Al-Anon Family Groups includes Al-Anon, a mutual support program for families and friends of alcoholics, as well as Alateen, which is a fellowship of young members, primarily teenagers.

The programs can be beneficial to family members and friends of problem drinkers, even if the alcoholic doesn't yet acknowledge the problem or hasn't sought help with it.

Al-Anon was foun
ded in the early 1950s by Lois Wilson, the wife of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Anne B., whose husband was also a member of AA. Although the organization is separate from AA, they are symbiotic in many respects. For example, Al-Anon has adapted the 12-Steps, 12 Traditions, and 12 Concepts of Service from AA for their purposes. In that sense, Al-Anon is one of several Twelve Step programs.

Originally, the organization was going to be called AA Family Group, but Alcoholics Anonymous objected to the use of AA in the name, as the 6th Tradition of AA states that the fellowship should not lend its name to any outside organization. Thus, the organization took the name of Al-Anon Family Groups.

Recognizing the burden that alcoholism places on family members, children, and close friends of problem drinkers, Al-Anon was formed to provide for them what Alcoholics Anonymous provides for people in recovery from alcohol addiction.

Al-Anon meetings are often held in churches, and there is a spiritual aspect to the program, but Al-Anon is not a religious organization, nor is it associated with any particular belief system.

At Al-Anon meetings, everyone is an equal, although it is common practice for new members to ask a more experienced member to serve as a sponsor.

Al-Anon meetings generally focus on a particular topic, such as one of the Twelve Steps, which may be presented by an invited speaker, and a discussion usually follows. Although participation if encouraged, it is not required. New members sometimes prefer to sit back and listen, at least until they become more comfortable with the program.

While some of Al-Anon's practices and principles can take a while to learn and apply, the program has adapted several simple slogans from Alcoholics Anonymous. While they are cliches, many of which you may be familiar with, their simplicity can be powerful, serving as gentle reminders or words of assurance.

The Al-Anon slogans include:
  • Anger is just one letter short of danger
  • But for the grace of God
  • Detachment, not amputation
  • Easy does it
  • Feelings not facts
  • First things first
  • How important it is
  • If in doubt, don't
  • Just for today
  • Keep an open mind
  • Keep coming back
  • Keep it simple
  • Keep the focus on yourself
  • Let go and let God
  • Let it begin with me
  • Live and let live
  • Look back without staring
  • Love, learn, and grow
  • One day at a time
  • Principles above personalities
  • Progress, not perfection
  • Stop and think
  • Think
  • This too shall pass
  • Together we can make it
  • Quiet the mind, open the heart

Each Al-Anon group is different, and much about the way in which meetings are conducted is decided by members of the local group. However, the Al-Anon organization does have guidelines that are respected by all Al-Anon groups, particularly those respecting confidentiality, anonymity, and cohesiveness. Groups are usually small, from five to twenty-five people.

Meetings may be designated as open, closed, or restricted. Anyone is welcome to attend open meetings, while closed meetings are for people with an alcoholic loved one. Some meetings ma
y be closely restricted, but these are usually ones that are held at domestic abuse shelters, group homes, or detention facilities.

There is no charge for membership in Al-Anon, although voluntary contributions are appreciated.

Alateen is for younger family members or friends of people who are addicted to alcohol. These are usually teenagers whose lives are affected by a loved one's alcohol use disorder. As part of Al-Anon Family Groups, Alateen is sponsored by Al-Anon members who help the group to stay on track. Like Al-Anon, Alateen is not associated with any religion.

Alcoholics Anonymous is for people with alcohol use disorder who are seeking sobriety, while Al-Anon is for those who care about someone with a drinking problem, and Alateen is similar to Al-Anon, but for teens and young people.