12 Step Program

For Friends and Families of Alcoholics

You do not have to suffer alone

If you are sad because someone you love has a problem with alcohol or drugs, you do not have to suffer alone.

Alanon is an organization that is intended to offer comfort and support to friends and family members of people who are suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. It was founded by Lois Wilson, the wife of the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. When her husband was holding AA meetings in the living room of their home, she realized that the wives were often outside, sitting in their cars, waiting for their husbands to be finished. She brought them into her own kitchen, and slowly these ladies became the pioneers who started Alanon.

The idea of attending Alanon  may be frightening for many people. You can't help but have many concerns. You may wonder what the other people will be like. You may feel that there is no way that you could talk to strangers about the alcoholism or drug abuse in your family. You may not want to talk to anyone about what has been going on in your family. You are certain that there isn't a meeting in the world that could help you. And you absolutely do not want anyone to know that you went to Alanon. You are not alone. Most of us felt the same way when we started going to Alanon … yet, somehow, we found the help we needed. Now, we continue to come back. If you are willing to give it a try, here is some information which may help you feel more comfortable.

How to Find an Alanon Location Near You

You can find an Alanon meeting by looking up Alanon Family Groups in your community either on the computer or in the phone book. In many areas there is an Alanon Central Office that will take your phone calls and help you find a meeting that suits your needs. The Alanon Central Office may not be close to your home. Don't hesitate to call them, however. They will let you know where the closest group is to your house. Let them know if you need a meeting during the day or evening, and whether you would like to find one with babysitting. Many groups do offer this service. You may also want to get information about several different meetings in your area. Each one will have its own personality. In some groups, most of the members may be older women; other meetings may be young wives; most meetings are open to both men and women; some groups are just for women or just for men.

Locations of Alanon Meetings

Meetings are held in churches, community centers, and other places that are open to the public. I have attended meetings in shopping centers and homes. English speaking meetings are also held in many foreign countries, so you can usually find a group, even if you travel a lot. Sometimes you will also want to go to open meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In addition, you may want to attend an Alanon or AA convention in your area. These are a wonderful way to hear nationally recognized speakers, as well as learn a great deal more about the program. The conventions often host dances, golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, ice cream socials and other events for members of AA and Alanon.

What Alanon is Like

Each Alanon group is different, although there are a few things that most of them have in common. Usually they open with the Serenity Prayer, and it may be used again at the end of the meeting. Sometimes the meetings end with The Lord's Prayer, but this varies depending on the wishes of the members. The leader is a volunteer, and changes from week to week. They will generally ask other members to read from different pieces of Alanon literature. They may read the 12 Steps, and one or more of the Alanon Traditions, plus other Alanon readings depending on the desires of the regular members at that meeting. Each group has a lot of autonomy. After the reading, the leader will usually talk a bit about her own experience, strength and hope, and then end by suggesting a meeting topic. Members will volunteer to share what is happening in their own lives.

Some Alanon meetings will be speaker meetings. In these meetings, a long-time member of Alanon will spend approximately 45 minutes telling their story. They will ideally talk only a few minutes about the alcoholic or drug addict that caused them to come to Alanon. The remainder of their talk will be about how they reacted to the alcoholic, and how they came to realize that they were going to have to change their own behavior. They will usually end by telling the listeners how their life has improved compared to the way it was before they joined Alanon, and what they are doing to continue their personal growth.

What Do Alanon Meetings Cost?

Many new visitors to Alanon are concerned about the cost. Most groups ask only for a voluntary donation of $1 to $2. Some meetings have free babysitting. The entire group takes up a collection to cover the cost. At other meetings you will be charged only if you use the babysitting service.

The literature chairman of the Alanon group will usually give you a free newcomer's packet, which contains a selection of brochures. In addition, you may wish to purchase an Alanon book of daily readings, or one of the other Alanon books. Most of them are available for less than $20.

You may also be able to purchase them new or used, online using this direct link to Alanon Books from Amazon for even less money. Many people like to order some books before they ever go to a meeting, so they can read them in the privacy of their own homes.

However, don't feel that it is necessary for you to purchase any literature, or even to make a donation, if you really cannot afford it.

Anonymity at Alanon Meetings

Alanon has a saying, "Whom you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here." That means that we ask that you not tell anyone who was at the meeting, nor should you repeat what others have shared at the meeting. We will do you the same courtesy. You should not fear coming to an Alanon meeting because you think that others will gossip about you or your alcoholic spouse, parent, child or friend. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, we do everything possible to guard the anonymity of people who attend our meetings.

After the Alanon Meeting

When the meeting is over, you may want to linger for a few minutes and chat with the other members. That is the time when someone may be able to answer your questions or listen to your problems. Eventually, you may find a few friends in your group that you will want to have coffee with before or after the meeting. The longer you belong to a group, the closer you will become to the other members, and the more friends you will have.

In addition, you should ask if the group has a phone list. Whenever you feel desperate between meetings, and don't know what you should do, call a few other Alanon members and discuss your situation with them. You will find that many of them have faced the same situations that you are dealing with now. Their experience will be very helpful to you.

If you want to learn more about Alanon, you may also want to read:

Links to More Alanon Information

The Alcoholic and the Martyr

Alanon and the Serenity Prayer

Loving the Addicted Teen

Avoid Holiday Alcohol Abuse

Photo courtesy of photoxpress.com

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