Al-Anon is a support group for families and friends of people who abuse alcohol. It is a "spin-off" organization of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1937.
Al-Anon began in the 1950s when family members and friends frequently waited outside the meeting rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, where their loved ones were seeking help from alcoholism. The family members found that they could help each other by sharing stories and strategies for coping with life with alcoholics. They began to meet as a separate formal group of their own and had a name and charter by 1952. Today there are hundreds of Al-Anon groups that meet in cities everywhere all over the world or online.
Al-Anon's basic principle is the privacy of the individual. To that end, members know each other only by their first names and do not talk about the meetings with others. There are no dues or requirements for membership. Although the program has a spiritual basis, it is not about religion and members try to avoid controversies. The meetings are not led by therapists or counselors, just other members struggling with similar problems. Usually, someone reads the "twelve steps," the basis of both Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, at the beginning of each meeting. The rest of the meeting can be about sharing stories and strategies for coping, but no particular strategy is paramount. One motto of the group is "Take what you like and leave the rest."
Al-Anon has a "Twelve-Step program" and "Twelve Traditions" at its core. The twelve steps are the same used in Alcoholics Anonymous, and include admitting you are powerless over alcohol, turning your life over to God or some higher power and asking for help, making an inventory of everything you ever did wrong, sharing that list with some other person, asking your higher power for help to remove your character defects, making amends to anyone you hurt in the past, continuing through prayer and meditation to have a relationship with your higher power, and helping others after you complete your own process.
The Twelve Traditions are summarized as agreeing that the common welfare should come first, that leaders are servants not governors, that we need to trust in God as our only authority, that each group is autonomous, that every member is a friend or relative of someone who is an alcoholic, that the only purpose of the group is to help our members through the twelve-step process, that each group is self-supporting, that each group does not endorse any outside enterprise, that we can create committees or boards responsible to only those they serve and we can employ workers, that we do not draw our name into any public controversy, that we do not promote ourselves, that we maintain anonymity in the media, and that we put principle above personalities.