSO Web site under the “How do I find a Meeting tab.
Newcomers to Al-Anon are encouraged to attend several different meetings in order to experience the variety of meeting types, formats and “flavors” that Al-Anon offers. Many members then choose a meeting to attend on a regular basis, and consider this meeting their “home group.” Having a home group can provide greater opportunities to become more intimately acquainted with other members, to find an Al-Anon sponsor and have regular contact with him or her, to have a greater feeling of belonging and contributing to Al-Anon, and to become involved with group service and functions.
There is no sign-up or registration required; you are welcome to just come! You can select a meeting from our meeting list. You are welcome to contact us if you have questions or would like to talk with another Al-Anon member before attending a meeting. There is no dress code. There are no dues or fees.
To anyone dealing with violence, threats of violence or fear of violence:
Although Al-Anon does not tell us what course of action we should take, our Al-Anon program literature tells us that NO ONE has to accept violence and NO ONE deserves abuse of any nature, no matter what seems to trigger it. Just as we do not cause, can not control, and can not cure another person’s alcoholism or drinking problem, so too we do not cause another person’s violent or threatening behavior. People facing potential or actual violence also face difficult decisions. Al-Anon does not provide advice about how these decisions should be made, or what we should do. Al-Anon encourages us to believe that we deserve to be treated well, and to take whatever action we feel we must take to be safe and to keep our children and family members safe. The Al-Anon process of awareness, acceptance and action can help us to make choices for ourselves that we can live with and be safe with, but the Al-Anon process unfolds over time. Al-Anon’s concern is to provide our members with the opportunity to gain sufficient personal recovery to enable them to make clear, well-thought-out decisions about their lives. All of us deserve to be safe throughout this process. Al-Anon encourages members to tap other resources that will help them be safe and keep their children and family members safe. This is perfectly compatible with the Al-Anon program, and is stated repeatedly in Al-Anon conference-approved literature.
To read stories from Al-Anon members who are survivors of violence, please click here.
For your safety: please be aware that Windows keeps a history of all web pages that are visited on a computer, and people who have access to the computer can access this record. You can click here for information on how to remove the record of having visited Al-Anon’s web site from your computer.
I was told to go to Al-Anon by __ (fill in the blank with whoever suggested Al-Anon to you.) Why should I?
Have any of these thoughts or questions crossed your mind?
- I’m not the one who lost my job or spent time in jail. I don’t act out of control or hurt my family. I’m not the problem! Why am I being told to go to Al-Anon?
- I’m working full time, and taking care of the kids and the house and the alcoholic. Where am I supposed to find the time? My children need me at home!
- I don’t need a “support group.” All I need is for the alcoholic to stop drinking!
- My problem isn’t the drinking – it’s the financial problems, the yelling, the way he/she treats me and the family, the broken promises.
- The alcoholic is in treatment and now I’m being told to go to meetings. Why do I always have to do all the work in this relationship?
- I don’t live with the alcoholic anymore. Why should I go to Al-Anon?
- My partner/spouse/child/parent/friend/relative is sober now. Why should I go to Al-Anon?
- Al-Anon can’t help. Nothing can help. It will never get better.
It is easy to feel resentful if we feel we are being told we “should” do something. In Al-Anon we often suggest avoiding “shoulds.” We don’t suggest that anyone “should” go to an Al-Anon meeting; instead we share with you how Al-Anon has helped us, in many different ways and with many different problems. Although there are exceptions, most members did not arrive at their first Al-Anon meeting feeling joyful that things were going well in their lives. Members continue to come back to Al-Anon because at some point they identify with what they hear, and find help, hope, understanding, relief from guilt and shame, freedom from obsession, answers to their questions, and practical solutions that help make their problems more manageable. Many members find their own lives as well as their family situations improve when they participate in Al-Anon, whether the alcoholic continues drinking or not. Sometimes what we find is not what we were initially looking for, but we return to Al-Anon because we’ve found help in the Al-Anon program.
Alcoholism/addiction is a disease that affects not only the alcoholic, but also everyone around him or her. Sometimes the problems associated with alcoholism seem to be due to anything but the drinking, and often the problems experienced by people affected by an alcoholic seem overwhelming. When problem drinking is present or has been present in the past, many people find that Al-Anon can help them. Family members and friends do not cause the alcoholism, and can not control or cure it. Al-Anon can help us recover from the effects alcoholism has had on us; and to cope, grow, find solutions to our problems, find happiness in our lives, and more effectively perform our responsibilities to our families, our jobs and others - whether the alcoholic is drinking or not, and whether we currently live with him/her or not. This process occurs over time, which is why newcomers are encouraged to try to keep an open mind, try out different meetings, and attend several meetings in order to see how Al-Anon can be helpful to them.
What do professionals say about the Al-Anon program?
Al-Anon has a long history of cooperation with professionals, and our literature encourages people to make use of professional resources that can help them. Professionals often suggest Al-Anon as a resource for people affected by another person’s drinking. Professionals in the District 5 area agreed to share their thoughts on and professional experience with Al-Anon, and we posted their contributions here.
Al-Anon is not a professional program. Al-Anon’s Eighth Tradition states that our work with others must always be non-professional. As Al-Anon members, we share our experience, strength and hope in order to help others – and ourselves – recover from the effects of alcoholism in our lives; as members, we do not provide professional advice or make professional referrals. Regardless of what our own professional background, credentials, experience, knowledge, expertise, or opinions may be, we are all here as members and we share/contribute our personal, not our professional, experiences.
Alateen is Al-Anon’s recovery program for young people. Alateen helps teenagers who are living with or affected by the problem drinking of another person. Please see our Alateen page for additional information. Information about Alateen can also be found on the Alateen pages of the Al-Anon World Services site. Local Alateen meetings are included on our meetings page.
Al‑Anon adult children meetings provide a safe, supportive, understanding place for adults affected by the problem drinking of their parent, step-parent, guardian or childhood caretaker. If you feel this applies to you, you will be welcome at Al-Anon Adult Children meetings as well as at regular Al-Anon meetings. Al-Anon Adult Children is part of the Al-Anon Family Groups program, and Al-Anon Adult Children meetings are one of several types of Al-Anon meetings. The Al-Anon publication, “Did You Grow Up With A Problem Drinker?” (S-25) may help you decide if Al-Anon Adult Children might be of help to you. Local Al-Anon Adult Children meetings are included on our meetings page. Additional information for/about Al-Anon Adult Children is available on our Al-Anon Adult Children page.
“Did You Grow Up With A Problem Drinker? (S-25)
Reprinted with permission of ©Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA
What is an Al-Anon or Alateen “sponsor”?
A sponsor is another Al-Anon or Alateen member who can confidentially help us in the recovery process. (Please note: this is different from an Alateen “meeting sponsor” – please click here for information about Alateen meeting sponsorship.) Sponsorship provides personal support to members, whether they are new or have been in the program for any length of time. Sponsors share their own experience, strength and hope, explain the Al-Anon or Alateen program, guide their sponsees in using the tools of the program, and help sponsees to “work” and apply the Twelve Steps if they choose to do so. Sponsorship is not required, but can be immensely beneficial both to the sponsee and the sponsor! Additional information about sponsorship, including suggestions for how to choose a sponsor, information on how sponsorship works, and suggestions for being a sponsor, can be found in the Al-Anon pamphlet, “Sponsorship: What It’s About” (P-31.) This pamphlet can be obtained at many Al-Anon meetings, from local literature distribution centers (please see our contact us page to contact the District 5 Al-Anon literature distribution center,) or from the literature area of the Al-Anon World Services web site. Other Al-Anon “conference-approved” literature, such as the book, “How Al-Anon Works” (B-22,) also includes information on sponsorship. Our literature page provides information on how to obtain Al-Anon conference-approved literature.
What does it mean when I hear and read that Al-Anon is a “spiritual not religious” program?
Al-Anon is not allied with any religion, sect or denomination. Members of any faith and of no faith are all equally welcome. Many of Al-Anon’s Steps and Slogans refer to a “power greater than ourselves” and to “God as we understand Him” as a source of help and comfort. People are free to interpret this in whatever way works for them. Some members have a clear and specific concept of God; some have a less defined sense of God, and some have no concept of God. Some members believe in the God of their religion as their Higher Power; others may turn to the collective wisdom and experience of the group, or to nature, or to their feeling of connection with the Universe, or to whatever they hold of greatest value, to help them as they apply the Al-Anon Steps and principles to their lives. Many meetings begin or end with a prayer; people are always free to choose whether to join in the prayer or not. In Al-Anon, we do not impose beliefs on any other member; all beliefs are equally respected!
I am actively working to get my family member/friend help. I am considering an intervention. I don’t see how the things I hear in Al-Anon about “detaching” can be helpful in my situation. How can Al-Anon help?
Al-Anon includes many members who have sought or are actively seeking to motivate their loved one to engage in a program providing professional or other help for alcoholism/addiction, and many members who have participated in structured or informal interventions. Al-Anon helps members learn behaviors and actions that often have long-term beneficial effects for all family members, including the alcoholic/addict. Members find that Al-Anon can help them to learn the difference between helpful and unhelpful actions in responding to the alcoholic/addict. While not advocating any course of action or professional services, Al-Anon encourages members to engage resources and/or obtain professional assistance that may be helpful to them. Professionals, including Intervention specialists, often recommend Al-Anon participation to family members (for examples, please see our Professionals page, including an opinion from Intervention specialists Jeff and Debra Jay.)
My family member/friend has a problem with other drugs ... can I come to Al-Anon? Can Al-Anon help me?
In District 5 Al-Anon meetings and Al-Anon meetings in many other areas, you will find many members who have loved ones who are harmfully involved with other drugs as well as with alcohol. We have found that problems with alcohol and problems with other drugs often go hand in hand. You will be welcome at any District 5 Al-Anon meeting – and you will find others who understand.
Is there literature I can read to learn more about the Al-Anon program?
What are Al-Anon’s Slogans? How can they help me?
The Al-Anon “slogans” are simple, easy to remember tools that are helpful for coping with a variety of circumstances. Our slogans include the phrases, “Keep It Simple,” “But For The Grace Of God,” “Easy Does It,” “First Things First,” “Just For Today,” “Let It Begin With Me,” “How Important Is It?” “Think,” “One Day At A Time,” “Keep An Open Mind,” “Live And Let Live,” and “Let Go And Let God.” You can read more about these slogans here. You can find files for printable wallet-sized slogan and Serenity prayer cards here.
What are the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts of Al-Anon?
Al-Anon has three sets of guiding principles that are referred to as our Three Legacies. These Legacies were adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous. The Legacies include Recovery through the Twelve Steps, Unity through the Twelve Traditions, and Service through the Twelve Concepts. There is additional information about our Three Legacies on our Al-Anon structure page. Most members become familiar with the Twelve Steps first, then the Twelve Traditions, and later our Twelve Concepts of Service.
The Twelve Steps of Al-Anon are a practical tool for change for Al-Anon members. The Twelve Steps help us find answers to our questions and solutions to our problems. They help us to make peace with the past and live productively in the present.
Al-Anon’s Twelve Steps, copyright 1996 by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
The Twelve Traditions of Al-Anon are a set of guidelines for the Al-Anon program. The Traditions help us to maintain unity. They help to hold our program together so we can provide a consistent message of hope, uninfluenced by outside interests, for Al-Anon members and newcomers. Many Al-Anon members find that the Traditions also assist them in their personal lives.
Al-Anon’s Twelve Traditions, copyright 1996 by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
Al-Anon’s Twelve Concepts of Service, copyright 1996 by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
There is additional information about the Al-Anon/Alateen program and resources on our Groups’/Members’ Corner page, and there is information about how Al-Anon is organized and structured on our structure page. A description of Al-Anon’s history is located on our Groups’/Members’ Corner page. Stories sharing the experience, strength and hope of local Al-Anon and Alateen members can be found on our stories page.
Thank you for visiting us – and we welcome you to return! We hope this site has helped you learn about what Al-Anon has to offer you. You are welcome to attend any Al-Anon meeting and listen, observe, participate, and/or ask questions. If you have questions or comments that you would like to direct to District 5 of Al-Anon, please contact us!