AA vs Al-Anon: What’s the Difference and Benefits of Each?

October 6, 2021 | addiction treatment

Alcoholism impacts everyone who loves the person suffering from the addiction.

AA vs. Al-anon is an interesting subject. Both are there to help similar people with similar experiences, and both surround the issue of alcohol addiction. They are not the same thing, though. In fact, there are some distinct differences between the two that are worth knowing about if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction. 

We’re going to explain the differences between the two so that you can find the support you need.

Alcoholism impacts everyone who loves the person suffering from the addiction.

What is AA?

AA is an abbreviation for alcoholics anonymous. AA groups are in place to help those suffering from an alcohol addiction gather with others dealing with the same problem. The goal of AA is to have people suffering from their addiction share their experiences and support one another on their road to recovery.

As the name implies, the group respects anonymity. AA is welcoming to anyone who is struggling with alcoholism and has the desire to reach recovery.

What is Al-Anon?

The name Al-Anon is a derivative of AA in terms of name and purpose. However, the focus of Al-Anon is not on those directly suffering from alcohol addiction. It’s a support group for family members of an alcoholic.

It’s important to remember that alcoholism doesn’t impact just one person. It directly affects those close to them, especially family members, which is why this group is in place. It offers an environment for siblings, spouses, children, and even parents of alcoholics to share their experiences.  

What is Alateen?

In many ways, Al-anon and Alateen are the same. They’re both focus groups dedicated to family members or loved ones of an alcoholic. They both encourage members to share their experiences and positively reinforce one another. However, Alateen is for anyone 19-years of age or younger.

Alateen focuses specifically on teenagers in the situation. Connecting these individuals with their peers provides the safe space they need to communicate with and build one another.

What are the benefits of each?

All three support groups bring people together to share their experiences. In doing so, they can share their stories with people who’ve had similar experiences. This opens the door for others to offer positive reinforcement and advice on how to handle the situation.

AA groups are all about the road to recovery. People suffering from alcoholism can seek advice on how to handle situations in which they feel tempted to drink or how to deal with alcoholism in the first place. Some meetings are dedicated as 12-step study groups in which they focus specifically on the 12 steps to recovery.

Al-anon and Alateen are different in that they bring family members or loved ones of alcoholics together. It’s important to remember that the people who attend these meetings are not actually dealing with addiction directly. Instead, they are subject to the experience of being close to someone who is.

These sessions give them a platform to talk about how someone else’s addiction affects them in a safe space. They’re free to articulate their emotions and receive advice and positive reinforcement on subjects like learning to accept the situation, detachment, focusing on themselves, dealing with crises, and anything else related to addiction.

Of course, all three respect anonymity, not just AA. So, anything that is discussed or even who attends these meetings is not to leave the room so that members can feel better about speaking honestly and openly about their situation.

Are there requirements to attend Al-Anon or Alateen groups? 

The only requirement to join these support groups is that you have a family member or someone close to you that is suffering from addiction. They pay no mind to any other detail with the exception of age. 

Again, Alateen is reserved for teens 19-years old or younger. The only reason for this is to give young people the opportunity to connect with peers in the same situation.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is no financial demand to be a member of either group. Like AA, both Al-Anon and Alateen meetings are entirely free to attend.

Concluding thoughts?

At the end of the day, all of these groups are similar in that they offer support to those dealing with similar situations. In addition, they all bring together people with similar experiences to offer advice and positive reinforcement to one another.

The key takeaway, though, is that alcoholics aren’t the only ones who need help. Alcoholism impacts everyone who loves the person suffering from the addiction. Therefore, it’s important that everyone gets the support they need.

If you are in those shoes, keep in mind that someone else has worn them. They can lend a helping hand through sound advice or simply listening to what you have to say.