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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." The group's purpose is to "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." Alateen is an age-specific Al-Anon group and is a Twelve-step program of recovery for young people affected by someone's drinking. Alateen attenders are generally aged 13 to 19 years (varies depending on each group). "Alateen groups are sponsored by Al-Anon members."
Al-Anon was formed in 1951 by Anne B. and Lois W., wife of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) co-founder Bill W. They 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. 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's Story" in How Al-Anon Works
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, who demonstrate excessive care-taking and an inability to differentiate between 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.
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.— 
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. As family members of alcoholics learn to recognize the pathologies in their families, and to 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.
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 his/her spouse become better parents. 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.
Controversy over effectiveness and alternatives to Al-Anon
Al-Anon Members are encouraged to keep the focus on themselves and not the alcoholic. While members believe changed attitudes can aid recovery, they also stress that one person did not cause, can not cure, and can not control another person's alcoholic related choices and behaviors.
A 1999 clinical analysis of methods used by Concerned Significant Others to encourage alcoholics to seek treatment has shown participation in Al-Anon to be effective towards this goal. The same psychologists found that an approach they call Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), was significantly more effective than Al-Anon participation for the purposes of arresting alcoholism in others. Spouses of alcoholics wait, on average, seven years before making an intervention. It should be noted, however, that the purpose of Alanon is not to arrest alcoholism in others, but to provide friends and family of alcoholics with support. As their literature states: "It is possible to find contentment and even happiness whether the alcoholic is drinking or not." Alanon members fully acknowledge the importance of treatment and recovery for alcoholics and addicts. Many people come to Alanon to get help in stopping someone else's drinking. However, Alanon as a program recognizes that the friends and family of alcoholics are typically traumatized themselves, and in need of emotional support and understanding which is unlikely to come from an alcoholic or a treatment program. In this respect, a study which measures efficacy by success in "arresting alcoholism" is not measuring the efficacy of Al-Anon's stated purpose.
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.
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. (One key finding was that "82% reported their mental health and well-being was much improved due to Al-Anon.")
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, and 20% spoke Spanish fluently. One third of respondents had children at home under the age of 21; the average age of respondents was 14 years old.
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Alcoholism in family systems
- List of twelve-step groups
- Co-Dependents Anonymous
- National Association for Children of Alcoholics
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
- Al-Anon Family Groups. "Suggested Al-Anon Preamble to the Twelve Steps". www.al-anon.alateen.org. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Al-Anon Family Groups. "Alateen's Purpose". www.al-anon.alateen.org. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Al-Anon/Alateen.|
- Al-Anon/Alateen official website
- First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery
- Al-Anon/Alateen official website (UK and Eire)
- Al-Anon/Alateen Literature Distribution Center
- Works by or about Al-Anon/Alateen in libraries (WorldCat catalog)