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Double Winners: Benefits of Attending Both AA and Al-Anon Meetings

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Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings are peer-led meetings for anyone with alcohol addiction and their families and friends. Fellowship and personal improvements using the AA and Al-Anon 12 Steps transform participants.

If you want to stop misusing alcohol, you can join AA. If you have a different substance addiction you can also join, but it must accompany alcohol misuse.1 Al-Anon meetings are for friends and family who care about a person with alcohol addiction and want to improve their situation and contribute to recovery for themselves and their loved one.2

Who Are Double Winners?

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon lovingly joke that people who have alcohol addiction and have a family member with addiction are “double winners.” In a way, they truly are winners. They get to attend more than one recovery support group.3 For example, someone may have alcohol addiction and, at the same time, may have codependency issues with their spouse, who also has an addiction.

Attending more than one recovery program means working a different program for each. You get double the material, feedback, and encouragement than attending one group.

These peer support programs are also often supplemental resources for professional addiction recovery treatment, which can be another kind of “win.”

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Guidelines for Double Winners

Are you wondering what happens at Al-Anon meetings and how that differs from AA? Do you want to know what is expected of you at each? There are general guidelines for active double winners:3

  • Attend AA and Al-Anon meetings regularly
  • Have a sponsor for each program
  • Work the AA and Al-Anon 12 Steps separately
  • Read and study materials on each program
  • Find ways to provide a service or give back through each program separately

Benefits of Attending Both AA and Al-Anon Meetings

Research on Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step facilitation groups such as Al-Anon meetings shows recovery outcomes of these groups are more beneficial than many other resources available outside of conventional addiction treatment. Participants who actively participate in fellowships tend stay in recovery longer. Other benefits include:4

  • Reduces healthcare costs
  • Reduces the severity and frequency of alcohol misuse
  • Increases attendance in other group meetings and recovery activities
  • Improves recovery coping skills
  • Increases recovery motivation
  • Addresses healthy vs. unhealthy social relationships
  • Reduces cravings and urges
  • Reduces impulsive behaviors

Twelve-step programs, according to some researchers, have a neurological effect. For example, bonding with group members releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that gives a sense of pleasure and reward.5

The research team further notes a connection between each of the 12 Steps and the neurotransmitters in the brain. Two examples of this connection include Step 2 and Step 11 of AA.

Step 2: Came to Believe a Power Greater Than Ourselves Could Restore Us to Sanity

Sanity refers to sound judgment and making good decisions. The brain area responsible for decision-making is the prefrontal cortex, which is also the part of the brain most impacted by alcohol misuse.5

Receiving encouragement and guidance on important decisions and making positive changes in your life can help. You can get this from peers in an AA and Al-Anon 12-step group. As a result, your self-esteem builds, and you start making recovery-focused choices on your own, restoring the “sanity” referred to in Step 2.

Step 11: Sought Through Prayer and Meditation to Improve Our Conscious Contact With God, as We Understood Him, Praying Only for Knowledge of His Will for Us and the Power to Carry That Out

Prayer, meditation, and other personal spiritual practices naturally release dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most associated with pleasure and reward. The more you engage in personally meaningful routines that connect you to your higher power in Step 11, the higher your self-esteem and confidence in your abilities to maintain sobriety. Aa your confidence grows, you are less likely to stay in codependent relationships and more likely to avoid relapse.5

Benefits of Attending AA Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step facilitation have remained at the top of recovery programs for decades. Studies show that 61.1% of those who continue in an AA program and attend 5 or more meetings each week are still abstinent after one year. Those attending 2-4 meetings a week had a 42.7% success rate. Many who maintain sobriety attribute their success to the various offerings of AA, including:6

  • Role models
  • Peer support
  • Recovery activities
  • Spirituality
  • Structured steps and guidelines

Benefits of Attending Al-Anon Meetings

Social processes are activities you can participate in, such as attending Al-Anon meetings, to improve all the other areas of your life. One study followed up with Al-Anon newcomers 6 months after they began attending. Results indicate those who continue attending Al-Anon meetings have improved outcomes in the following areas:7

  • Mood
  • Homelife
  • Self-esteem
  • Physical and mental health
  • Involvement in purposeful activity
  • Relationship with the loved one who has addiction
  • Sense of community
  • Financial health
  • Work life

Common Programs for Double Winners

Many double winners also experience comorbidity. Comorbidity is more than one illness occurring at the same time. They can be any substance use, behavioral, or mental health disorder accompanying alcohol addiction.

Someone may have alcohol use disorder and a gambling problem. Someone may have alcohol addiction and major depression. Someone may have alcohol addiction and an eating disorder.8

Below is a list of common programs based on the 12-step premise of Alcoholics Anonymous:9

  • Adult Children of Alcoholics
  • Al-Anon/Alateen
  • Codependents Anonymous
  • Depressed Anonymous
  • Eating Disorders Anonymous
  • Food Addicts Anonymous
  • Gamblers Anonymous
  • Nar-Anon Family Groups
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Overeaters Anonymous
  • Recovering Couples Anonymous
  • Self-Harmers Anonymous
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • Workaholics Anonymous

Attending Meetings With Loved Ones

You may be wondering if you and your loved one can go to meetings together. Many people attending AA and Al-Anon meetings ask, and the answer is generally the same for everyone.

AA and Al-Anon meetings are open and closed. Open meetings are open to the public and typically offer education or guest speakers on alcohol use disorders and recovery.10 Attending open meetings with your loved ones can be helpful to your relationship. You are both there to learn more about the disease and heal from the disease.

It is generally recommended that you not attend closed meetings with your loved one. That means you and your loved one should not join the same chapters or attend the same AA or Al-Anon meetings.10 Even if your loved one attends Al-Anon zoom meetings, do not attend together.

One reason is that there may be conversations in which one of you wants to participate but hesitates because the other is present. The goal of AA is to give you a safe space to share experiences and provide feedback to help each other overcome problems and succeed in recovery.10

Another reason is that your recoveries may unintentionally become linked. If one of you relapses, it may influence the other to relapse. Sobriety is a personal process. You must stay focused on your journey no matter how well, or not-so-well, your loved one is currently doing.

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Other Types of Peer Support Programs

You may be surprised that AA and Al-Anon meetings and 12-step facilitation groups are not the only programs offering support in dealing with alcohol addiction. Other options can also benefit you and your loved one.

SMART Recovery

Self-management and recovery training (SMART) Recovery is a group designed to assist someone at any stage of a substance use disorder, whether still using, early abstinence, or recovery. SMART Recovery does so by providing education and the tools needed to be successful and is based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a therapeutic approach often used in rehab.

LifeRing Secular Society

LifeRing is a peer-run, secular recovery group for those with a substance use disorder and their family and friends. The program gives all the power to the person in recovery rather than relying on a higher power. There are no steps or sponsors. You focus on building up the sober self while eliminating the addict self in a program designed by you.

Alternatives Compared to the 12 Steps

When researchers compared AA and Al-Anon to other common support groups, they noted that:11

  • Members of SMART Recovery are more likely to be wealthy, more educated, and less religious or spiritual than those in AA
  • Members of LifeRing are more likely to be older and married than those in AA
  • Members of LifeRing are more likely to have greater diversity
  • Members of LifeRing and SMART Recovery are more likely to be male, be less likely to have criminal or legal issues, and may also see private therapists

Family or Couples Therapy

Working with a licensed marriage and family therapist gives family members the chance to learn new skills to support recovery for everyone. You redefine roles, gain education about the disease of addiction, and learn to communicate properly. Family therapy can also help you change behaviors that enable someone with alcohol addiction to actions that encourage them to get help.12

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Finding the Right Group

All traditional and alternative peer support groups are connected to improved recovery outcomes. With so many options, choosing a group may seem daunting at first. An addiction treatment program can connect you to local programs as part of aftercare services, private counselors can make recommendations, or you can find local meetings listed in a peer support group directory.

If you or your loved one need professional treatment in addition to peer support, call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to speak to our treatment specialists about alcohol addiction treatment options.


  1. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2022). What is AA?
  2. Al-Anon Family Groups. (2022). Who Are Al-Anon Members?
  3. All Anonymous. (2016). Double Winners Defined.
  4. Kelly, J. F., Abry, A., Ferri, M., & Humphreys, K. (2020). Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step Facilitation Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Distillation of a 2020 Cochrane Review for Clinicians and Policy Makers. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 55(6), 641-651.
  5. Blum, K., Thompson, B., Demotrovics, Z., Femino, J., Giordano, J., Oscar-Berman, M., Teitelbaum, S., Smith, D. E., Roy, A. K., Agan, G., Fratantonio, J., Badgaiyan, R. D., & Gold, M. S. (2015). The Molecular Neurobiology of Twelve Steps Program & Fellowship: Connecting the Dots for RecoveryJournal of Reward Deficiency Syndrome1(1), 46-64.
  6. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2022). Recovery-Oriented Mutual Self-Help Groups.
  7. Timko, C., Halvorson, M., Kong, C., & Moos, R. H. (2015). Social Processes Explaining the Benefits of Al-Anon Participation. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors: Journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors29(4), 856-863.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Why is There a Comorbidity Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illnesses?
  9. (n.d.). 12 Step Versions in Different Fellowships.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2022). What to Expect at an AA Meeting.
  11. Zemore, S. E., Kaskutas, L. A., Mericle, A., & Hemberg, J. (2017). Comparison of 12-step Groups to Mutual Help Alternatives for AUD in a Large, National Study: Differences in Membership Characteristics and Group Participation, Cohesion, and SatisfactionJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment73, 16-26.
  12. McCrady, B. S., & Flanagan, J. C. (2021). The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery for AdultsAlcohol Research: Current Reviews41(1), 06.
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