History: Al-Anon and Alateen

How Al-Anon Family Groups Came to Be


The Family Group idea is nearly as old as Alcoholics Anonymous. In A.A.’s pioneering days from 1935 to 1941, close relatives of recovering alcoholics realized that to solve their personal problems they needed to apply the same principles that helped alcoholics with their recovery.

As early A.A. members and their wives visited A.A. groups throughout the country, the visiting wives told the mates of the newer A.A.'s about the personal help received when they themselves tried to live by A.A.’s Twelve Steps, and how this helped to improve family relationships that often remained difficult even after the alcoholic had become sober.

Thus, mates and relatives of A.A. members began to hold meetings to discuss their common problems. By 1948, numbers of Family Groups had applied to the A.A. General Service Office for listing in the A.A. Directory, and scores of relatives of alcoholics had asked them for help. But A.A. was designed to aid alcoholics only.

In 1951, two wives of A.A.'s, Lois W. (Photo Top Left). and Anne Smith. (Photo Bottom Right), formed a Clearing House Committee to get in touch with these 87 inquirers and to coordinate and serve them; 56 groups responded. As a result of questionnaires, the name Al-Anon Family Groups was chosen. The Twelve Steps of A.A., virtually unchanged, and later the Twelve Traditions were both adopted as guiding principles. Our goal was unity of purpose. Soon the movement came to public attention. New groups and individuals here and abroad wrote to the Clearing House about their problems.


By 1954, a small paid staff became necessary. The Clearing House was incorporated as a nonprofit organization under the name Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

In 1955, Al-Anon’s first book, The Al-Anon Family Groups, A Guide for the Families of Problem Drinkers, was published. Since then many more books and pamphlets were added.

In 1961, Al-Anon initiated its annual World Service Conference of Delegates, WSO staff, and volunteers to act as the fellowship’s overall conscience. In the quarter century from 1951 to 1976, over 12,000 groups in the United States, Canada, and many lands overseas were added to the original fifty-six. By 2004 there were almost 24,000 groups worldwide.

How Alateen Came to Be a Part of Al-Anon Family Groups

Teenage children in the families of alcoholics soon realized that their problems differed from those of adult members. In 1957, Alateen grew out of this need. A 17-year-old boy, whose father was in AA and mother in Al-Anon, had been fairly successful in trying to solve his problems by applying the AA Steps and slogans.
With his parents’ encouragement, he asked five other teenagers with alcoholic parents to join him in forming a group to help other teenagers. The idea caught on, and the number of groups began to grow.

Extracted from Al-Anon Alateen Service Manual. Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters. Inc's, Virginia Beach, VA.

                                                                "Let go and let God"