‘Look to the past to protect the future’
See below a brief chronology of Al‑Anon’s history. For further details, see Many Voices, One Journey (B-31) and Lois Remembers (B-7).
If the below list seems distant to you, wonder where you were in your personal recovery in the listed years…
Lois W. recognized her need for recovery when in anger she threw a shoe at her husband, Bill W., cofounder of A.A.
The Twelve Steps were published by Alcoholics Anonymous.
The families of A.A. members began to meet informally and for a variety of purposes.
Gatherings for the families of A.A. members began to evolve, holding the first meetings focused on recovery from the effects of a family member’s alcoholism.
Lois W. and Anne B. met when they drove their husbands to A.A. meetings.
The family groups attracted national publicity for the first time in a feature article, “New Help for Alcoholics,” published in the July issue of Coronet magazine. At that time, Coronet was one of America’s most popular magazines, with a monthly readership of two million.
The Alcoholic Foundation registered the Northern Westchester Non-Alcoholics Anonymous group, with Anne B. listed as Group Secretary. It was Lois W.’s home group and was among the 87 family groups that were later invited to participate in the creation of Al-Anon Family Groups.
Ruth G. began writing and distributing the San Francisco Family Club Chronicle, later titled The Family Forum, a periodical for the families of alcoholics. This newsletter shared information about family recovery nationally and internationally, prior to the founding of Al-Anon Family Groups.
Family groups had a high profile at the first A.A. International Convention, in Cleveland, Ohio. Several sessions at the Convention focused on the families of alcoholics. A.A. formally adopted its Twelve Traditions at this Convention. Lois W. later adapted these Twelve Traditions for use by Al-Anon Family Groups.
Lois asked A.A.’s annual General Service Conference for direction on the future of the A.A. family groups. The Conference approved the suggestion for a “Clearing House,” separate from A.A., which would provide support to the family groups, but asked that A.A.’s name not be used. Lois invited Anne B. to assist her in opening the office, which later became known as the World Service Office.
Lois and Anne sent letters to the 87 family groups known to them at that time, inviting them to participate in a fellowship of friends and families of alcoholics. They asked the groups to accept the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, with one change. In Step Twelve, “alcoholics” was changed to “others.” The groups were also asked to agree on a single name for the new fellowship. It was the first fellowship-wide group conscience. Articles in the A.A. Grapevine and The Family Forum, along with other news coverage, helped spread the word about the new organization.
Lois and Anne compiled Al-Anon’s first piece of literature, a pamphlet called Purposes and Suggestions for Al-Anon Family Groups (P-13). The pamphlet has remained in print throughout Al-Anon’s history. The Clearing House also sent out One Wife’s Story, written by Lois and now included in How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics (B-22).
About 20 members from seven Al-Anon groups in the New York City area formed the Advisory Committee to formulate policy for Al-Anon as a whole. It was a precursor to the World Service Conference, the Policy Committee, and other representative voices of group conscience in the Al-Anon service structure. This Committee agreed that the new organization was to be called Al-Anon Family Groups. About 80 percent of the groups polled by the Clearing House had approved this name.
The Clearing House moved its activities from Stepping Stones, Lois’s home, to the second floor of A.A.’s 24th Street Clubhouse in New York City.
With the approval of the Advisory Committee, the Clearing House made its first appeal for financial support from the Al-Anon groups. Lois and Anne asked each member to consider contributing $1, two times a year, to the Clearing House.
The Clearing House asked the Al-Anon groups for authority to handle national publicity. The groups granted this authority, to ensure that a unified fellowship would consistently communicate a unified message in the national press. There were nearly 400 registered Al-Anon groups.
Lois adapted A.A.’s Twelve Traditions for use by Al-Anon, and asked for comments, suggestions, and approval, first from A.A.’s Board and A.A.’s Conference, and then from the Al-Anon Family Groups.
The December issue of the Clearing House newsletter included a draft of a proposed “Welcome” for use at Al-Anon meetings, as well as a proposed Preamble to the Twelve Steps.
The Clearing House newsletter officially became a monthly publication. In September, the monthly magazine took on the name The Family Group Forum, which today is called The Forum.
The Literature, Budget, and Publicity Committees were formed.
The Clearing House incorporated the name Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. Members began referring to the office as “Headquarters.”
This was the last year in which members’ cash contributions exceeded the amount of income generated by Al-Anon literature sales.
The first Al-Anon meetings in Puerto Rico began.
Al-Anon’s first hardcover book, The Al-Anon Family Groups (B‑5), was introduced at the A.A. International Convention in St. Louis, Missouri. Al-Anon held five workshops, one for children of alcoholics, at this Convention.
The Saturday Evening Post published a major article about Al-Anon, which brought the fellowship national publicity.
The first Alateen meetings took place in California.
The Family Group Forum requested sharings on the Twelve Traditions for the first time.
The first Alateen groups registered with Headquarters. The Alateens adapted the Twelve Traditions to make them more relevant to their needs.
Al-Anon groups numbered over 1,000. Headquarters relocated to a larger office, at 125 East 23rd Street, New York City, NY.
An episode of the Loretta Young Show, “The Understanding Heart,” gave national publicity to Al-Anon and the effects of alcoholism on families.
Al-Anon groups in Montreal published the first French-language Al-Anon monthly newsletter, bulletin des groups familiaux Al-Anon.
Lois W. mentioned the idea of an Al-Anon World Service Conference at her annual luncheon for the wives of A.A. Conference Delegates.
Headquarters adapted a pamphlet from a member in New Zealand, and distributed it as To the Parents of an Alcoholic. It was the first piece of literature addressing the needs of a specific segment of Al-Anon’s membership.
Al-Anon groups now existed in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Central America, and South America.
Four hundred Al-Anon members at A.A. International Convention at Long Beach, CA, voted to approve a plan for Al-Anon first World Service Conference, to be held in 1961. This vote was the largest “in-person” group conscience in Al-Anon’s history. This vote was later confirmed by the Al-Anon groups.
The first annual Al-Anon World Service Conference met in New York on a trial basis. Delegates from British Columbia, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Texas met with World Service Office staff and the Board of Trustees.
The World Service Conference approved the Twelve Traditions. Lois W. introduced the concept of Conference Approved Literature, which the Conference approved.
The Stag Line, the first pamphlet welcoming men to Al-Anon, was published.
Ann Landers mentioned Al-Anon in her syndicated advice column, and about 5,000 people wrote to Headquarters for information
The World Service Conference, which had met on a trial basis, was made permanent. By this time, 18 Spanish-speaking groups were registered with Headquarters.
The World Service Office began publishing a quarterly Alateen newsletter, which was sent free to all Alateen groups. The name Alateen Talk was decided upon by a vote of the groups.
The Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee were organized, replacing the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board.
Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism (B‑1), a book intended to increase awareness of Al-Anon’s credibility with professionals, was introduced at the A.A. International Convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Lois W. introduced the concept of “obedience to the unenforceable” in a new chapter added to The Al-Anon Family Groups, which by this time had been given a new title: Living with an Alcoholic.
The World Service Conference approved a policy statement on public outreach. This statement has been the foundation of Al-Anon’s outreach policies ever since.
Representatives of Al-Anon and A.A. worked together to develop guidelines that would clearly define the two fellowships as separate entities, each focused on its own primary purpose.
The Policy Committee decided that “Headquarters” should be called the World Service Office (WSO).
The World Service Conference ratified the Conference Charter, which defines the purpose of the Conference, its relationship to the fellowship, and the rules that it will observe in its meetings.
Al-Anon’s first daily reader, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon (B‑6) was published.
The World Service Conference approved the project of adapting A.A.’s Twelve Concepts of Service for use by Al-Anon.
Al-Anon’s Twelve Concepts of Service received unanimous approval from the World Service Conference.
Al-Anon’s World Service Office moved to 115 East 23rd Street, New York, New York.
A column by Ann Landers resulted in 11,000 letters asking for information about Al-Anon.
The Board approved a revised version of the Preamble to the Twelve Steps. The Suggested Closing was introduced.
Alateen’s first book, Alateen—Hope for Children of Alcoholics (B‑3), was published. There were more than 1,000 Alateen groups.
The Policy Committee introduced the Al-Anon Declaration to the World Service Conference:
“Let it Begin With Me—
When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help,
let the hand of Al-Anon and Alateen always be there
and—Let It Begin with Me.”
The World Service Office cooperated with the producers of a Public Broadcasting Service program about alcoholism and its effects on the family titled, Drink, Drank, Drunk. Members were notified in advance of broadcasts, so they would be prepared to answer inquiries that the program would generate.
The first Al-Anon adult children group registered with the World Service Office.
The first Digest of Al-Anon and Alateen Policies was published and distributed widely throughout the fellowship.
The Public Information Committee, later known as the Public Outreach Committee, designated Public Service Announcements for television as its top priority.
An International Coordination Committee was established to maintain unity and communication worldwide.
Al-Anon’s World Service Office moved to One Park Avenue in New York, New York.
The monthly newsletter, Al-Anon Family Groups Forum, became the monthly magazine, The Forum.
The establishment of AI-Anon Regional Service Seminars, to be held twice a year, was approved at the World Service Conference.
The Policy Committee approved a statement that designated The Forum as Conference Approved Literature in concept, to encourage the magazine’s use by Al-Anon groups for discussion at meetings.
Al-Anon’s seventh book, Lois Remembers (B‑7) was presented to the World Service Conference.
The one-millionth copy of One Day at a Time in Al-Anon (B‑6) was presented to Alcoholics Anonymous at the A.A. International Convention in New Orleans, LA.
A one-day trial General Services meeting, later called International Al-Anon General Services Meeting (IAGSM), was held the day after the International Convention.
There were 2,000 Spanish-speaking groups in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean Islands, and Spain.
The World Service Conference approved changes to the Suggested Welcome, to be more inclusive to members who no longer had an active alcoholic in their lives.
Conference approval was given to begin a survey to establish an information profile of Al-Anon/Alateen membership.
Al-Anon cofounder Anne B. passed away on February 24.
The International Al-Anon General Services Meeting (IAGSM) became a permanent part of Al-Anon’s structure.
The World Service Conference voted that the Twelve Concepts of Service should be considered as equal in stature and importance to the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
The first Membership Survey was introduced, providing an information profile of the Al-Anon/Alateen membership. The Membership Survey has taken place every three years since then.
Al-Anon held its First International Convention in Montreal, Québec, Canada in cooperation with the International A.A. Convention. As We Understood (B-11) was introduced at this event.
Al-Anon’s World Service Office moved to 1372 Broadway, New York, New York. The Shipping Department was relocated to Long Island City, New York.
Al-Anon cofounder Lois W. passed away on October 5. She was 97 years old, and had worked to help the families of alcoholics for more than 50 years.
The World Service Conference approved a text change to the Service Manual, adding the sentence: “Where there is no Alateen meeting available, teens seeking help are encouraged to attend Al-Anon meetings.”
The book In All Our Affairs: Making Crises Work for You (B-15) was published, bringing increased visibility to the diversity within the fellowship.
The Board of Trustees approved relocation for the World Service Office outside of the New York City metropolitan area. The World Service Conference stated that “ownership of property by Al-Anon Family Groups, Inc. [sic] is consistent with our Traditions.”
A second daily reader, Courage to Change (B-16), was published to address the needs of all our fellowship.
The World Service Conference authorized the Board of Trustees to purchase property for the Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. on a 15-year trial basis.
From Survival to Recovery—Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home (B-21), Al-Anon’s first book for and by those who grew up with alcoholism, was published.
The Board sent members of the World Service Conference a letter to inform them that it had approved the purchase of land and building on Corporate Landing Parkway in Virginia Beach, Virginia as the new location for the World Service Office.
The World Service Conference approved a trial Bylaw to create the Executive Committee for Real Property Management to oversee management of Headquarters’ property.
The World Service Conference approved implementation of a revised committee structure for a three-year trial period.
Al-Anon’s basic book, How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics (B-22) was introduced at the A.A. International Convention in San Diego, California.
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. relocated staff and operations of the World Service Office to a new building on property acquired in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The Executive Committee for Real Property Management met for the first time in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The Board approved a three-year pilot project to list on-line meetings as a resource for members and newcomers. The Policy Committee permitted The Forum to publish three stories per month on the Public Outreach Web site.
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters (Canada) Inc. was incorporated as a registered charity in Canada.
The World Service Conference voted to add to the Service Manual the recommendation that each Alateen group have two Sponsors, each of whom is a minimum of 21 years old. It was also recommended that Sponsors be currently attending Al-Anon meetings, and be active Al-Anon members for at least two years in addition to any time spent in the Alateen program. Al-Anon members who are also members of A.A. may serve as Sponsors by virtue of their Al-Anon membership. A.A. members (not in Al-Anon) who are at least 21 years old may assist groups, but may not serve as Sponsors. A new guideline, Adults Involved in Alateen Service (G-35) was introduced.
The Members’ Web site, al‑anon.org/members, was introduced at the World Service Conference.
The Policy Committee authorized the World Service office to begin registering on-line meetings, ending a three-year trial period.
Members distributed 13,000 copies of the September issue of The Forum as for the first time as part of an annual fellowship-wide public outreach campaign.
The World Service Conference approved a Policy Committee recommendation to remove a statement from the “Policy Digest” that permitted A.A. members to serve as assistants at Alateen meetings.
The Policy Committee approved a revision to the Suggested Welcome, changing the statement “Al-Anon is an anonymous program” to “Anonymity is an important principle of the Al-Anon program.” The distinction was intended to clear up the misunderstanding that the program itself was supposed to remain anonymous, rather than the identities of its members. This confusion had discouraged some members from engaging the Twelfth-Step work of carrying the message of Al-Anon to others.
The Board of Trustees determined that the Al-Anon fellowship should take all necessary steps to provide a safe environment for Alateens and the Al-Anons involved with Alateen service. Therefore, it passed the 2003 Alateen Motion, a legal resolution of the Board.
The World Service Conference affirmed the Board’s Alateen Motion.
Members distributed nearly 170,000 copies of the new public outreach magazine, Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism, transforming the annual “September Forum” outreach campaign into a year-round effort, in English, Spanish, and French.
The World Service Office put its first blog on the Members’ Web site, Using the Concepts in our Personal Lives. Members from around the world shared their personal experience in applying the Concepts’ spiritual principles to their real-life situations, responding to observations on the Concepts originally introduced by Executive Director in his workshop on the Concepts.
Seeking more face-to-face contact with members of the fellowship, the World Service Office replaced its 30-year-old Regional Service Seminars with a new event called TEAM—Together Empowering Al-Anon Members.
With the approval of the Alateen Chat Guidelines, trial Alateen Chat meetings began in the U.S. and Finland.
In a new blog on both the Members’ and Public Outreach Web sites, Al-Anon members shared in English, Spanish, and French on Using the Steps in Our Personal Lives.
The World Service Office cooperated in the production of Love Is Not Enough, a made-for-television movie based on the life of Al-Anon cofounder Lois W. It attracted an audience of more than seven million viewers, giving international visibility to Al-Anon’s message of recovery.
Al-Anon members distributed more than 350,000 copies of Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism in their local communities.
The First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery podcast series made its debut.
The World Service Conference voted to end the 15-year trial period on owning property, recognizing the advantages to the fellowship of owning, rather than leasing, office space for the World Service Office.
The mortgage for the World Service Office was officially burned at a ceremony during the 60th Anniversary celebration.
The World Service Office introduced a new version of the Public Outreach Web site, and entered the world of social media with Facebook and Twitter pages.
Acknowledging the challenges of maintaining anonymity in the multi-media environment of the World Wide Web, the World Service Conference updated Al-Anon’s policies on anonymity and public outreach. The updated policies were first published on the Members’ Web site, then in the 2014-2017 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual.
Al-Anon introduced its first electronic book, Having Had a Spiritual Awakening (eB-25), available from the major e-book vendors.
Al-Anon introduced its first audio book, How Al-Anon Works (eA-22), available in English as an MP3 download, from the major audio book vendors.
The World Service Office’s Spanish-language Facebook page made its debut.
The first electronic Alateen book was published: Alateen—Hope for Children of Alcoholics (eB-3).
The World Service Office’s French-language Facebook page made its debut, as did the Alateen Facebook page
The World Service Office introduced a new version of the Members’ Web site.