Your first time in Al-Anon can be very uncomfortable; everybody seems to know what is going on, except you. This is normal. If you keep coming back, you will eventually understand the meeting.
Click on the question tabs to see to answers to some of the more frequently asked questions from Al-Anon newcomers.
These meetings are usually a series of six held before the regular meeting or in a separate group. They are led by experienced Al-Anon/Alateen members, who explain alcoholism as a disease with far-reaching effects. Beginners' meetings may focus on the first three Steps to introduce newcomers to our program and acquaint them with various basic pieces of literature. This is the only open meeting offered in the district at this time, except for the Saturday Speakers Meeting.
An open Al-Anon meeting allows attendance by people who are not families and friends of alcoholics but who are interested in learning about Al-Anon Family Groups. People who may come to open Al-Anon meetings occasionally include students and professionals who work with alcoholics and their families.
Generally, Al-Anon group meetings are "closed," limited to members and prospective members, giving them the freedom to share and listen to the experience, strength, and hope of one another on a confidential and anonymous basis.
Each person attending an Al-Anon meeting can expect to hear stories of hope and courage that others in the fellowship have experienced in their life situations. In hearing each other's stories, we begin to have insights in how we can better our own life's situation and to find courage within ourselves to make choices which lead to inner peace. Each meeting has a different format with a different feel. It is suggested to try six different meetings to discover which meetings and formats works the best for you.
There are no dues or fees in Al-Anon. Each meeting is self supporting through the members contribution. A collection basket is passed at the end of the meeting and each person individually decides what amount (or none) is comfortable for them to contribute. The money is used to pay for the facility to hold the meeting and to support any structure for the continuation of the meeting. When financial hardship befalls a member, a member can choose to serve in other ways, such as taking on a service position of treasurer or secretary. In giving back to the "thing" that fills us, we are blessed to receive the extra gifts of Al-Anon.
Al-Anon is not a religion or a religious organization. Al-Anon supports any religious faith or none. The Al-Anon philosophy is to embrace all religious practices, but to not mention or bring into discussion during a meeting any specific philosophy outside of the Al-Anon principles. Yet, Al-Anon is a Spiritual program and encourages each member to discover for him or herself their own personal inner connection with a Power greater than themselves as they understand it.
A meeting that you attend may or may not resonate with you. This is why it is suggested that you try six different meetings to see if a particular meeting resonates with you more than another meeting and if the Al-Anon program has something to offer you in your current life situation. One of the popular sayings in Al-Anon is to "Take What You Like and Leave the Rest". In this slogan, we can remember to keep coming back and that we may hear in what another member shares the exact thing we were working on in our own life. Becoming willing to heal from the affects of alcoholism takes courage and strength and we often realize that in coming to Al-Anon we are ready to take that journey with the help of others who are also on that journey.
Al-Anon's third Tradition states that the only requirement for Al-Anon membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend. Al-Anon requests that sharing during meetings be focused on self and the effect of alcoholism on one's own life. When you attend a meeting, you will likely meet others affected by addiction in a friend or loved one. You are encouraged to speak with these people after and between meetings for support. Suggested reading: At first, I didn't think I belonged in Al-Anon.
By just going to meetings, sitting in a chair and listening to other members share, you will be gaining a tremendous amount to help you in your life situation. We never need to share our own story, but we believe it helps to voice the thoughts in our mind when we feel comfortable to do so. After awhile you may discover that the program is working for you and that working the 12-steps is a way to take it to that next level. Many people in the program get a sponsor at this point to help them work the 12-steps. In working the 12-steps we put to paper the fears and worry's that we have been often carrying around for years, we become open to real inner freedom from our past thoughts and beliefs which no longer serve us. Finally we can take on service positions at our meetings or even at the district level. We ultimately take to heart the principles of the Al-Anon program and we practice these principles in every aspect of our daily lives. From our own experience of freedom we are only too happy to help others in their personal journey to freedom. We may have come to Al-Anon because of another person's alcoholism, but we embrace the Al-Anon program for ourselves, for our own serenity.