Many people mistakenly think Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous are the same thing. The confusion is understandable, since both programs use the Twelve Steps and group support to help people recover from the effects of alcoholism. Moreover, the names are undeniably similar.
The two fellowship’s purposes are different, though. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA for short) seeks to help those who want to quit drinking, while Al-Anon Family Groups offer help and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers. But the two programs have been intertwined from the beginning.
“AA seeks to help those who want to quit drinking, while Al-Anon offers help and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.”
AA was founded in the 1930s and created the Twelve Steps to summarize the spiritual principles that helped the first AA members achieve lasting sobriety. As AA grew, the spouses and relatives of AA members came together to apply the same principles to their own struggles. Initially they saw themselves as part of AA, calling themselves “AA Auxiliaries” or “Non-Alcoholic Family Groups.”
In 1951 the majority of these groups came together under the name “A.A. Family Groups” or “Al-Anon Family Groups.” The latter name was officially adopted a year later, but the new organization still functioned de facto as a part of AA for many years. For example, Al-Anon’s international conventions were held as part of AA’s conventions until the 1990s.
In the 21st century Al-Anon Family Groups are fully separate from Alcoholics Anonymous, but the two fellowships remain closely connected and often work together “in a spirit of cooperation, not affiliation.” Nonetheless, their purposes remain distinct. While AA continues to help alcoholics achieve sobriety, Al-Anon teaches those affected by another’s drinking how to receive the priceless gift of serenity.
by Anonymous, El Cerrito CA