Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded in 1935 to enable members to “stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.” By the 1950s, the 12-step support program pioneered by AA was popular worldwide.
Because AA focuses only on alcohol, and not on drug use, James Patrick Kinnon, known as “Jimmy K,” founded Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in 1953 to fill that gap. NA is modeled on the AA 12-step approach, but, designed to support its members in their desire to stop using drugs or alcohol.
It is important to remember that addiction to drugs or alcohol, clinically known as substance use disorder (SUD), is a family disease. When one family member struggles with an addiction, the entire family can become damaged, leading to negative emotions, elevated stress levels, and dysfunctional relationships.
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide support, education, and resources to assist the families and friends of those addicted to alcohol or drugs.
In the early years of AA, friends and family members of people struggling with addiction met informally in small groups to offer support and hope to one another. In 1951 Lois W., wife of AA co-founder Bill W., alongside co-founder Anne B., began Al-Anon Family Groups as a more consolidated and organized approach to meeting family needs.
Al-Anon describes itself as a “worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics, whether or not the alcoholic recognizes the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.
Al-Anon members share their stories and experiences and provide encouragement to fellow members on a similar journey. While Al-Anon is designed for adult participation, there is also a program for family members under the age of 21 called Alateen. This youth program was started in 1957 by a small group of California teens who were dealing with the alcohol addiction of family members and close friends.
The goal of Al-Anon and Alateen is to help each member find positive solutions for change, even if their loved one refuses to seek help. As with AA, membership is free.
Although Al-Anon is separate from AA, the program design is based on the AA 12 steps to recovery and the meeting format is similar. Visit the Al-Anon website to find meeting information.
Nar-Anon Family Groups describes itself as “complementary to, but separate from, Narcotics Anonymous (NA).” It is based on the original twelve-step principles of AA and NA, but, is designed for friends and family members of those who are affected by someone else’s drug or alcohol addiction. The first of their 12 steps states, “We admitted we were powerless over the addict—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
An early attempt to form Nar-Anon failed, but the program was successfully established in 1968 and incorporated in 1971. Nar-Anon meetings provide a safe place for group members to share personal stories about the ways that addiction has impacted their lives and support one other on their recovery paths.
Nar-Anon membership is open to anyone experiencing problems associated with the drug or alcohol addiction of a friend or family member. Narateen is available for those under the age of 21. There are no membership fees for either program. Program meeting information is available on the Nar-Anon website.
If you and your family are struggling with a loved one’s battle with addiction, please turn to these organizations for help and support.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.