More than 21 million Americans have a substance use disorder. All of those Americans have friends and family members who are being indirectly impacted by those disorders. While it’s crucial for people experiencing addiction to find help, their loved ones need support as well.
That’s where Al-Anon comes in. Al-Anon meetings are for people who are close to people experiencing addiction. Have you considered attending a meeting yourself?
We’re here to talk about what you can expect from an Al-Anon meeting. Read on to learn more.
What Is Al-Anon?
Al-Anon is a support group or 12-step group. Al-Anon support meetings are similar to AA meetings, NA meetings, and other support groups, but they’re not generally for people who experienced addiction.
Generally speaking, Al-Anon is for people who are in some way associated with people who are experiencing drug abuse or alcohol abuse or are in recovery. These may include close friends, family members, children, parents, or anyone else who was somehow affected.
Al-Anon isn’t about recovery. It’s about support and connection. Many people don’t recognize how traumatic it can be to have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction.
In Al-Anon, there are still rules. People should be private, and they should never share the full name of their loved ones who are struggling. There’s also an expectation of mutual respect and support.
No one has to speak at an Al-Anon meeting, so if someone wants to go just to listen, that’s appropriate.
Do You Need to Be Religious to Participate in Al-Anon Meetings?
Like many similar groups, Al-Anon does mention a higher power. Many people who don’t believe in organized religion struggle with this and feel as though they will be unwelcome.
This isn’t the case.
Remember that a “higher power” doesn’t have to be a religious entity. Someone’s higher power can be a better version of themself, nature, or anything else that seems “larger than life.”
Don’t let a lack of religious faith keep you away from an Al-Anon meeting.
Types of Meetings
Not all Al-Anon meetings are the same, so it’s difficult to give a complete overview of what you should expect from them. Here are a few different meeting types and what each one may look like.
Beginner meetings are for new people. While new people are welcome at various types of meetings, in beginner meetings, they’ll have time to introduce themselves and speak.
Some Al-Anon groups always make time for newcomers at the beginning of every session, but this isn’t always the case (especially in large cities where there will be many newcomers at once).
People are encouraged to talk amongst themselves and get to know each other. You do not need to give a formal introduction.
Open meetings are for anyone who chooses to attend as long as they’re willing to be respectful. People may bring friends and family members, therapists, or whoever else is interested.
During open meetings, people can still share their experiences, but they may be less inclined to due to the influx of people. There may be a set topic for discussion to get the conversation going.
Note that not all meetings are open meetings. Closed meetings can only include members of Al-Anon, so be careful.
Because Al-Anon is a 12-step group, there are step-related meetings. Each of these meetings focuses on one of the 12 steps. The steps are identical to those of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
This may confuse some people in Al-Anon groups. After all, there are some steps that may not make sense for someone who isn’t themself an alcoholic.
You don’t have to participate in step meetings if the step model doesn’t appeal to you, but it may be helpful to sit in and listen to how other people are interpreting the steps.
During speaker meetings, members don’t really share. There may or may not be time for people to share at the beginning or end of the meetings, but this isn’t always the case.
One person will share for the duration of the meeting. They’ll share their entire story to provide insight and potentially inspiration for the other members of the group.
The Beginning of Meetings
You should always arrive on time for an Al-Anon meeting. They tend to start promptly. While walking in late is okay and understandable, you should do so as respectfully as possible and not draw attention to yourself.
At the beginning of the meeting, the person in charge will ask if there are any new members and greet them if there are. They will then lead the group in a prayer. Again, if you are not religious, it’s okay.
They may then recite the 12 steps.
The End of Meetings
At the end of each meeting, there may or may not be a closing prayer or closing remarks. Members will be free to talk to each other and eat snacks. It’s very casual.
Do You Have to Speak At Al-Anon Meetings?
No one has to speak during Al-Anon meetings. Someone may ask your name, but you are welcome to decline to speak further until you’re feeling more comfortable. It may benefit you to speak to the person in charge about your comfort level if you know you’re not ready to draw attention to yourself.
Are You Ready for Your First Al-Anon Meeting?
Al-Anon meetings might seem scary, but they shouldn’t be. They’re full of supportive people who understand what you’re going through. You can listen to their experiences and even share your own if you feel comfortable enough to do so.
If you’re ready to find support, Al-Anon meetings are waiting for you.
When you decide it’s time to try an Al-Anon meeting in New York, use our directory to find one near you.