Twelve Steps of Al-Anon
Al-Anon is a mutual (or peer) support program, where members meet to help each other when they are struggling with another person’s consumption of alcohol. The shared experiences, strengths and hopes of members can aid another person learn a new way to live and experience an end to the hopelessness that often effects people in similar situations. Modelled after Alcoholics Anonymous program Al-Anon has adopted its own versions of the twelve steps and twelve traditions.
Virginia and Scot
Imagine two people; Virginia and Scot. Scot is concerned about the amount of alcohol that Virginia drinks regularly. Virginia could be Scot’s wife, sister, mother, co-worker or child. Virginia may or may not believe that she has a problem. Scot’s problem can be helped by attending Al-Anon meetings and learning from other members the benefits of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
What is an Alcoholic
Alcoholism was first recognized as a disease in 1956, by the American Medical Association. “Addiction is defined as the ongoing use of mood-altering substances, such as alcohol and drugs, despite adverse consequences.” 1 Some individuals disagree with the disease concept of alcoholism and the idea that those who drink excessively are choosing or simply lack moral character. Society is growing in its understanding of the disease and research continues to support the disease model.
Full effects of the disease and health issues
The initial effects of alcohol can induce a calming effect and reduced inhibitions. As consumption increases, there are numerous biological systems that are negatively affected and a person can become dependent on alcohol to survive. Alcoholics can experience criminal consequences to their behaviors when impaired, the effects on their direct and extended families, and a general decline in their mental and physical health. Impaired driving, violent and sometimes bizarre behaviors can cause alcoholics to be incarcerated or face fines and restrictions on their lifestyle.
An al-anon perspective – a view from the center of the disease
Individuals and families effected by the drinking of someone in their circle can experience feelings of hopelessness and despair. The stress can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Often there are specific patterns of behaviors that have shaped their lives as they deal with the consequences of someone’s alcohol use. Individuals can experience missing work, not being able to sleep, financial hardships and the effects of anxiety and depression.
Alcohol consumption can lower a person’s inhibitions and release endorphins that make a person feel better. Repeated usage can start to impair the ability to think clearly and in the long term, alcohol will damage the brain and many of the systems we rely on to ensure we remain healthy and alert. Severe withdrawal symptoms and death can result when a person who is alcohol dependent tries to quit.
The Alcoholic family
Alcoholism effects the entire family, and even extended family members may not escape the consequences of a single family member caught in the disease. Alcoholism introduces a complexity to the family dynamics. Some families appear to have a history of the disease that can spread back for generations. Al-anon offers support to members whose families are affected by the disease.
Teens and Alateen
Growing up has many challenges even under the best of circumstances. Teenagers may find that their families and/or peer groups are under the cloud of alcoholism. Being a teenager offers unique challenges and the benefits of Alateen is that you will find the support of other members in similar environments.
Meetings, Literature and other resources
Groups form and offer regular meetings for newcomers and members to attend. Al-anon and Alateen have literature available for members to read and study independently of the group. Some groups will form service bodies and participate in activities, like dances and picnics or even put on conventions for members. Members have the opportunity to balance their life with healthy interactions learned in being a part of the Fellowship of Al-anon/Alateen.
Treatment Center and Rehab options
Most treatment centers and rehabilitation facilities are designed to help the person suffering from alcoholism or other addiction issues. Some of the facilities will offer family therapy sessions and many will have information available on local Al-anon or Alateen groups.
Is a full recovery from the problems possible?
Addiction is a difficult disease to cope with. The family and friends of those affected may benefit a great deal from involvement in Al-anon and Alateen. Some individuals afflicted with the disease may find a solution that works for them and others will struggle for an entire lifetime. Rather than focusing on a goal of abstinance, the support of members in the Fellowship will provide the help needed in adapting to this new way of living. Members will learn effective tools for dealing with another person’s disease, regardless of if they are able to quit drinking or not.
More than one hundred countries in the world have active Al-anon and Alateen communities. Half of those countries have established national service offices or ‘General Service Offices’ that coordinate and work together to support each other and some produce literature locally. For countries who lack the support of a GSO, the World Service Office is available to assist.
Many members and families
As with most twelve step fellowships, the international growth and global support comes from members who have achieved success which they attribute to the program which started in 1951. The fellowship of Al-Anon and Alateen continues to grow and expand with the passage of time. There is a common misconception that it is an intervention program, where members seek to help alcoholics, but the purpose of the group is to support members and families who have been traumatized by the drinking of others. Members will meet and have an opportunity to share their experience, strengths and hopes in small groups.
Sometimes newcomers or people with an interest will find it beneficial to do a self-assessment quiz. Many of the Al-Anon and Alateen websites will have quizzes available for prospective members to take to assess themselves.
Groups often act independently of each other, but there are many benefits to sharing resources. Al-Anon/Alateen have literature available in many languages. There are conventions, and other events. Members also have the opportunity to get involved in services offered by the Fellowship.
H4 Multiple Levels of service including the World Service Office (WSO)
Groups will come together in a geographical location to form a district. Districts will provide services like printing paper meeting lists. Areas form at the state or provincial level and can coordinate things like conventions and literature. Finally, the World Service Office coordinates the production and approval of literature, policies and procedures.
Understanding the Disease of Addiction, Kathy Bettinardi-Angres, MS, RN, APN, CADC, and Daniel H. Angres, MD, Published in the Journal of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), Volume 1/Issue 2, published July, 2010. ↩
These Twelve Steps, adapted nearly word-for-word from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, have been a tool for spiritual growth for millions of Al‑Anon/Alateen members. At meetings, Al‑Anon/Alateen members share with each other the personal lessons they have learned from practicing from these Steps.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.