AA and Al-Anon
If you’re looking for treatment and support for alcohol use disorder (AUD) commonly called alcoholism, there are support groups for you. The most well-known is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). However, if you have a family member who is struggling with AUD, you may need the support of Al-Anon.
The Origin Of AA
AA had its origins in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. It was the result of a meeting between Bill W., a stockbroker from New York, and Dr. Bob S., an Akron surgeon. Initially, it was based on the principles of Oxford Group, a non-alcoholic fellowship that emphasized spiritual values. Eventually, they formed Alcoholics Anonymous, an informal group without trained professionals or mental health experts. There are currently about 100,000 AA communities around the world. These groups follow a 12-step approach to help people give up alcohol.
In 1951, Al-Anon was founded by Anne W. and Louis B., who contacted 87 family groups and individuals who had made contact with the AA General Service Office. They asked these people if they were interested in forming a fellowship of their own. The unification of these groups led to the founding of Al-Anon Family Groups.
Al-Anon refers to groups that circle around the social issue of alcoholism. The meetings may be public or private and there is no educational or age requirement to become a member. Even though Al-Anon meetings might be spiritual, they do not lean toward any religion. Meetings usually have 5 to 25 members in attendance.
AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings involve discussions about topics related to alcoholism. Most AA meetings are open to everyone. But some of them are open only to the members. The meetings are conducted in religious places, town halls, community centers, and similar venues.
On the other hand, Al-Anon meetings tend to discuss effective ways to deal with a family member who has AUD. Al-Anon meetings involve discussions on topics such as:
- Dealing with change
- Focusing on oneself
- Making choices
Anyone who wants to become a member of the AA community should have a drinking problem or alcoholism and a strong desire to quit. AA focuses on including people from any and every social, economic, and political background.
However, to attend Al-Anon meetings, a person needs to have a close family member who is an alcoholic. A sibling, spouse, parent, or any other relative of someone suffering from alcoholism may attend meetings. Similar to AA, there is no educational or age requirement to qualify as a member. In addition to Al-Anon, there is a support group for younger members called Alateen. Meetings usually have 5 to 25 members in attendance.
AA has a more pronounced religious affiliation than Al-Anon.
Goals of AA and Al-Anon
The main goal of AA is to serve as a support community for people who are determined to give up their drinking and bad habits that go with AUD. The goal of Al-Anon is to serve as a support group for relatives of the person with the drinking problem.
Differences Between Alcohol Recovery Meetings: AA Vs Al-Anon
Both AA and Al-Anon are communities for alcoholism treatment. But the two terms are often confused to mean the same. AA groups tend to an individual’s alcoholism and Al-Anon meetings help their family members. The fellowships of AA and Al-Anon have a unique relationship. They are closely related in their origins and are naturally drawn together. And yet, the Twelve Traditions of AA emphasize that each group is more effective if it remains separate.
AA Vs Al-Anon
Although the groups strive to remain separate, separateness does not exclude cooperation for the benefit of both groups. Al-Anon recognizes the spiritual contribution of AA and there can still be cooperation between the two communities, even when there are many Al-Anon members who have no contact with AA or AA members. The Twelve Traditions of Al-Anon and AA illustrate the difference between affiliation and cooperation.
The Twelve Traditions
The Twelve Traditions provide guidelines for relationships between the members, groups, and society in general. AA and Al-Anon share the same traditions (except as noted):
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA (Al-Anon) unity.
- For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
- The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
(The relatives of alcoholics, when gathered together for mutual aid, may call themselves an Al-Anon Family Group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation. The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.)
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA or Al-Anon as a whole.
- Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
(Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves, by encouraging and understanding our alcoholic relatives, and by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics.)
- An AA group ought never to endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
(Although a separate entity, we should always co-operate with Alcoholics Anonymous.)
- Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
(Al-Anon Twelfth Step work should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.)
- AA, (Al-Anon) as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. (Al-Anon) name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
What are the Twelve Steps of AA and Al-Anon?
The Twelve Steps of AA and Al-Anon are virtually the same, word for word. These steps have been a tool for millions of AA, Al-Anon/Alateen members. During meetings, members share the personal lessons they have learned from practicing the Steps.
The Twelve Steps
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (others) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Only about 15-25% of people with AUD actually get help from healthcare providers or treatment programs. Many times, people don’t use any treatment services unless they are forced by a court, employer, or family member. Still, studies show that 66-75% of problem drinkers are able to make positive changes. Prevailing against alcoholism moves along a continuum–each step leads to the next with a goal of long-term sobriety. The steps on this path typically include:
Detox is the first step on the continuum and most people will need professional help to detox from alcohol. The ultimate goal of detox is to give your body the chance to rid itself of the alcohol and return to a normal alcohol-free state. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 6-24 hours after the last drink and can start while there is still alcohol in the bloodstream. The following withdrawal symptoms show why it is so necessary to have supervision, especially medical, during detox and withdrawal.
- Hand tremors
- Delirium tremens (DT): A life-threatening withdrawal symptom that is marked by the following side-effects: Confusion, fever, seizures, hallucinations, sleep difficulties (insomnia), unstable heart rate and blood pressure, and sweating.
The goal of detox is to prepare an individual to enter formal treatment. Depending on the person and the severity and duration of their disorder they may enter one of these rehab programs:
- Residential Rehab Program: In a residential program, the individual will live in the treatment facility for the duration of the program. This protects them from any outside influences that may trigger a relapse.
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): These outpatient programs are also sometimes called day treatment. The individual attends the treatment facility 5 days a week for at least 4 hours per day. PHPs are very effective for people who have a healthy, stable home environment to return to every day after treatment.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): IOPs offer intensive treatment but for fewer hours per week than a PHP. This program may fit better for someone who has a stable home and can’t miss any time from home or work.
- Outpatient Program (OP): This is the lowest level of care. Patients are provided treatment and therapy but in a further limited amount of time. These two lower levels of outpatient care are excellent programs to step down to after completing a higher level of care.
After detox, the physical addiction is over. However, that’s not all there is to treatment. In therapy, the individual learns to break their psychological addiction, and that is a life-long process. To help maintain their sobriety and prevent relapse, they will typically take part in these forms of therapy:
- Behavioral Therapy: In behavioral therapy, people learn how their old beliefs and behaviors were fueling their addiction. The most common forms are:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Group Therapy: Group therapy has been shown to be a successful approach to addiction treatment and is the most popular psychotherapy used.
- Individual Therapy: The collaboration between a patient and their counselor has been proved to be effective for people who also have a co-occurring mental disorder. This is called a dual diagnosis and requires special treatment.
The longer a person spends on some type of ongoing treatment or support, the better the chance of lifelong recovery. There are several options such as:
- Lower levels of outpatient treatment
- Sober living homes
- Self-help groups such as AA
Do You Need a Treatment Program?
Do you or a loved one need a treatment program? Although AA is an effective program that has worked for millions of people, sometimes a professional program is the best way to begin that recovery journey. If this is your situation, Miracles Recovery Center in Port St. Lucie, FL may be the help that you need now.
Our excellent staff is professional and compassionate. Many of them have been through the treatment process and understand the fears you may have. Don’t be afraid to embrace recovery. Contact us today.
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