Al-Anon & Alateen

Al-Anon is a Twelve-Step self-help fellowship for family and friends of alcoholics. It began in the 19405 when Lois W., the wife of AA’s cofounder Bill W., decided she needed a support group of her own. Families were involved in meetings with alcoholics from the start, but as AA grew the fellowship tended to include only alcoholics. This is where the idea of closed (alcoholics only) and open (for anyone interested) meetings developed.

Family Groups

Lois realized she was still suffering from problems caused by alcoholism even though Bill had been sober for several years. Family support groups began to meet around the country, and in 1951 Lois and a friend set up an office in New York to help them. They called their new organization Al-Anon.

Al-Anon adopted AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions with only minor changes in the wording as needed to make sense for family members.


The concept of detachment is a focus in Al-Anon. It means to stop suffering from the actions or reactions of other people, alcoholics in particular. Members of Al-Anon learn how they enable the disease by trying to be helpful. Al-Anon members learn the three C’s:

  • I didn’t cause it.
  • I can’t control it.
  • I can’t cure it.


Al-Anon members learn to be free by focusing on themselves and their own recovery from the effects of alcoholism. By sharing their experience, strength, and hope, they learn to be self-caring and are able to make more intelligent decisions.


Al-Anon has its own conference-approved literature. Members use meditation books, step-study books, and others by which they learn to work their program.


Alateen groups are for teenagers affected by alcoholism. They are sponsored by Al-Anon groups. There are over fifteen thousand Al-Anon groups in the United States, and about three thousand of these are Alateen groups. Alatot meetings have sprung up in some places for young children, but the Al-Anon Family Groups headquarters discourages such groups. They believe professionals are best equipped to handle the needs of young children damaged by alcoholism.

Other Groups

Other support groups have grown out of the ideas developed by Al-Anon. Adult Children of Alcoholics first met as a specialized Al-Anon group, but many are now independent of Al-Anon. Co-Dependents Anonymous is another Twelve-Step group to help people maintain functional relationships.


Al-Anon has an international service office, their own literature, and functions very much like AA. It is a nonprofit, nonprofessional fellowship. For more information about Al-Anon or Alateen, or to locate a meeting, check your local phone book, an AA intergroup office, or contact:

Al-Anon Family Groups
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617 (757) 563-1600

Al-Anon & Alateen, see also: Adolescents, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Children of addicts, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Enabling, Families Anonymous, History of TwelVe-Step groups, Meetings, Other support groups, Steps of AA, Traditions of AA.

Updated 12 Sep 2015

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