Frequently Asked Questions
What is Al-Anon?
The Al-Anon Family Groups, which includes Alateen, are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems. We believe alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery.
How Will Al-Anon Help Me?
Many who come to Al-Anon/Alateen are in despair, feeling hopeless, unable to believe that things can ever change. We want our lives to be different, but nothing we have done has brought about change. We all come to Al-Anon because we want and need help.
In Al-Anon and Alateen, members share their own experience, strength, and hope with each other. You will meet others who share your feelings and frustrations, if not your exact situation. We come together to learn a better way of life, to find happiness whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.
How do I find a meeting?
Our website maintains a complete listing of approximately 500 meetings across the state of Pennsylvania. The Meeting Finder allows you to search by most major cities and the “Everywhere” button allows you to narrow your search to a specific county. You can refine your search by day of the week and time of the day. You can display your results in either a list or on a map.
Due to the pandemic, some of our groups across Pennsylvania are not meeting in person, but are temporarily meeting online. These are marked in our Meeting Finder as Online. Some meetings are providing both in-person and online options. When you click on the meeting name, the meeting details will be displayed, along with buttons to join the meeting online, if available.
As a member or a newcomer, you are welcome to participate in any of our meetings.
What if I'm not ready to go to a meeting?
There are a variety of reasons why people are reluctant to attend their first meeting.
First, they’re so deeply engaged in trying to cope with a stressful situation that it’s hard to break away from ingrained patterns of behavior.
On the one hand, we know that any possible solution is likely to be found somewhere we haven’t yet looked. But on the other hand, it can be worrisome to try something that seems entirely new.
Many Al-Anon members struggled for many years with the difficult challenges of coping with the effects of alcoholism. It’s often easier to envision continued difficulties than a positive solution. That’s why it’s easy to think of so many reasons not to attend an Al-Anon meeting.
If you feel anxiety about attending an Al-Anon meeting, you’re not alone. Many people have felt that way. But overcoming that reluctance is an opportunity for personal growth, the first of many that the Al-Anon program offers. It’s the first step on the road to recovery.
Don’t worry about whether or not you want to become a “member.” Just visit a variety of different meetings to gather information—to hear how the people there handle their issues with alcoholics. It may be that some of their experiences will be helpful to you.
Do I need to register to join or do I need an appointment?
No advance notification or formal written referral is necessary to attend an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting. There is no registration. The meetings are on a walk-in basis. Al-Anon has no membership list and does not take attendance. You’re welcome to attend as frequently or infrequently as you choose. There is never any obligation. You can choose to share your full name or not.
Both temporary virtual meetings and face-to-face meetings are available. For temporary virtual meetings, just connect at the appropriate day and time. For face-to-face meetings, just arrive a few minutes before the meeting starts. Click link to search for meetings in Pennsylvania.
How much is this going to cost?
There are no dues or fees in Al-Anon and Alateen meetings. Most groups pass a basket for voluntary contributions. Members are asked to contribute what they can afford, so that the group can pay rent, provide literature, and offer support to local and worldwide service centers.
During the pandemic, while many groups are meeting virtually, some of them are using payment services like Venmo to make voluntary contributions to the group. Others are mailing cash or checks to their group treasurer. Again, all contributions, regardless of the means of collection, are voluntary.
Can some additional information be provided to me electronically before my first meeting?
Yes, our World Service Office offers a Welcome Newcomer webpage for some additional helpful information. Go to https://al-anon.org/welcome.
Can I attend "Closed" meetings?
The terms “open” and “closed” are no longer used to classify our meetings, since many newcomers and members found them confusing.
We now use “Friends and Families Only,” for what used to be called “closed” meetings — meaning “Closed Meetings are limited to members and prospective members. These are persons who feel their lives have been or are being affected by alcoholism in a family member or friend.”
And the phrase “Families Friends and Observers Welcome,” which used to be called “open” meetings — meaning “Open to anyone interested in the family disease of alcoholism. Some groups invite members of the professional community to hear how the Al-Anon program aids in recovery.”
Newcomers are welcome to any meeting and are not limited to either meeting type.
These types are listed in the meeting detail (click on the group name to see the detail) in our Meeting Finder, right below the meeting time. You can also search by type by clicking the “Any Type” button on the meeting finder.
Who Are the Members of Al-Anon/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.
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.
Will anyone say I’ve been there?
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 Twelve 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. Unfortunately, the only person who can stop the alcoholic from drinking is the alcoholic himself or herself.
Who are alcoholics?
They could be anyone, from all backgrounds and walks of life. Over 95 percent of alcoholics have families, friends, and jobs. They may function fairly well, but some part of their life is suffering. Their drinking causes a continuing and growing problem in their lives, and the lives they touch.
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.
My friend/loved one is a drug addict. Can I go to an Al-Anon meeting?
Al-Anon Family Groups have one focus: to help friends and families of alcoholics. Al-Anon’s most recent membership survey reported, however, that 35 percent of Al-Anon members first came to Al-Anon Family Groups because of a friend or relative who had a drug problem. The survey also showed that 78 percent of these members eventually came to realize that someone’s drinking had also negatively affected their lives.
There is another program, Nar-Anon, which is for people affected by a loved one’s drug addiction. You can visit their website here: Nar-Anon.org. You are also welcome to try Al-Anon meetings, then decide if the Al-Anon program might be helpful to you.
If I am concerned about someone’s drug use, should I attend Al-Anon?
Al-Anon Family Groups have one primary purpose: to help families and friends of alcoholics, however, Al-Anon’s 2018 Membership Survey reported that 35% of Al-Anon members first came to Al-Anon because of a relative or friend’s drug problem. The survey also showed that 78% of these members eventually realized that someone’s drinking also negatively affected their lives.
You are welcome to try Al-Anon meetings to see if the program is helpful to you. You may also find help in Nar-Anon, a program for those affected by someone else’s drug addiction. Visit their website at: nar-anon.org.