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How Alateen Meetings Help Teens Find their Own Recovery

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Teens who are affected by people who misuse alcohol often have difficulty coping with their problems, especially when they don’t know anyone else who can relate. Without the right support, some of these teens may experience a decline in their mental health and well-being, fall behind in school, or develop their own problems with substance use disorders and addiction.

Alateen meetings give teens a safe, confidential place where they can freely discuss their experiences as they relate to dealing with others who may have a drinking problem. Teens who attend Alateen meetings regularly can often achieve their recovery alongside peers who are facing similar problems.

Here’s a closer look at what happens in Alateen meetings, and how they may benefit your teen if they are affected by someone close to them who is experiencing alcohol addiction.

What Is Alateen?

Alateen is a fellowship of teens whose lives have been affected by another person’s drinking, whether or not they are still in the teen’s life. These meetings are ideal for teens who may have parents, guardians, siblings, or close friends who drink alcohol and whose alcohol use has negatively affected the teen in some way.

Alateen is part of Alcoholics Anonymous Family Groups (Al-Anon Family Groups). The purpose of Alateen meetings is to allow teens to share common experiences with one another and discover new, healthy, and effective ways to cope with problems. The Alateen program uses a set of 12 Traditions that members are urged to follow to experience healing and to maintain unity.1

Alateen meetings are usually restricted to youth, though some meetings may be open to parents who want to support their children and to anyone else who may be curious about these meetings. The goal of Alateen is to help teens bring positive changes to their lives if they are dealing with someone who has a drinking problem.

What Are the 12 Traditions of Alateen?

The unity of Alateen groups depends on their members’ adherence to the 12 Traditions of Alateen. These traditions are:

  1. Our common welfare should come first, and personal progress for the greatest number depends on unity.
  2. Our one authority is a loving God who may express Himself in our group conscience. Leaders of our group are trusted servants that do not govern.
  3. The only membership requirement is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.
  4. Each Alateen group should be autonomous, except in matters that affect other Alateen, Al-Anon Family Groups, or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a whole.
  5. The purpose of each Alateen group is to help other teenagers of alcoholics by practicing the 12 Steps of AA and understanding the members of our immediate families.
  6. Alateen members should never endorse, finance, or lend our name to any outside enterprises, and we should always cooperate with AA.
  7. Every Alateen group should be fully self-supporting and decline any outside contributions.
  8. Any Alateen Twelfth Step work should remain non-professional, though our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. Alateen groups should never be organized, though we may create service boards or committees responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alateen groups have no opinions on outside issues and our name should never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. The public relations policy of Alateen is based on attraction rather than promotion, and personal anonymity must always be maintained at the level of press, radio, films, and television.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions to remind us to always place principles above personalities.

What Is the Difference Between Alateen and AA?

Alateen and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are highly similar in that they are both support groups for people coping with alcohol misuse and drinking problems. However, AA is for people who have a drinking problem or who are in recovery from alcohol use disorder, while Alateen is for teens and youth who are being affected by others in their lives who may have a drinking problem.

Alateen meetings are not for teens who have drinking problems themselves. If your teen thinks they may have a drinking problem, they may be able to benefit from joining an AA group specifically for teens.

How Effective Are Alateen Meetings?

Alateen meetings can help your teen gain a better understanding of what their friends or relatives may be going through if they misuse alcohol or are diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. Alateen meetings can empower your teen to make positive changes in their lives that help them cope, such as exercising regularly, practicing mindfulness meditation, and actively engaging in school projects. Alateen is often a supplemental part of teen alcohol rehab treatment plans.

In a study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, researchers examined the benefits of Al-Anon groups like Alateen on their participants. They found that people who attended these support groups regularly for at least 6 months experienced better outcomes in quality of life, well-being, and coping behaviors than those who stopped going to meetings.2 Researchers also learned that Alateen groups helped members increase their self-esteem and resolve confusion about how to cope more efficiently with life’s problems.

If your teen is planning to attend Alateen meetings, encourage them to attend weekly meetings for at least 6 months to experience the best possible outcome. Your teen may attend meetings more frequently as long as they can continue to responsibly manage their schoolwork, and as long as they feel the meetings are improving their well-being.

What Happens During An Alateen Meeting?

At Alateen meetings, members are encouraged to share and talk about various experiences they may have had with someone in their lives who has a drinking problem. In addition to sharing personal experiences, members can share strategies and coping methods to empower and motivate other members who may be struggling with their own situations.

Members who attend Alateen meetings are usually between 13 and 18 years of age. Most Alateen group sponsors are adults that help facilitate meetings and help members stay focused on the topics at hand. Some meetings may be limited to discussing designated topics, while other meetings may serve as open forums to discuss anything related to alcohol misuse.

During Alateen meetings, your teen may learn more about alcohol use disorder, as well as how to cope with having relatives or friends who suffer from this disease. Your teen will learn how to continue loving a person with alcohol use disorder without enabling that person to drink, and how to lead a fulfilling, productive lifestyle regardless of the problems their loved one may be facing with addiction.

Can I Go To Alateen Meetings With My Teen?

Many parents like to attend Alateen meetings with their teens to show their support and to stay engaged in their child’s recovery. Some parents may also go to Alateen meetings to track their teen’s attendance and to make sure they actively participate in discussions. However, parents may only be able to attend Alateen meetings that are open.

Open meetings are meetings that welcome relatives, friends, and observers in addition to teen members. These non-members may want to learn more about alcohol use disorder and how it relates to family dynamics or may be curious about what happens during meetings. Open meetings can benefit members on behalf of how they increase their access to addiction treatment professionals and family therapists who can provide new insight and different perspectives into living with someone who has alcohol use disorder.

Closed meetings are limited only to teen members who are being affected by someone else’s drinking problem, and do not welcome parents or guardians.

If you want to attend Alateen meetings with your teen, ask your teen to provide you with a schedule of open meetings. Keep in mind that although open meetings offer plenty of benefits, closed meetings can often make teens feel more comfortable, and allow them to talk openly about their experiences without fear of judgment or consequence.

How Can I Convince My Teen To Attend Alateen Meetings?

Some teens may be reluctant to attend Alateen meetings; however, many of these teens do not realize how helpful these meetings can be until they go to their first one.

If your teen is against going to an Alateen meeting, explain the potential benefits that may appeal specifically to your teen. For example, mention that they might be able to make new friends who fully understand their struggles, and who can make them feel better about their situation. Mention how they will have the opportunity to speak openly and freely about their problem without your being there to listen or watch over their shoulder.

You may also want to consider rewarding your teen for attending a few meetings and giving it a try.

If your teen does not want to attend Alateen meetings because they do not like the other members or cannot establish a connection with them, look for other Alateen groups in your area or consider having your teen join virtual meetings online. In some cases, your teen may need to attend several different meetings to find a group of people with whom they truly connect and feel comfortable.

How Can I Find Nearby Alateen Meetings?

Alateen meetings are completely free to join. These meetings are located in nearly every city and state and can be found online for those who may not be able to attend in-person meetings locally.

Some Alateen meetings take place at the same time and location as many Al-Anon meetings for adults, which makes it easier and more convenient for families to get the support they need if they have loved ones with a drinking problem.

Contact the Al-Anon chapter in your region to find nearby Alateen meetings in your area or visit the Al-Anon website for more information.

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