Addiction affects more than just the person struggling with the disease. All those who are in a relationship with the addict are impacted. Loved ones can be left feeling hopeless about the situation and desperate for change. They also may feel that they have tried to fix the situation but everything that they have done has not worked.

Addicts have organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to assist them in their recovery, but is there anything to support those who aren't using, but have a loved one who does? Al-Anon was organized just to assist this group of people.

What is Al-Anon? Al-Anon is a non-profit, grass-roots organization that was started by Lois Wilson, the wife of Bill Wilson who is the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. When her husband started his recovery process from alcoholism, she noticed that she felt angry that he was getting better. She realized that a large part of her identity and self-esteem came from rescuing her husband when chaos happened because of his drinking. In response to noticing this about herself, she began her own set of informal meetings to address the ways in which loved ones of addicts need their own support and intervention. Today the organization has a membership of more than half a million people.

What happens at an Al-Anon meeting? Al-Anon meetings usually take place in church basements, hospitals, or community centers. If you are a newcomer, you may be asked to say your first name, but otherwise you will be encouraged to observe the meeting until you feel comfortable sharing. Additionally, newcomers usually are given a pack of literature produced by Al-Anon. The format of the meetings can vary from location to location. Usually gatherings begin with everyone saying their name, and then the Al-Anon Steps or an Al-Anon Tradition is read. Sometimes meetings encourage people to talk and share their experiences. Other times there may be a guest speaker. There also may be evenings in which a specific aspect of the Al-Anon Traditions is a focus of discussion. You always have the opportunity to either share or "pass" during discussion times. Often the meeting ends with everyone stating the serenity prayer in unison. During meetings people share the struggles, triumphs, and lessons learned from their journey with a loved one struggling with an addiction. Contact between meetings with other Al-Anon members is encouraged so that members can support to one another. In general, meetings take place in an atmosphere of love, support, and care. Advice-giving is discouraged. All meetings are confidential with the understanding that no one will talk about anything discussed during the session. Attendance is free, but usually a basket is passed around to collect donations so that any bills for the use of the facility and snacks can be paid.

Where do I find an Al-Anon meeting that I can attend? For meetings in Canada, the US, and Puerto Rico, you can call 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666). This informational phone line is available from 8:00am to 6:00pm (ET), Monday through Friday. Additionally, you can search for a meeting on the Al-Anon website at