FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS AL-ANON?
Al-Anon is a fellowship of men and women whose lives have been, or are being disturbed by another's compulsive drinking. Al-Anon groups meet to seek solutions to the problems that have been created by the disease of alcoholism. By sharing our experience, strength and courage, we can offer hope to those still faced with the problem.
WHAT IS ALATEEN?
Alateen, a part of Al-Anon, is for teenagers whose lives have been or are being affected by the drinking of a parent or close relative. Al-Anon and Alateen groups have long records of success, whether or not the drinker is seeking help for himself or herself.
WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF AL-ANON AND ALATEEN?
Al-Anon and Alateen members are people just like you and me - people who have been affected by someone else's drinking. They are parents, children, spouses, partners, brothers, sisters, other family members, friends, employers, employees, and coworkers of alcoholics. No matter what our specific experience has been we share a common bond: we feel our lives have been affected by someone else's drinking.
WHAT'S A MEETING LIKE?
Al-Anon meetings are free, anonymous and confidential. Members and potential members don't need an invitation. There is no one we need to call to make an appointment. All we need to do is show up and listen. A volunteer will lead the meeting without being in charge of the meeting. You can hear a podcast of a sample Al-Anon meeting here.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
There are no dues for membership. Al-Anon meetings are free, anonymous and confidential. Al-Anon/Alateen is self supporting through its own voluntary contributions, and through the sale of Conference-approved Al-Anon/Alateen literature (CAL). Whether you can contribute or not, you are welcome to attend Al-Anon/Alateen meetings.
DO I HAVE TO SAY ANYTHING AT A MEETING?
It is your choice to speak or not during the meetings. Newcomers are welcomed to meetings, usually provided with literature and a local meeting list, and invited to listen and learn. Some meetings offer beginners' meetings, specifically for newcomers. Members are available to answer questions before or after the meetings.
WHAT IF I SEE SOMEONE I KNOW?
One of the Al-Anon program's basic principles is that of anonymity. Meetings are confidential, and we do not disclose whom we see or what we hear at meetings to anyone.
IS THIS A RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP?
Al-Anon Family Groups is a spiritual fellowship, not a religious one. We avoid discussion of specific religious doctrine, and members of all faiths (or of none) are welcome. Our 12 Steps ask us to find a "power greater than ourselves" who can help us solve our problems and find serenity. Each member is free to define that power in his or her own way.
WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM?
Alcoholism is widely recognized as a disease of compulsive drinking, which can be arrested, but not cured. It is a progressive illness, which will get only worse as long as the person continues to drink. Total abstinence from drinking is the only way to arrest the disease. Alcoholism affects the entire family; indeed, everyone who has contact with the alcoholic is affected. The only person who can stop the alcoholic from drinking is the alcoholic himself or herself.
HOW DO ALCOHOLICS AFFECT FAMILIES AND FRIENDS?
Alcoholism is a family disease. The disease affects all those who have a relationship with a problem drinker. Those of us closest to the alcoholic suffer the most, and those who care the most can easily get caught up in the behavior of another person. We react to the alcoholic's behavior. We focus on them, what they do, where they are, how much they drink. We try to control their drinking for them. We take on the blame, guilt, and shame that really belong to the drinker. We can become as addicted to the alcoholic, as the alcoholic is to alcohol. We, too, can become ill.
WILL AL-ANON SHOW ME HOW TO STOP THE DRINKING OF MY LOVED ONE?
Alcoholics will stop drinking only when they want to. We did not make them an alcoholic, and we cannot "unmake" their alcoholism. We have learned that changed family attitudes can lead drinkers to seek help sooner than they might. It is also true that there is almost no chance that alcoholics will stop drinking as long as people remove all painful consequences for them.
WHY WON'T MY LOVED ONE STOP AFTER ONE OR TWO DRINKS?
Al-Anon will teach you that the disease of alcoholism is not a weakness. It is compulsive by nature and cannot be controlled by willpower. Drinking too much, too often, is not a matter of choice. It is the first sign of alcoholism. The memory of immediate comfort and benefits of drinking blot out the knowledge of what will happen if drinking continues.
WHAT DO WE TELL OUR CHILDREN?
We tell them that the drinker is sick, and more importantly, let them see from our behavior that we honestly believe and accept this. Once we have accepted alcoholism as an illness, we will have no reason to be ashamed of it or condemn it.
WHY SHOULD I GO TO AL-ANON?
Alcoholism is a "family disease" and we suffer from the effects of it. Al-Anon is the most widespread group resource for the family today, just as A.A. is for the alcoholic. The family can either start the recovery process -- or help to keep the illness going. They should work toward recovery by changing to more constructive roles in coping with it. The family members or friends of a problem drinker should seek help for themselves in order to recover from their own fears, anxieties, resentments, and other destructive forces that are being fed back into the relationship. This is true whether there is sobriety now or still active alcoholism.
HOW CAN AL-ANON HELP IF THE DRINKER REFUSES HELP?
The family's best defense against the emotional impact of alcoholism is gaining knowledge and the emotional maturity needed to put that knowledge into effect.