What do you wish you knew about Al-Anon?

Welcome to “First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery” from Al-Anon Family Groups. This is a series of podcasts to discuss some common concerns for people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking.

Renee, Paula, Dick, and Edith are with us today. All are active Al-Anon members. They are willing to talk about what they wish they knew before they came to their first Al-Anon meeting.

How to locate a meeting


  1. Carol January 2015 at 3:06 am

    Thank you for these podcasts. I attended only one Al-Anon meeting probably three years ago at the urging of several older friends who were active members or had been years ago. I have two children and was completely exhausted with all that was on my plate. I just felt I had no more energy to go out to a meeting. I felt so frustrated and angry about having to even find myself in this predicament. I wanted a fast track to answers and did not return for a second meeting.

    My friends told me to give it a few times, trying different meetings til I’d find a fit. But I put it on hold til now. My pastor gently confirmed my husband’s alcoholism and his experience with Al-Anon. Thank you for these podcasts so my family & I can get a taste for Al-Anon quickly. My son is 17 and I think these podcasts will be encouraging for him as well. Thank you again & God bless you.

  2. Ginger July 2014 at 8:42 am

    I read all the entries. Nothing compares to a live Al-Anon meeting when you join a group in your home town. It helps you to learn from one another and express yourself. It is a life long learning process. And it will make each of us stronger, care for ourselves and love ourselves.

  3. Sammy C September 2013 at 10:03 am

    I am an alcoholic and a codependent rolled into one. I no longer drink and haven’t for years, but I continue in Al-Anon and it really is just one day at a time.

    There are all levels and kinds of alcoholics. For me, I am what you call a social alcoholic. Put me around it and I can out drink anyone. So I have to stay away from it. But even not drinking I am what they call a dry alcoholic, not drinking but still having all the characteristics and behavior of when I was drinking. That is why it is so important for me to be in a 12-Step program. It took me two years to get to Step Four. It isn’t a quick fix. Good luck.

  4. Damien R August 2013 at 12:56 am

    You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.

  5. cj May 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I’m very new to this program, and it sounds like I’m not the only one. I’ve recently started dating an amazing woman that I truly care for. She’s coming up on a year clean. I myself am not involved in recovery, I drink once in a while.

    I recently asked her how I can be more supportive with her recovery and to let me know if there is something that could possibly be a trigger for her, which thinking back on it now may sound a little weird.

    Anyway, it turns out the few times that I have had a drink with her around didn’t make her uncomfortable, but it just didn’t sit right with her. So I started asking around, one of which is my very dear friend, about this issue.

    I guess my comment for Al-Anon would be, although I’m not an addict, I’m wondering if my involvement means I cannot drink at all any more.

  6. Dani November 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I don’t know, I did not feel good after my first meeting. Maybe I need to try a different group. I do not understand the 12 steps. I felt like I was the alcoholic. I also don’t understand how ignoring will help.

    I don’t want to enable. I know he has to want to get help, but I feel like I am waiting for a car crash. He asked me to let him just quit, but I am afraid of just waiting. I want him to start the process.

    I feel waiting is just waiting for the inevitable. I also am not comfortable with not actually discussing issues at meetings. I am used to responses. I felt like all we do is talk and listen without feedback. My husband and I have gotten through things together, yet I am hearing not to help or encourage him to get help, just watch and wait.

    They say it should not affect your life, but I want a sex life and kids. I know it is unrealistic to think he will just stop, and I want him to get help.

  7. MARGARET September 2012 at 4:47 pm

    My real mom and dad drink. I have 2 brothers and 8 sisters, who I love.

  8. Eric November 2011 at 9:30 am

    I’m an alcoholic in recovery trying to love a girlfreind who drinks. I hope Al-Anon can help me.

  9. Alex November 2011 at 2:28 am

    This is my first time looking into anything like this. I am young, very recently married and fed up with feeling helpless. I am very hesitant, nervous maybe, about attending the meeting, opening up or crying in front of people. But it is time for me to put myself first. For the people like me that are nervous, I just think how much courage and time we put into getting this far, step by step.

  10. Karen C March 2011 at 1:50 pm

    What I wish I new about Al-Anon is: How does a non-alcoholic/non-addict begin to understand the dynamics of addiction, the real issue with enabling and co-dependence? When is behavior not enabling and when is co-dependence a natural part of a relationship?

    It seems to me that it is the natural cycle of a relationship, whether it is with a parent, a spouse, or a friend. It is difficult to divide the enabling from natural functions of the relationship, as well as co-dependence being a natural function of a relationship. I believe we (as a population) are too quick to point the finger at the non-addict and make such accusations, when in fact to be otherwise would be unhealthy for a relationship.

    When the addict behavior reaches the level of addiction, the non-addict is often unaware of the cycle of addiction and before one knows what’s happening, there are unfounded accusations and blame, further creating issues for the non-addict, which then offers more grounds for blame and deflection for the addict.

  11. Katie February 2011 at 8:54 pm

    I wish I knew it wasn’t my fault and that I can’t stop my mom from drinking. I think that when I was around 12 my older cousin told me it was my responsibility as the oldest to keep my mom from drinking and that I need to find her alcohol. It’s such a relief to no longer carry that burden.

  12. Robyn February 2011 at 2:27 pm

    So, I guess it is time for me to go to a meeting. My final line has been crossed and I can’t take it anymore. My question is…….how can you live with an alcoholic when leaving is not an option?? Is it possible?? I hope this meeting helps.

  13. DaddyO January 2011 at 10:36 am

    My dad’s been in recovery (AA) for more than 40 years, and I’m going to my first Al-Anon meeting *ever* today. At first, I was hesitant about going. I’m a grown man and the alcoholism is long past. But I’m starting to see the hidden demons that make me hate myself. I realize (only intellectually, at the moment) that I can’t do this on my own. So in I go.

    The podcast helped demystify Al-Anon for me. Thanks for that.

    Wish me luck. If this helps like I hope it will, boy, am I going to have a lot of referrals.

  14. Sara January 2011 at 11:03 am

    I wish I had known that Al-Anon was a program for people who wanted to get healthy, instead of enabling the same behavior out of their addicted loved one. It’s only been about 6 meetings, but it has truly allowed ME to start the road to my recovery.

    Robert’s feelings are the same I had: I was afraid to go. I thought it would really get my active drinker’s attention and, gosh, what would others say? Do I tell anybody? Well, sad to say, it didn’t get the drinker’s attention.

    I’ve been married over 27 years and I, too, don’t “feel” love for my spouse anymore. However, I personally believe that my Higher Power has a plan for me through all of this (and hopefully a plan for my alcoholic too). Al-Anon will give me the tools and support to separate all that out later. Right now, I can only say, “Let it begin with me.”

  15. Candice January 2011 at 6:15 am

    Al-Anon formed, if I am not mistaken, a year before my birth, 1951. Alcoholism is massive in my genetics, my father, all five brothers. I married an alcoholic; it goes on and on. To further complicate, enter mental illness to genetics and a mother whom I believe had a personality disorder and abused me and siblings nearly beyond comprehension. Not once would she allow discussion; I believe in her mind it simply did not happen.

    Depression at some level began early on; full blown bipolar began in early 40’s, after I married a second time. First marriage produced 4 beautiful successful brilliant sons, who are not alcoholic nor have shown signs of mental illness, two of whom are in the medical field. The second marriage gifted an additional 6 children, seven of whom were still in the home. Yes, that totals 10. It was hard but 9 of the 10 graduated from state universities. Nearly all have gone on to get their masters, all of whom have done their educations on their own nickel. The 10th of my 10-pack is a special needs with downe syndrome, the most loving human being in my life.

    Two of my brothers have died due to medicating from alcoholism; one was 55, the other 54. I personally have been addicted to pain meds, mismanaged bipolar meds by going on or off, yet have experienced stability of this disease through behaving, and it was sweet. This past year was spent caring for my 89-year-old adored Aunt with advancing Alzheimers Disease after my youngest brother’s death 1/2010, 8 days after my husband retired.

    On a split-second decision on 1/4/2011 my mind said, “I want to see God.” However, everyone else is worthy of the loving one but me. In my concept of who this one is, I get the one who says fire and brimstone. Thinking if anxiety gets to be way too bad one day, after my father passed, I kept a huge supply of a drug called Adivan; on this date my brain remembers seeing my fingers dig into that bottle, dragging out who knows how many and pop them. Next thing the bottle came to the mouth as though holding a shot of liquor and a shot of pills came into my mouth. Suddenly I felt a “very drunk” feeling overwhelm my body. My awakening in the hospital happened about 48 hours later and I learned after taking the Adivan, 58 150-mg effexor time-release pills were taken, then aspirated into my lungs.

    My husband called my eldest natural born son who is a PA, explaining I was falling, could not keep my eyes open, but if I did they were wild. Son said hang up and call the ambulance. I have a double-edged sword and a train wreck.

    My father did recover from alcoholism, tried so hard to help save his children, and loved us so well. Al-Anon has been a part of my life thus far only through the computer, but will be a part this week. Did I see God through what I did? No, for it was not my time. However, I think the spirit given to me absolutely communed while I was so unaware those 48 hours.

    I have a great deal of trust to rebuild with every person who has been wronged by me; my brain is trying so hard to process that. Some of the memory banks are still rebooting. There has been damage done by the wrong and foolish event and such shame, yet one feels almost the denial has been so strong because of the shame of what happened in my innocence, which should not happen to any tiny child, that I’ve been on a collision course all of life.

    Violence for my 4 natural-born never happened; it was a sworn promise to myself long before schooling ever started. Thank you Al-Anon. A best friend of mine has gently encouraged me for many years to come, come. My wake-up has arrived. I get the concept of Step One and am ready to realize both my diseases, train wrecks et al, and get my life. I have said so many times to the ones close to me, “All I want is some peace for the rest of my life.”

    Abundant blessings to any who choose to read. I have 3 brothers who are still alcoholics. One sister who was adopted by our family–go figure?–when I was 14, that I raised more than anyone because I loved her so and I did not want my mother to do to her, you know. She decided all of us were not worth her time. That is another story, though. She is alcoholic too. She knows though through my writing I will NOT STOP LOVING HER and I will take her back, arms wide open. LOVE is a power that can help heal a great deal of stinkin’ thinkin’.

  16. chrissy December 2010 at 12:20 am

    Growing up with an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, I never knew how much I needed Al-Anon until I first entered the rooms. I never realized how truly sick I was. I was always feeling how the alcoholic felt and trying to “fix” them. What I really was doing was becoming worse in my addiction to other people, places and things.

    Al-Anon has helped to save my life over the past several years, especially. The acceptance of how devasting this disease truly is and the fact that it is a DISEASE and I did not cause it was a milestone for me in this program. Being married to an alcoholic and now divorced, the issues still continue, but I am much better prepared to deal with them by working the steps and staying on my side of the street.

    It is one day at a time, one moment at a time. Turning it over to God has been instrumental in my lifelong journey with this program. Someone told me early on, “I know I can’t, He can, so I am going to let Him.”

    I am grateful each day for this amazing program and the abundance of love and support that comes with it. A blessing from God. To newcomers, I remember how terrified I was. I kept going and listened and found that I am not alone anymore.

  17. Joan December 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I knew deep down that Al-Anon members must share similar experiences, but to have my letter almost written for me by the preceeding writer is amazing. While I have gone to a couple of meetings years ago, I was so put off by the pressure I felt to “fess up,” as the guy next to me urged, I am not sure I could ever go back.

    The other off-putting element was that, in a group of over 20 people, “fess up” and I were the only 2 living with our substance abuser in the home. Several had had no contact for YEARS. I felt out of place. Then, “fess up’s” wife got killed in a car crash she caused, and he quit.

    I am also pretty much deaf, and groups are difficult, at best. It looks like most of the on-line sites depend on face-to-face meetings also.

  18. Robert December 2010 at 9:01 am

    I want to attend my first meeting of Al-Anon, but I have anxiety about attending. I have separated from my wife specifically because of her drinking and verbal and physical abuse of me. I am currently filing for divorce because I can no longer exist in that environment.

    My anxiety about attending is based upon two concerns. 1st is that I have no desire to repair or “fix” my marriage and although I need help in dealing with her drinking and subsequent behavior changes, I don’t want help in this area so I can stay married. Sorry if that sounds uncaring, but I have to start thinking of myself.

    2nd is that I am absolutely positive that in relation to her drinking I have probably done everything possible incorrectly. In other words I think I have enabled her drinking and I am concerned that the failure of my marriage is in large part my fault. I feel alone,terrified and responsible.

  19. Julia November 2010 at 9:46 am

    I am new to this site and to the program. I have seen the television commercials and now that I am at my wits end I thought I would check it out.

    I am 35 years old, a child of alcoholic parents and have three children with an alcoholic partner.

    I am a little confused at what makes you an alcoholic. Where/when does this label or title become attached to your name? Is it when:

    1) you drink socially every Friday night;
    2) you drink Friday and continue on when you awaken from a drunken stupor on Saturday;
    3) you can’t go 2 weeks without drinking and become irrate and impatient when you are unable to drink.

    I think that the above three are pretty good ideas of what an alcoholic looks like. I have pretty much seen all three of these in my partner and throughout my childhood.

    I have seen the pain that drinking causes. In fact, my own family is dangling by a string and I feel as though I am the only one that cares, finding my spirit being sucked from my being because of my efforts.

    I need to find an Al-Anon meeting.

  20. Jennifer November 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I no longer live with an active alcoholic. I did grow up with two alcoholic parents and was very much a perfectionist caretaker who took a lot of the blame and started crises so the attention and problems in the family would look like mine, even though I wasn’t really the one always with “the problem” (or not…I don’t know, its complicated…)

    I did go to Alateen and Al-Anon. I also attended AA meetings for several years. I stopped going after I got married in 2003. My husband does not drink. I do not drink. I figured it wouldn’t be an issue, not a part of our lives.

    I do also deal with bipolar disorder and sometimes struggled with the idea that Al-Anon members also work a program and through the 12 Steps. I was always very familiar that those in AA did the 12 Steps and attended meetings, but somehow it didn’t quite settle or click that those in Al-Anon did that as well, and for good reason.

    Just this past week, I have had a lot of difficult emotions, frustration and anger where I simply don’t know how to deal with it, and I don’t express it well (to my husband). I am once again finding that anger can be very destructive if internalized, and that is when I made the decision/top priority to go to an Al-Anon meeting.

  21. ann November 2010 at 10:49 am

    I wish I knew that Al-Anon is for all people who love any type of addict in their life. I have been raised with addiction in one form or another.

    My mom was addicted to control, had to have everything perfect and in order around her. I grew up with lots of verbal abuse. That was my mom’s way of control.

    I went on to marry an alcoholic and he did not choose recovery. I finally left him with our son. I stayed married for 8 years and because I became ill, could not stay living with my husband any longer. Little did I know that addiction followed me. Almost every person I attracted was an addict or alcoholic.

    My son at 32 told me he was addicted to crack cocaine. I thought him going to detox would fix him. I thought him going to treatment several times would fix him. I think back to all the times he was in desperate situations for money, and now I know it was for drugs. I was so not in reality, thinking I could trust people in my family.

    Now I know because I am a trusting person and decide to trust someone else does not mean that the person I decide to trust is trustworthy. It just means I am a trustworthy person. Because I am now in Al-Anon (my son asked me to go), I have a programe that I can trust and that makes life easier for me.

    I have people in my life that are working on their own personal growth and I know I feel safe in Al-Anon. Thank you. It’s going on 2 years. At least now I know I have a chance of attracting honesty.

  22. Lesley November 2010 at 6:28 am

    Many of the people in my family are alcoholics. My mother and father were heavy drinkers while I was growing up. They would get drunk and act crazy, yelling at us and at their spouses. I left home at 18. My younger sister dropped out of high school and became a drug user and an alcoholic. She found sobriety in her twenties. I always worried about her, so I was very happy that she was able to make a life for herself. She began drinking again in her thirties. I spent hours and hours on the phone with her, listening to her blame our parents for all of her problems. I thought I was helping her.

    Two years ago she was hospitalized for severe liver disease. She stayed sober for 12 months and then started using alcohol and cocaine. She lost all of her life savings, her car, and will lose her home soon.

    I have become so worried about her that I am making myself sick. I have isolated myself and I feel no joy.

    I will try a meeting today.

  23. Carolyn October 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I have been married for 22 years. 3 years into the marriage I had a feeling that my husband was not the person I thought he was and that he may have a problem with drinking. In 2008 he took sick, started losing weight, short of that story the only issue the doctors found is that he had severe liver disease and was told that the liver should come back as long as he stayed away from drinking.

    My husband finally stopped drinking beer. However, I had suspicions that he was hiding his drinking, but I no longer searched for alcohol. I could not put myself through that. I started living my own life and doing things on my own to get away from him. He too would just watch TV and play X-box, was always tired, and had no interest in life.

    I found a vodka bottle hidden in February of 2010 only to have him deny that he was drinking. October 2010 I had to bring my husband to the emergency room. 2 weeks later he is still in the hospital with a chest tube. His liver is not functioning. The doctor is hopeful that there is enough left of the liver that the liver will regenerate itself, but it will be a long road for my husband and myself.

    I am so angry with him for what he has put me through. I often wish I had the strength to leave him years ago. I wish I had started Al-Anon years ago, but was afraid of who might find out that my husband was an alcoholic. I was embarassed. I just went to my first meeting this week and am so glad I went. It helps to hear what others have and are going through.

  24. Gramma October 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I was talking to a friend today about my husband’s drinking. It seems that all he does in the evening is sit in the computer room and drink beer. He basically does nothing except pay a few bills here and there and drink. Then he goes to bed at 8:30 p.m. because he is tired.

    He was told probably 20 years ago by a doctor that he was not an alcoholic. So I feel that he thinks because he was told back then that he is not an alcoholic, in his mind he justifies by saying he is not an alcoholic. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, we have been married 16 years and it has gotten progressively worse. My friend told me I need to find an Al-Anon group because his drinking not only affects him but me too. She has been there and was a voice of experience. So tonight I checked out the Al-Anon website and here I am.

    My husband is not a violent or agressive person but he does have other medical issues that, with the meds he is on, shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol. I know I can’t make him stop, but I know too that I will not live the rest of my life this way.

  25. sandlady October 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I waited five years to come to Al-Anon even though I needed it because I thought it was a religious program. I didn’t understand the difference between religion and spirituality and the universal nature of the Al-Anon program. So, all that happened during those five years is that I really became emotionally even more reactive, angry, fearful, and isolated by my husband’s drinking.

    I wish I had known about “problem drinking.” When I first questioned his drinking, I needed to start attending Al-Anon. I didn’t think my husband was alcoholic because he was successful at work and never missed a day of work.

    I had no idea that alcoholism or abuse of alcohol is a threefold illness: physical, emotional, and spiritual. I thought if only my husband would stop drinking, everything would be fine. I didn’t realize that not drinking was just a start and that both of us needed to recover from the drinking.

    After about a year in Al-Anon, I could see that it didn’t matter who drank and who didn’t in my marriage. We both were being affected by the drinking.

    Although I wish I had come sooner to Al-Anon, I probably wasn’t ready. So, I experienced a lot more pain and desperation until I finally gave in and decided to attend Al-Anon. I figured even if it was religious, those people must know something about how to stop someone’s drinking that I didn’t.

  26. Mary LOU October 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I was married 23 yrs. with five children and called AA to come and get my husband. The man on the phone told me I needed Al-Anon….I never heard of it until then, and he directed me where to go. I wish I had known earlier. I have been in the program over thirty years and it has changed my life. I am so grateful for Al-Anon and all the people that continue to keep it together

  27. FloAnn October 2010 at 9:18 pm

    I have to agree with the comment that I wish the program was better advertised. I would have come long before.

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