If you are considering attending your first Al-Anon meeting, I applaud your courage to seek help. I know you might have some reservations and concerns about attending a meeting with no prior experience. Let’s jump right into addressing a few of them.
To knock the first and perhaps biggest reservation out the way: a newcomer can divulge as little or as much information about themself as he or she feels comfortable with.
As for the jitters that come with entering a new social setting, you’ll start by warming up to a few members over coffee and perhaps snacks, before the meeting begins. Existing members, who once had the same reservations when they began, and are eager to help newcomers settle in by answering questions before entering the group setting and to get comfortable enough to listen without distraction.
Now that we’ve gotten the initial nerves out of the way, you’re probably wondering what an Al-Anon looks like in terms of the meeting’s features, format and progression. Here’s a typical meeting format.
1. Pre-Meeting Meetup
As mentioned before, the pre-meeting provides refreshments and helps break the ice, especially for newcomers. The meeting will start promptly, so if you want to engage or adjust, you should arrive early to congregate in or around the meeting room. You will likely be approached by current members who will welcome you to the meeting and help you gain your bearings in the program.
2. The Meeting in Full Effect
A rotating volunteer chairperson will start by reading a number of excerpts from Al-Anon literature, including the serenity prayer and a statement about the purpose of Al-Anon. Then like a roundtable, members go around and announce their first names.
Following introductions, the meeting might bring up any organizational business, like who will bring snacks the following week, before taking on one of several formats, such as discussion, speaker or reflection.
Again, I want to emphasize that sharing is completely voluntary. If called upon, you may respond that you “just want to listen and will pass on sharing tonight.”
3 The Meeting Wrap Up
Meetings will usually wrap up five minutes to the hour in order to give anyone who has not had a chance to speak the time to do so if they so desire. Finally, the meeting will address the importance of confidentiality and finish with the Lord’s Prayer.
4. Post-Meeting Social
Normally a period of informal recovery support, such as talking to other group members, occurs in the immediate aftermath of the meeting. So stick around for a minute, if you’re able.
Is Al-Anon Right for You?
Though individual Al-Anon groups are completely independent and free to operate their meetings based on the consensus of their group-members, Al-Anon formats, content and discussions remain generally the same across the entire globe. The majority of members feel that replicating a successful, proven meeting format preserves unity and fellowship. It also means that when one travels or for any other reason tries a new meeting, he or she will find the same familiar meeting structure, format, dialogue and discussion topics.
Despite these positive aspects of its enduring structure throughout the globe, some may need a more flexible or unique program. In this case, Al-Anon might not be the right fit for you.
That being said, there is one thing that might make one Al-Anon meeting different from another: the language it’s in. A vast majority of meetings are English-based, but a growing number of meetings in the U.S. occur in Spanish or other languages reflective of the nearby community. You can check with your local meeting group—on their website or by calling—to determine the meeting language.
Whether you choose Al-Anon and decide to stick with it or not, you’ll be able to gather valuable literature, resources, tips and, even, people you can incorporate in your recovery network.
If you or anyone you know struggles with alcohol addiction, you may also want to visit our directory of alcohol rehabilitation centers or call us at 800-772-8219 for more information on resources near you.