Al-anon is a twelve-step program, much like AA, where members are encouraged to get a sponsor and work the steps. It is groups of people who all share similar experiences and want to learn how to best support the addict without enabling. This may be the mother, father, child or sibling of an alcoholic or addict. It is important for the addict's recovery that the family educate themselves about recovery. It is also important for family members to attend al-anon or other support programs so they may accept their part in the addiction and learn how to be strong, set clear boundaries, and communicate honestly and openly.
Learning to communicate is crucial to al-anon and it begins with walking through the door. This gesture immediately communicates that you need help, and without help the addiction is too much to handle. In families struggling with addiction there may be feelings of shame, guilt, or anger surrounding the addiction. It is important for individuals to get support and understand these feelings are normal and although painful, not unique.
Much like AA there are many different kinds of meetings. Some involve open sharing and some involve simply listening to other people's experiences. Speaker meetings are where a speaker shares about his or her experience, strength, and hope for about half the meeting then there is open sharing participation. Some meetings have two speakers and no participation, while some are all sharing and no main speaker. Though the format may vary the message is the same: there is help. Meetings are usually an hour to an hour and a half long and individuals are encouraged to engage in fellowship before and after the meeting. Engaging in fellowship may be asking for help, helping put away chairs, even just saying hello to someone. Generally, newcomers are asked to identify themselves so that people engaging in fellowship may reach out to them after the meeting. These people are very welcoming because they have gone through it too.
Finding al-anon meetings is easy, simply visit their website and search in your neighborhood for meetings. Their web site also offers question and answer, short quizzes and much more. It is normal to be reluctant to go to your first meeting, so it is nice to remember that al-anon is anonymous. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of twelve- step recovery programs based on AA. It is important for individuals to understand that what they share, and who they are, is confidential in these meetings. Everyone who shares is equal, no one is in a position to offer advice or direction they are simple there to listen and share their experience.
Al-anon is a spiritual program not a religious one. It is important to remember that even when meetings are held in religious institutions, al-anon do not indorse or appose those religions. Al-anon talks about a higher power, this does not mean it has to be a religious God. A higher power can be love, al-anon as a whole, fellowship, or the universe. Being atheist or agnostic does not exclude you from al-anon, you are simply asked to embrace with an open heart the idea that there is something larger than you.