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Main article: alcohol rehabilitation

Al-Anon Family Groups is a twelve-step program for relatives and friends of alcoholics. Members share their experience, strength, and hope, in order to solve their common problems. They believe that alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery. Much like Adult Children of Alcoholics (which is a completely separate program that operates by its own guidelines, and is in no way affiliated with AA, Al-Anon or Alateen), Al-Anon is a support group for family members and friends of alcoholics, whether still drinking or in recovery, rather than for alcoholics themselves. The two branches of the Al-Anon Family Groups include Al-Anon and Alateen, serving both adults and teens. Al-Anon is for adult friends and family members of alcoholics whereas Alateen is for offspring (ages 12 to 20) of alcoholics.

Al-Anon was founded in the early 1950s by Lois Wilson, wife of A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson and other relatives and friends of A.A. members. 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.[1][2] Lois told the personal side of the story:

"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 the Al-Anon "Big Book"[3]


Prior to the founding of Al-Anon, it was not uncommon for such family members and others to meet with recovering alcoholics on an equal footing within Alcoholics' Anonymous. However, it became apparent that both groups, the recovering alcoholics on the one hand, and their friends and family members on the other, needed to be able to meet separately.

The mainstays of the Al-Anon program are the Steps, Traditions, and Concepts. These include the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions. There are no dues or fees required for attendance, and the only requirement for membership is for there to be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.

As the name implies, Alateen is the youth/young adult program of Al-Anon. The program follows many of the same steps as its parental organization, yet is more geared to teenagers and children.

Alcoholism and family systems Edit

Mental health professionals are increasingly considering alcoholism and addiction as diseases that flourish in and are enabled by family systems.[4] Family members react to the alcoholic with particular behavioral patterns. They may enable the addiction to continue by shielding the alcoholic from the negative consequences of his actions. Such behaviors are referred to as codependence. In this way, the alcoholic is said to suffer from the disease of addiction, whereas the family members suffer from the disease of codependence.[5][6]

Alcoholism is one of the leading causes of family dysfunction.[7] As of 2001, there were an estimated 26.8 million children of alcoholics (COAs) in the United States, with as many as 11 million of them under than age of 18.[8] Children of such mentally ill people have an increased suicide rate and on average have total health care costs 32 percent greater than children of nonalcoholic families.[9][8]

Adults from alcoholic families experience higher levels of state and trait anxiety and lower levels of differentiation of self than adults raised in non-alcoholic families.[10] Additionally Adult children of alcoholics have lower self-esteem, excessive feelings of responsibility, difficulties reaching out, higher incidence of depression, and increased likelihood of becoming alcoholics.[11]

Processes and Benefits Edit

Research suggests that 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 parent's shortcomings, they begin to improve.[12]

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.[13][14] Participation in Al-anon has also been associated with less personal blame among females, though not among males.[15]

As used to encourage alcoholics to participate in treatment Edit

Research on methods used by Concerned Significant Others (CSOs) to encourage alcoholics to seek treatment has shown participation in Al-Anon to be effective towards such goals. However, the Community Reinforcement and Family Training approach (CRAFT) has been shown to be significantly more effective than Al-Anon participation for this purpose.[16][17] Though spouses of alcoholics wait, on average, seven years before taking such an intervention.[18]


See also Edit

References & BibliographyEdit

  1. Kverme, A (February 1990). Al-Anon. A resource for families and friends of alcoholics. Tidsskrift for den Norske laegeforening 110 (5): 608-609.
  2. Haaken, Janice (1993). From Al-Anon to ACOA: Codependence and the Reconstruction of Caregiving. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 18: 321-345.
  3. Wilson, Lois (1995). "Lois's Story" 'How Al-Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics', 136-137, Virginia Beach, VA: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc..
  4. Crnkovic, A. Elaine, DelCampo, Robert L. (March 1998). A Systems Approach to the Treatment of Chemical Addiction. Contemporary Family Therapy 20 (1): 25-36.
  5. O'Farrell, Timothy J; Fals-Stewart, William (2006). "An Introduction to Behavioral Couples Therapy for Alcoholism" Behavioral Couples Therapy for Alcoholism And Drug Abuse, 1-7, Guilford Press.
  6. Cermak, TL (1989). Al-Anon and recovery. Recent developments in alcoholism 7: 91-104.
  7. Barnett, Mary Ann (October 2003). Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners 15 (10): 467-472.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Mulligan, Kate (October 2001). Al-Anon Celebration Spotlights Importance of Family Involvement. Psychiatric News 36: 7.
  9. Drake, Robert E., Racusin, Robert J.; Murphy, Timothy A. (August 1990). Suicide Among Adolescents With Mentall Ill Parents. Hospital & community psychiatry 41: 921-922.
  10. Maynard, Stuart (1999). Growing up in an alcoholic family system: the effect on anxiety and differentiation of self. Journal of substance abuse 9: 161-170.
  11. Cutter, CG, Cutter, HS (January 1987). Experience and change in Al-Anon family groups: adult children of alcoholics. Journal of studies on alcohol 48 (1): 29-32.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Corenblum, B, Fischer, DG (May 1975). Some correlates of Al-Anon group membership. Journal of studies on alcohol 36 (5): 675-677.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Meyers, RJ, Miller, WR; Smith, JE, Tonigan, JS (october 2002). A randomised trail of two method for engaging treatment-refusing drug users through concerned significant others (CSOs). Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 70 (5): 1182-1185.
  18. Gorman, JM, Rooney, JF. Delay in seeking help and onset of crisis among Al-Anon wives. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse 6 (2): 223-233.

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