Alcoholics Anonymous Groups

Parent Q&A

  • Support for Families of Alcoholics That Isn't Al-Anon

    (7 replies)

    My brother (my only sibling) has been an alcoholic since he was a teenager (we in our forties now), and recent events and my own growing self-awareness have led me to the conclusion that I could benefit from some support from others who have been in similar situations. He is on his way to an early death, and I see now that I need to start finding ways to cope with where he and I are now and also how I will get through losing him.

    I've tried Al-Anon several times, and while I absolutely believe it is beneficial for many people, it isn't my thing. My struggle to get past the religious aspect and "asking a higher power to remove defects" etc. has made it very difficult for me to benefit. I do understand that the program is open to interpreting "God" however you understand that concept, but it simply doesn't work for me. I've also found it very disheartening that some people in "the Program" have suggested that because I can't get on board and accept that 12 steps is the only way to find relief, I simply don't want help or support. 

    Does anyone have recommendations for support groups that aren't based on 12 steps? I'd love to find something that incorporated meditation and is completely secular, or that has a Unitarian approach. Thanks so much. 

    I just wanted to say that after years of getting great support from Al-Anon meetings on the east coast, I moved to the Bay Area and immediately tried to replicate the experience. There is some kind of regional disconnect in this program. I don't know what the deal is, but Al-Anon is much more fussy and strict and judgmental and offputting out here. I'm only saying this to validate your POV and let you know you're not alone. The idea of Al-Anon is great, but since it's run by volunteers, there's no quality control, and I found myself hurt more by attending meetings than just going back to my books and reading about the weird psychological effects of being connected to an alcoholic. I'm sorry you haven't found help yet, and I wish you strength and support. 

    I am sorry that the Al-Anon group you attended was off-putting and did not serve your needs.  I wish I had an Al-Anon alternative to suggest.

    I believe my teenage son has a substance abuse problem, of which he and his father are in denial.  I needed support and, in January, joined an Al-Anon Parent group that meets in Menlo Park on Wednesday nights.  Because Al-Anon is a an organization run by and for the people it serves, each meeting has its own character.  I am not a religious person - given an abusive Catholic upbringing, I bridle at anything religious.  However, this particular group is not overtly religious and indeed pokes a little fun at the "God as you see him" bit of the program.  Yes, it's structured, but I now find that comforting.  While the formal part of the meeting has no cross-talk, the social time afterward is very supportive with people offering one-to-one comfort and advice when appropriate and I'm receptive.  While the steps are talked about, its not a requirement to work through them.  A more formal mentor relationship is available for those who want that, but I've not gone that route.  I did recently call a person in the group when I was in a difficult situation and needed immediate support.  They responded immediately and I ended the conversation feeling much better.  

    If you cannot find an alternative, you might try a different Al-Anon meeting.

    I, too, wish I had something to recommend.  I posted a similar question about 14 months ago, and even though my post specified "please do not recommend Al-Anon," nearly every response did.  Someone has already posted a response here that describes my experience at Al-Anon meetings perfectly.  (Thank you!)  No feedback or assistance.  No one able (or willing?) to explain "how I could get something out of" it.  No opportunity for people to speak to each other and provide support.  My qualifier is my (now) young adult daughter.  Over the course of the past 9 years, she's been in rehab several times.  There was always a required family/parents component to her programs, and I found those meetings terrifically supportive.  I'd love to find something like that on the "outside."  And Al-Anon is not that.

    I wish that I had a recommendation for you. I'm writing to tell you that I had the same experience at Al-Anon. I was in a very bad place (my husband had just OD'd and I saved his life by doing CPR) and really needed someone to talk to. I found that the weird Al-Anon structure kept me from getting any help at all. I really needed a group of people who had been through a similar experience who I could vent to and get feedback from. While I was able to vent at Al-Anon, I was not able to get feedback or assistance because that is not their model. I left wondering how anyone got anything from it. No one offered to help me understand how I could get something out of Al-Anon, there were far too concerned with reading whatever passage they were supposed to read on that particular day. It was never clear to me how I was supposed to be working any steps. Basically, the experience didn't help me in the least. And that's not even touching on the religious aspects of the service. I found the whole religious aspect was incredibly off-putting. I felt like I was at church with my grandma, especially when they passed around the donation plate at the end (I have no issue with contributing money but the way that It was done was far too similar to church for my tastes). There has to be a support group out there that has nothing to do with religion or a "higher power" and where people can actually talk to each other and provide support. I was truly appalled by how useless the Al-Anon meeting that I attended was to me.

    One possibility.  You could look into LifeRing Secular Recovery.
    service [at]

    I have no personal experience pro or con with them; I picked up a brochure today, so you will have to investigate for yourself.  But this is definitely a secular, non 12 step group aimed at alcoholics looking to abstain.  If you contact them, perhaps they can refer you to a secular companion society that fulfills the same function as Al-Anon.

    A second thought is to contact some of the local meditation centers and ask if they have or know of meditation-friendly groups for relatives of alcoholics.

    Re Al-Anon and many of the 12-step groups, one thing they are supposed to address is the kind of attitude you encountered: rigid, black/white thinking.  "If you can't get with the program you just don't want help" is a lot like, "you have to believe in XYZ to be saved or you are going to hell."   Anyone who tells you this is very far from "recovery."

    For many people, the primary benefit of 12-step programs isn't the steps; it's hearing other people's personal stories and struggles.  You can always pick a Higher Power like thermodynamics or natural selection or your better nature; no one will be the wiser.

    SF Zen Center runs a Meditation in Recovery program:

    They may be able to refer you to a similar program for family members.

    I guess it's not completely secular but it's not Al Anon either!

    There are many al-anon groups that are not religious - including an amazing women's meeting in San Francisco on Monday night worth the trip across the bridge. (Monday, 6:30 pm, Holy Innocents Church). If you go a few times to any meetings you'll find folks who don't believe in god but also don't think they have power to change others.  It's an awesome program and has been helpful beyond words. - avowed atheist

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Questions about AA Meetings

AA meetings in WC, PH, Concord, Martinez Area

Oct 2010

Hello, I am looking into possibly starting an AA program. I don't wake up and crack a beer, I don't drink every day or even eveyr week. When I do drink, I can never just have one. SO, I am looking for a group in the Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Lafayette, Martinez area. I was at a meeting one other time and it was all old men, chain smoking, talking about the horrific things they did - it just wasn't a group for me. I am hoping to find a group more my speed/experience, possibly women only. Does anyone know of a gropu in these areas that fits? I know, I know, try them out. i will, but I thought I would see if anyone had any experience. Thanks. Anon

I coughed my way through a similar meeting once, went home and took a shower! I've been to all kinds and never regretted a single one (though some have been very awkward, it's been interesting and I learned a lot FROM my discomfort.) Every meeting really IS different. Go to your local web site, You'll see that meetings are coded for things like 'smoke free', 'women- or men only', LGBT, even unscented. Some are quite new-agey, some are very old-school and dogmatic, some are loosely organized, some tiny, some huge. AA meetings are supposed to be nonspecific about religion, but some are more heavily influenced by religious members. Take what you like and leave the rest. Don't be put off if you find one at a church - it's who's in the meeting that matters, not the meeting location.

Find a meeting that seems likely to feel comfortable, and just go. Talk to a couple of people and get referrals for something that feels right. It will work out if you keep going back.

Best of luck and blessings to you! It gets better from here - and more fun. 18 yrs sober & grateful

I completely understand your dilemma. You can find a list of meetings at or call 510-839-8900 any time. They will be happy to direct you to a meeting that might better suit you. I drank very similarly to you and it took me awhile to find AA in general, and then to find meetings that suited me. Each meeting has a different flavor and types of members, so keep trying different ones until you find what's right for you. Feel free to email me if you want more details. Good luck! Jennie

AA meeting for a dad

Jan 2006

My husband is two months sober and very much interested in finding an established AA meeting with members who have young families. He has been to some meetings that no one shows up to open the door and others who have either all retired people or some who have very few experienced people. He knows the best way of doing this is to go to all the listed meetings in the area (hundreds of them) but in the interst of time and hoping there are some other dads out there who have traveled this road .. we are hoping to get some recommendations. Many thanks,
seeking AA dads

I have a friend who attends meetings in the Rockridge area that she highly recomnends. People of every age and from every walk. She goes to meetings at 5767 Broadway, next to the Shell station (b/n Taft and Lawton). Mon-Fri 9:00 and 12:00, Sat 9:00 and 1:00, Fri 7:30pm, Sun 5:30pm. Also there is a new men's meeting starting on Wednesdays (possibly 7pm at 397 Euclid). My friend is going to lots of meetings and is doing really well, I'm so proud of her. Good luck!

There's a wonderful online support group for 12 steppers, called I recommend Room 3 for friends and family of AA'ers.

There is a wonderful lunch meeting every weekday from 12:10pm-1:00pm at the YWCA in Berkeley, Bancroft at Bowditch. Great mix of ages and experience, several parents, and a different focus each day. It's been working for me for almost 11 months! My life, and the lives of my daughter and her mom, have gotten so much better it's a miracle! Ask the secretary of the meeting for me (I'm there every day), and I'll gladly help in any way I can.
Another AA Dad

The Saturday 9:30AM meeting at the Berkeley Fellowship has all kinds of people--parents, students, retirees. The important thing is to find a meeting where the people love their sober lives and have lots to share about how to stay sober. If you try the Saturday AM meeting, get there by 9:20AM if you want a seat. Good luck.
Sober Mom

I sent this to my ex-hub, who's a regular at east bay AA meetings and a Dad of 2 littles. Here's his reply:

Try the rather unfortunately named ''Drunks-R-Us'' (DRU for those in the know). It's at: 941 The Alameda, Berkeley (just north of Solano) in the Northbrae Community Center (upstairs). It's an old established meeting with a good group of people. A lot of sobriety at that one. Time is 6:00 pm weekdays. Good starting point.

For sheer numbers go to the First Congregation Church at 27th and Harrison, Oakland on the first Friday of each month. It's one of the biggest east bay meetings and you can see everybody and meet people.

Also, ''Up To Our Neck'', 6:30 PM , Sat. 397 Euclid (at Van Buren, near Lake Merritt) is a 20's to 40's crowd and kind of hipster-ish.

It can take awhile to plug in. But you will. Try asking people what other meetings they like. has all the schedules by the way.

Happy Hunting Anonymous, of course

Questions about AlAnon Meetings

Looking for good al anon mtg in/near N. Berkeley

May 2012

hi. i would like recommendations on good al anon mtgs in or near north berkeley. i am a single mom sharing custody. new to al anon. grateful for any suggestions. looking for help

8 pm Tuesday night at Northbrea (Solano and The Alameda) is a strong meeting (and has a newcomers meeting at 7:30)

Friday night 6pm is also strong (also at Northbrea), but can sometimes be abstract for newcomers as we study not only the steps, but other (sometimes drier) components of the program

Saturday 11 am at Cedar and Spruce is another good one.

Check some different meetings out to see what feels right for you. It is an amazing program! Grateful Al-Anon member

There are many good alanon meetings in berkeley-you need to go to the listings on the internet, and try out a few different ones, to see which fits.

Looking for a strong Al Anon group in the East Bay

April 2011

My sister is a drug addict and I would like to find a strong al anon group to start attending for myself and my mom. We have been to a few before where only a couple of people were in attendance and they just weren't that helpful. Thanks so much! anonymous

Hi, I am sorry that you did not find help at the Al-Anon meeting you attended. It is recommended that newcomers try 6 meetings in 6 days to find a good fit. While the Al-Anon structure of meeting follows a program, all meetings will feel familiar, but each has its own uniqueness and flavor. Therefore it is important to keep coming back and trying different meetings. You can find a list of local meetings at There is a beginner's meeting at 7 pm Thursday nights at St. John Presbyterian Church on College. The weekly meeting schedule for the Berkeley area (but Oakland is in a different area) is at .

Al-Anon is a wonderful group of friends and families of alcoholics and addicts which has helped countless people, including me. It is a lifelong program of recovery, and I can assure you that if you stick with it, you will feel comfort, peace, hope and strength. Be kind to yourself and give it some time, it is not always intuitive at first! Saved by This Program

With regards to AlAnon, please reconsider, and check out: Rational Recovery ( A very different and refreshing perspective on addiction recovery, for people struggling with addiction, and for their families. Anonymous

Al Anon meeting in Oakland

Sept 2010

Looking for an Al Anon meeting in the Oakland or Berkeley area... I happen to be gay, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a gay-only meeting. I'm expecting a child soon. Hoping to find a productive meeting that can offer some positive guidance. Women-only meeting is fine. anon is Al-Anon for all of Northern CA. Click on 'Meetings', then 'Oakland' to see the meeting list. Oakland is in District 15, which includes San Leandro and maybe Hayward. You might also want to look at District 26 (Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito); the Tuesday 8pm meeting at Northbrae Community Church is very queer-friendly and there are people who drive in from Oakland for it. There's a number you can call for each district and someone will call you back and help you find a good meeting, too. Good luck! anon

Alanon meeting in Oakland

March 2003

I'm looking for suggestions for an Al-Anon meeting in the Oakland area. It's been years since I've been to one and I'm looking for something that is not too overbearing.

Hi. There is a great women's alanon meeting that takes place on Monday's and Wednesday's at lunch time in Berkeley. The church is on Cedar and Bonita. You could also call the Alanon central phone number in Oakland. Their phone number is 276-2270.

July 2001

Regarding Shared custody with Hostile and abusive dad
I am going through a difficult divorce myself right now and I have found Alanon to be invaluable in helping me deal with all aspects of this process. I don't know if your husband drinks but at the very least he sounds like a rageaholic and Alanon is for anyone who has a problem with a relationship in which there is a addictive behavior. I have been helped on so many levels, practical, emotional and spiritual and I am amazed at the love and acceptance I've found there. People are available to be called almost 24/7 at no charge and the meetings themselves are incredibly healing. And you will have a chance to look without self-blame at your own patterns and behaviors that contribute to your present dilemma. I can't recommend it highly enough as a way to keep your sanity and your relationship with your son in this obviously traumatic situation. There are many meetings both day and night and I don't know if you work from 9-5 but some I like are the Monday and Friday noon (you can bring your lunch) meetings at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 1940 Virginia at Milvia. (women only) or the Thursday afternoon Family meeting 1:30-2:30 at Northbrae Community Church, 941 the Alameda (enter via stairs from the parking lot in back). There is a short newcomer's meeting from 1-1:30 before this one. Alanon has no religious affiliation although there is somewhat of an emphasis on finding a relationship with your Higher Power however you define that. But really there is NO pressure to show up anyway than exactly how you are. And there are many meetings. The # to call if you want more info is 839-8900.