When it comes to treatment and support for alcoholism, there are many methods out there that are designed to help those suffering from substance abuse and their family members. Recently, different types of groups have been invented to include individuals struggling with different issues who prefer a specific atmosphere. So with all of the options out there, it may be difficult to determine the differences between each type of alcoholism support group. This is especially true for AA and Al-Anon, which are two very different groups that were derived from the same concept. 

What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous, is an international support group for individuals with a drinking problem. This non-professional, self-supporting organization has no age or education requirements. Meetings, with the exception of private meetings for those with alcoholism alone, are open to anyone who wishes to join. There are open and closed versions of meetings; while anyone can attend open gatherings, the closed meetings are reserved for members. The only qualification to be a member of AA is to have a drinking problem and the desire to stop drinking permanently.

AA meetings take place locally in many areas. A typical AA meeting will consist of discussion about a certain topic related to alcoholism. Whoever wants to share their experiences regarding the topic is free to do some. Some other meetings, however, are designated for beginners or 12-step study groups.

The foundation of AA is the 12 Steps. The 12 Steps toward recovery help individuals understand and accept their addiction in order to move on. These steps were originally faith-based. While they still are based on spirituality, some other versions of the steps have been created to eliminate the religious aspect. Overall, Alcoholics Anonymous may have some religious components in their practice, depending on the meetings you attend.

What Is Al-Anon?

Al-Anon, contrastingly, is designed for family members of individuals with alcohol problems. The name comes from the first syllables of Alcoholics Anonymous, ‘al’ and ‘anon.’ This type of meeting helps spouses, parents, siblings, and other family members of people who have an alcohol dependence. The only requirement to attend these meetings is to have someone close in your life who is an alcoholic.

While Al-Anon meetings may be spiritual, they are not rooted in any religion. Meetings will usually involve discussion of a certain topic related to having a loved one with an addiction. Topics of Al-Anon meetings may include:

  • Acceptance
  • Alcohol as a disease
  • Making choices
  • Changing attitudes
  • Dealing with change
  • Coping with anger
  • Gaining courage
  • Dealing with crises
  • Denial issues
  • Detachment
  • Enabling
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Importance of forgiveness
  • Focusing one oneself
  • Honesty
  • Self esteem

This worldwide network has one sole purpose: to support family members of those with alcoholism.

AA vs. Al-Anon: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between AA and Al-Anon is that AA is for those with alcoholism, whereas Al-Anon is for their family members. Alcoholics Anonymous also has a more religious affiliation than Al-Anon. The steps that each model practices are slightly different, and have become more separate over the years. Additionally, AA groups and Al-Anon meetings are never combined. 

Similarities Between AA & Al-Anon

While there are large differences between AA and Al-Anon, there are a few similarities as well. First, both formats prioritize group-based meetings over one-on-one therapy. Both types of meetings are usually based on discussion topics or prompts. Someone who is in Al-Anon may also be a member of AA if they have a family member with addiction and are struggling with alcohol problems themselves.

Long-Term Alcoholism Treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling from alcoholism, it’s encouraged to seek treatment or support as soon as possible. Talk to your doctor or counselor/therapist to learn which type of meeting is best for you. To learn more about treatment options for alcoholism, contact us at 267.209.7312.