The damage caused by an abusive drinking habit does not end at the alcoholic; it can greatly impact the lives and psychological well-being of those close to them. Al-Anon, a fellowship based off the Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy, welcomes friends and family members of alcoholics and helps them cope with their own problems, giving them the strength to balance their own lives with their loved one’s addiction.
Topics On this page
| | 6 sources

When a drinking problem surfaces in someone’s life, friends and family typically encounter an unpredictable wave of problems in their own lives. Al-Anon Family Groups, or simply Al-Anon, address these issues. Grounded in the traditions created by Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon provides a meeting place for anyone dealing with the reality of a loved one’s battle with alcoholism.

Al-Anon meeting

Having an alcoholic in your life can force you to deal with unexpected and unwanted issues. It may mean:
  • Extra care-taking
  • A negative public image
  • Being lied to
  • Inability to trust
  • Not knowing how to separate love and enabling
  • Uncertainty about the future

Oftentimes a loved one’s alcoholism can be equally traumatic to their friends and family. By attending Al-Anon meetings, and interacting with others dealing with a similar situation, you may gain a new perspective and a renewed sense of purpose. Al-Anon strives to help you keep a level head, and has a long history of success in helping families and friends of alcoholics tackle their issues.

Looking to Help a Loved One?Our recovery programs are based on decades of research to deliver treatment that really works. Get Help Now

History of Al-Anon

While Alcoholics Anonymous began to grow and attract its first legion of members in the 1940s, family groups started popping up where the loved ones of AA members gathered and talked. Wives of AA members would meet up at “coffee and cake” groups to help one another work out their issues at home. In 1951, Lois B. — wife of AA founder Bill W. — collaborated with her friend Anne B. on consolidating these groups into a fellowship of their own, based largely off the 12-Step method of AA.

Al-Anon was founded to help friends and family of alcoholics in 1951.

Al-Anon was formed.

Al-Anon’s first book, The Al-Anon Family Groups, was published in 1955. Word spread quickly about Al-Anon as a companion to AA, and just like AA, the groups started popping up around the world within years. It has grown every year since its inception, now with nearly 400,000 members in 130 countries. The first daily reader published by the group, titled One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, has sold over 5 million copies.

The life of Lois B. has been well-documented, for her extensive efforts in generating interest in Al-Anon and providing a major resource for those affected by a loved one’s alcohol addiction. Her life and the beginnings of Al-Anon were the subject of a Hollywood motion picture, and she is often considered one of the most important women of the 20th century.

How Does It Work?

When Lois B. founded Al-Anon at the suggestion of Bill W., she decided that it should closely follow the proven 12-Step philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 Steps of Al-Anon, much like AA, serve as tools for growth among the members, and are a centerpiece of every Al-Anon meeting.

The members of each group – of which there are 26,000 around the world – can steer the meetings as they see fit. Each meeting is different, and Al-Anon encourages new members to check out at least 6 meetings before determining if Al-Anon fits well with their life. In general, meetings consist of open and honest conversations among members about their loved one’s problem, how it affects them, and any progress they make in tackling their own issues.

Anonymity plays a major role in Al-Anon. Members use just their first names, and there is an understood level of trust among all members that personal details are kept within the group. This judgment- and worry-free zone allows members to delve into their problems and receive helpful feedback from others, without fear that their privacy will be intruded upon in any way.


Not long after Al-Anon launched, in 1957, a teenage son of AA/Al-Anon parents started the first meeting for children of alcoholics in California. Alateen was started, and was promoted through Al-Anon. Today, there are more than 2,000 Alateen groups around the world.

Al-Anon meeting

Much like Al-Anon, Alateen welcomes youths dealing with alcohol addiction among their family or friends and allows them to share their stories. Members of Alateen are encouraged to understand that alcoholism is a disease and they are not the cause of a family member’s drinking, nor can they change anyone. Through these meetings, teens often learn how to better love themselves and their affected love one, and detach themselves from the situation so they can continue living fulfilling and enjoyable lives.

Seeking help for your teen?Let us help you find treatment specifically catered to teens. Get Help Now


92 Percent of Al-Anon members report a positive experience from the group.

In a recent survey of 8,500 Al-Anon members, the most common response was “Al-Anon saved my life,” or some variation of that sentiment. Of the thousands who attend Al-Anon meetings, 92 percent say that their experience in the group positively affects their lives in some way.

92 Percent of Al-Anon members report a positive experience from the group.

One focal point of these meetings is helping members realize that it’s not their responsibility to cure their loved one’s alcoholism. In teaching members how to approach the problem and carry on with their own lives in the face of these hurdles, Al-Anon has a proven track record of success.

Al-Anon for Drug Problems

Although designed with alcoholism in mind, Al-Anon welcomes friends and family members of drug addicts as well. A 2015 survey of Al-Anon members revealed that 40 percent of current members first came to Al-Anon meetings due to a friend or relative’s drug problem.

These members are encouraged to share their stories and find solace in the group alongside everyone else. Surprisingly, 85 percent of these members realize over the course of their Al-Anon experience that their lives have been negatively affected by someone’s drinking as well.

Finding Your Nearest Meeting

Detailed information on how to find an Al-Anon meeting, or Alateen meeting, can be found on the organization’s website. A search will provide contact information and websites for groups in your area. You can also find information about online meetings.

The Al-Anon website is a great resource for learning more about the organization, and if Al-Anon or Alateen is right for you.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer,
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

Was this article helpful?

How helpful would you rate this article?

    loading logo

    Thanks for helping us make our website better for visitors like you!

    View Sources

    Ready to make a change?

    Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works.

    Start Your Recovery
    We're here to help you or your loved one.
    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Calls will be answered by a qualified admissions representative with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), the owners of We look forward to helping you!

    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Phone calls to treatment center listings not associated with ARS will go directly to those centers. and ARS are not responsible for those calls.