How Al-Anon Helps Families Affected by Alcoholism

group of people at an al-anon meeting for help with alcoholism in the family

When one family member suffers from alcoholism, the entire family is usually affected. Alcohol abuse in a household greatly impacts the well-being of other members in the household, often causing family members to assume unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with turmoil in the home. Fortunately, there are several ways in which Al-Anon helps families who are affected by alcoholism to heal and re-establish peace within the family unit.

While family addiction therapy is highly beneficial, some families need additional support. Whether your loved one is attending 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings or is still actively drinking, participating in Al-Anon can help family members cope with their problems, balance their lives, and set healthy boundaries with their addicted loved one.

What is Al-Anon and How Does it Work?

When AA began gaining popularity in the 1940s, families of alcoholics began meeting up in small groups to talk to one another and offer support. Many of these family members came to speak with other people who could provide guidance on how to overcome challenges in the home that stemmed from alcohol abuse. In 1951, Al-Anon was officially formed to help families and friends who were affected by a loved one’s problem drinking.[1]

Lois B., the accredited founder of Al-Anon, suggested that members of Al-Anon work the 12-steps much like AA members do. To this day, the philosophy of Al-Anon has remained the same. Members come together for different meeting formats, some that feature speakers who share their experience, strength, and hope, and others that work directly out of the 12-Steps.

Like AA, members of Al-Anon remain anonymous and respect the personal identities and private lives of other members. This helps provide a judgment-free zone where people can express their emotions, talk about their struggles, and gain support from their peers.

While Al-Anon is not a religious program, the 12-Steps do revolve around accepting help from a higher power. This term is used loosely, as members of this fellowship are encouraged to believe in whatever religion, higher power, or spiritual way of life that they choose to believe in.

Lastly, attending Al-Anon meetings are completely free. However, most pass a basket that accepts voluntary contributions to keep up with expenses such as rent, coffee, reading materials, snacks, and more.

Alateen: Support Options for Teenagers

It’s no secret that Al-Anon helps families affected by alcoholism, but many members of Al-Anon are adults. Not long after the founding of Al-Anon, Alateen began and was promoted to help teenagers whose parents or other loved ones are suffering from alcoholism or alcohol use disorder.[2]

Like Al-Anon, Alateen welcomes youth and teens to share their stories, connect with one another, and gain support from people who understand what they are going through. Members of Alateen also educate themselves about the disease of alcoholism, how they can help their loved ones, and how to better take care of themselves. Today, there are thousands of Al-Anon and Alateen groups nationwide.

How Al-Anon Helps Families

Al-Anon helps families affected by alcoholism in a number of ways. First, it helps family members recognize that the disease of alcoholism is a family illness that has negative impacts on drinkers, family members, and friends alike. In many cases, family members will blame themselves for the drinker’s behavior, but Al-Anon helps people realize that their family member’s alcoholism isn’t their fault. Not only is it not their fault, but Al-Anon focuses on the idea that people cannot control their addicted loved ones – they can only control themselves. (Klonopin)

Furthermore, many families who are affected by alcoholism struggle with codependency. They might enable their loved one’s drinking habits or fail to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Since Al-Anon focuses on helping family members help themselves, it’s a useful tool in helping teach families how to set boundaries and prevent enabling their loved ones.

Another way that Al-Anon helps families affected by alcoholism is by introducing them to other families who have fought the same battle. Although each family is different, members have all had similar experiences and struggles. As a result of these experiences, members can share their experience and knowledge with other members in hopes that they can help somebody else. This not only provides guidance, but it provides a safe space for people who are struggling to gain emotional support and feel a sense of belonging.

Although each meeting and group is different, there is a general consensus that nobody is required to speak or actively participate unless they want to. So, if you’re feeling shy about your first Al-Anon meeting, it might put you at ease to know that all you have to do is sit and listen.

Can Al-Anon Help Your Family?

You might be hesitant to go to Al-Anon for a number of reasons. First, you might be turned off by the God idea, but Al-Anon focuses on the idea that you can take what you like and leave the rest, so even if you’re not spiritual, you can still benefit from the program. Plus, you might be afraid of being recognized by someone in the community – but Al-Anon revolves around anonymity and, ultimately, the benefits you will reap outweigh the risks of being recognized.

If you’re wondering whether or not Al-Anon can help your family heal from the effects of alcoholism, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your loved one an alcoholic or in recovery from alcoholism?
  • Do you often lie to cover up for your loved one’s behaviors?
  • Do you feel as though it is your responsibility to protect your loved one?
  • Are you constantly adjusting your plans, needs, and wants to deal with your loved one’s drinking?
  • Are you unsure of how to help your addicted loved one?
  • Have you been feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed because of your loved one’s drinking?
  • Do you struggle to set boundaries?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you can certainly benefit from checking out an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting near you.

Find Additional Family Support

Whether you’re looking for additional support, Al-Anon resources near you, or treatment for a loved one who can’t stop drinking, our addiction experts at PAX Memphis Recovery Center are here to help. We can provide your loved one with individualized alcohol treatment and your family with the resources you need to heal. Contact us today to learn more about our alcohol rehab programs and other treatment options.



Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.