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Al-Anon/Alateen, known as Al-Anon Family Groups, is an international "fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems."[1] They "help families of alcoholics by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic."[1] Alateen is part of Al-Anon and is their Twelve-step program of recovery for young people affected by another's drinking, generally aged 13 to 19 years (varies depending on each group). "Alateen groups are sponsored by Al-Anon members."[2]

Al-Anon was formed in 1951 by Lois Wilson, wife of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) co-founder Bill Wilson. She recognized the need for such an organization as family members living with AA members began to identify their own pathologies associated with their family members' alcoholism. In the USA, Al-Anon Family Groups incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.[3][4] Alateen took its own name and formation in 1957.

In Lois's Story, she explained why, as the spouse of an alcoholic, she also required treatment.

After a while I began to wonder why I was not as happy as I ought to be, since the one thing I had been yearning for all my married life [Bill's sobriety] had come to pass. Then one Sunday, Bill asked me if I was ready to go to the meeting with him. To my own astonishment as well as his, I burst forth with "Damn your old meetings!" and threw a shoe as hard as I could.

This surprising display of temper over nothing pulled me up short and made me start to analyze my own attitudes. ... My life's purpose of sobering up Bill, which had made me feel desperately needed, had vanished. ... I decided to strive for my own spiritual growth. I used the same principles as he did to learn how to change my attitudes. ... We began to learn that ... the partner of the alcoholic also needed to live by a spiritual program.

— Lois Wilson ,  Lois's Story in How Al-Anon Works[5]

Processes and benefits

Al-Anon adapted the Twelve Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous replacing 'alcoholics' with 'others' in the last step, Step 12. The Al-Anon and Alateen literature focuses on problems common to family members and friends of alcoholics (e.g., loyalty to those who are abusive, excessive care-taking, inability to differentiate love and pity) rather than the problems of the alcoholic. Meetings are usually small (five to twenty-five in attendance), in larger meetings members often split into smaller groups after the opening readings so that everyone will have a chance to speak.[6]

Meetings may begin with the Suggested Al-Anon/Alateen Welcome (depending on each autonomous group) which starts out:

We welcome you to the __________________ Al-Anon Family Group and hope you will find in this fellowship the help and friendship we have been privileged to enjoy.

We who live, or have lived, with the problem of alcoholism understand as perhaps few others can. We, too, were lonely and frustrated, but in Al-Anon we discover that no situation is really hopeless, and that it is possible for us to find contentment, and even happiness, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.[7]

Al-Anon acknowledges that members begin with low self-esteem, but teaches that this is largely a side-effect of unrealistically overestimating their personal agency and control. Specifically this is in relation to member's attempts to control another person's drinking behavior and, when they fail, blaming themselves for the other person's behavior.[6] As family members of alcoholics learn to recognize the pathologies in their families, assign the responsibility of those pathologies to a disease, forgive themselves, accept that they were adversely affected by the pathologies, and ultimately learn to accept their family member's shortcomings, they begin to improve.[8]

When an alcoholic's spouse is active in Al-Anon and the alcoholic is active in AA, not only is the alcoholic more likely to be abstinent but marital happiness improves and both the alcoholic and their spouse become better parents.[9][10] Participation in Al-Anon has also been associated with less personal blame among females who, as a whole, engage in more initial personal blame for the drinking than males.[11]

Encouraging alcoholics to participate in treatment

Although Al-Anon emphasizes alcoholism cannot be arrested by its members' intervention,[12] analysis of methods used by Concerned Significant Others (CSOs) to encourage alcoholics to seek treatment has shown participation in Al-Anon to be effective towards this goal. The Community Reinforcement and Family Training approach (CRAFT), however, has been shown to be significantly more effective than Al-Anon participation for this purpose.[13][14] Spouses of alcoholics wait, on average, seven years before making an intervention.[15]


Al-Anon is open to all family members and friends of alcoholics, but is primarily composed of female partners/spouses of alcoholics. Groups focusing on adult children of alcoholics are becoming more common. Nearly all of the Al-Anon members in the United States are white (95%), 60-80% are women, half are married, and a third have a college degree.[6]

In 2007, Al-Anon Family Groups published their 2006 Member Survey Results of demographic and other information from Al-Anon members in Canada and The United States. Of those who responded (645), 88% indicated they were caucasian, 85% were female, and 58% were married.[16] (One key finding was that "82% reported their mental health and well-being was much improved due to Al-Anon."[16])

139 Alateen members responded to Al-Anon Family Group's 2006 Alateen Member Survey, which was conducted in The United States alone. 65% of the respondents were female, 35% male, 72% caucasian, 20% spoke Spanish fluently, and their average age was 14-years old.[17]

"A third of Al-Anon members have children at home under the age of 21."[17]

Hallmark Movie

"When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story" - The story of co-founder Lois Wilson has been produced into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, starring Winona Ryder in the lead role. The movie aired on CBS on April 25, 2010.[18]

Al-Anon Approved Literature

During meetings, it is highly suggested that members refrain from reading or referencing any non Al-Anon conference approved literature. The literature that has been approved includes:

Alateen - Hope for Children of Alcoholics; The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage ; The Al-Anon Family Groups - Classic Edition; One Day at a Time in Al-Anon ; Lois Remembers ; Al-Anon's Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions; Alateen - a day at a time ; As we Understood... ; ...In All Our Affairs: Making Crises Work for You; Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II ; From Survival to Recovery: Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home; How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics ; Courage to Be Me - Living with Alcoholism ; Paths to Recovery - Al-Anon's Steps, Traditions, and Concepts; Living Today in Alateen ; Hope for Today ; Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses Italic text Discovering Choices

List published by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.; World Service Office for Al-Anon and Alateen

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Al-Anon Family Groups. "Suggested Al-Anon Preamble to the Twelve Steps". Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  2. Al-Anon Family Groups. "Alateen's Purpose". Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  3. Kverme, A (February 1990). "Al-Anon. A resource for families and friends of alcoholics" (in Norwegian). Tidsskrift for den Norske laegeforening 110 (5): 608–609. PMID 2309213.
  4. Haaken, Janice (1993). "From Al-Anon to ACOA: Codependence and the Reconstruction of Caregiving". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 18 (2): 321–345. doi:10.1086/494795. ISSN 0097-9740.
  5. Wilson, Lois (1995). "Lois's Story". How Al-Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0910034265. OCLC 32951492.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Humphreys, Keith; Kaskutas, Lee A (1995). "World Views of Alcoholics Anonymous, Women for Sobriety, and Adult Children of Alcoholics/Al-Anon Mutual Help Groups". Addiction Research & Theory 3 (3): 231–243. doi:10.3109/16066359509005240.
  7. Al-Anon Family Groups. "Al-Anon Guideline: A Meeting on Wheels, G-22". Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.. pp. 1. Retrieved 2010-04-26., "Suggested Al-Anon/Alateen Welcome"
  8. Humphreys, K (April 1996). "World view change in adult children of Alcoholics/Al-Anon self-help groups: reconstructing the alcoholic family". International journal of group psychotherapy 46 (2): 255–63. ISSN 0020-7284. PMID 8935765.
  9. Wright, KD; Scott, TB (September 1978). "The relationship of wives' treatment to the drinking status of alcoholics". Journal of studies on alcohol 39 (9): 1577–1581. ISSN 0096-882X. PMID 215841.
  10. Corenblum, B; Fischer, DG (May 1975). "Some correlates of Al-Anon group membership". Journal of studies on alcohol 36 (5): 675–677. ISSN 0096-882X. PMID 239290.
  11. Kingree, J. B.; Thompson, Martie (2000). "Twelve-Step Groups, Attributions of Blame for Personal Sadness, Psychological Well-Being, and the Moderating Role of Gender". Journal of Applied Social Psychology 30 (3): 499–517. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2000.tb02493.x. ISSN 1559-1816.
  12. Al-Anon Family Groups (1997). "Step One". Paths to Recovery:Al-Anon's , Steps, Traditions and Concepts. Al-Anon Family Groups. ISBN 0919003431I.
  13. Miller, WR; Meyers, RJ; Tonigan, JS (October 1999). "Engaging the unmotivated in treatment for alcohol problems: a comparison of three strategies for intervention through family members". Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 67 (5): 688–697. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.67.5.688. ISSN 0022-006X. PMID 10535235.
  14. Meyers, RJ; Miller, WR; Smith, JE, Tonigan, JS (October 2002). "A randomised trail of two methods for engaging treatment-refusing drug users through concerned significant others (CSOs)". Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 70 (5): 1182–1185. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.70.5.1182. ISSN 0022-006X. PMID 12362968.
  15. Gorman, JM; Rooney, JF (1979). "Delay in seeking help and onset of crisis among Al-Anon wives". The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse 6 (2): 223–233. doi:10.3109/00952997909007047. ISSN 0095-2990. PMID 517494.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Al-Anon Family Groups (2007). "Member Survey Results, Al-Anon Family Groups, Fall 2006". Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.. pp. 2–5. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Al-Anon Family Groups. "Survey among Alateen members, Fall 2006". Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  18. "When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story". Retrieved 2010-03-31.

Further reading

  • Kirby, K. C., Marlowe, D. B., Festinger, D. S., Garvey, K. A., & LaMonaca, V. (August 1999). "Community reinforcement training for family and significant others of drug abusers: A unilateral intervention to increase treatment entry of drug users". Drug and Alcohol Dependence 56 (1): 85–96. doi:10.1016/S0376-8716(99)00022-8. PMID 10462097.
  • Rychtarik, R. G., & McGillicuddy, N. B. (April 2005). "Coping Skills Training and 12-Step Facilitation for Women Whose Partner Has Alcoholism: Effects on Depression, the Partner's Drinking, and Partner Physical Violence". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 73 (2): 249–261. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.73.2.249. PMID 15796632.
  • White, W. (2007). "Review of The Lois Wilson Story: When Love is not Enough". Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 24 (4): 159–162. doi:10.1300/J020v24n04_10.
  • Meyers, R. J., Apodaca, T. R., Flicker, S. M., & Slesnick, N. (July 2002). "Evidence-based approaches for the treatment of substance abusers by involving family members". The Family Journal 10 (3): 281–288. doi:10.1177/10680702010003004.
  • Zajdow, G. (April 1998). "Civil society, social capital and the Twelve Step group". Community, Work & Family 1 (1): 79–89. doi:10.1080/13668809808414699.

External links

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