Families Anonymous (FA) – 12 Step Program

What is Families Anonymous and when did it begin?

Families Anonymous is a 12-step program that was created for friends or family members of individuals they are associated with that suffer from an addiction or someone they believe may be an addict. It does not have to be substance abuse or alcoholism; Families Anonymous welcomes anyone who may believe they are dealing with someone with any kind of addiction problem.

The group was started in 1971 by a group of parents who were struggling with their children suffering from addiction. When they felt like there was nowhere else to turn, they created their own group to deal with their struggles. As of 2007, the program had over 200 meetings throughout the United States and was present in over 20 countries worldwide. Although the group has remained somewhat under the radar, they still manage to share their message and gain new members every day.

One of the differences the program emphasizes for newcomers is that they can have any relationship with the person they believe to be addicted. Whether it is a grandparent, sibling or simply a friend, everyone is welcome to Families Anonymous. Although the fellowship does follow the same format and 12-step recovery process, the program has no affiliation with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Families Anonymous has its own 12 steps, traditions, promises and literature. Literature for the program can be found online which includes “Today a Better Way” and other 12-step workbooks for members of the group.

How does Families Anonymous work?

Families Anonymous works like many other 12 step groups. Instead of focusing on changing the addict or stopping their addictive behaviors, the program focuses on supporting members and their behaviors. It’s important for members to understand that it is not their job to rescue or save an individual who is addicted; letting these individuals face their own consequences and showing addicts “tough love” is one way Families Anonymous helps its members heal from their own destructive behaviors. Addictive behavior can bring guilt and shame to their loved ones, so the program tries to free members from these negative feelings and improve their quality of life.

In Families Anonymous meetings, members have a safe place to share their stories with other individuals who are experiencing the same issues. Having a place to share experience, strength and hope without judgement is one of the reasons the fellowship is so beneficial to its members. Within Families Anonymous, members can build a support system to help resolve problems and find solutions for any continued difficulties they are facing. After the first step, admitting their powerlessness over drugs and other people’s lives, members can begin working the program and start regaining a sense of control in their own lives instead of focusing on the problem in somebody else’s.

Why is Families Anonymous so effective?

For individuals who are not suffering from addiction, attending meetings can seem trivial. Families Anonymous helps family members and friends of addicts understand that addiction is a disease and there is no way to prevent it or stop someone who isn’t willing. Whether or not members are the ones who are using, addiction impacts the life of everyone it comes into contact with.

When members begin to accept addiction as an illness, it allows them to recover and deal with their reactions to the problem and provides them with new coping mechanisms. It helps members understand and learn how to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. One of the reasons Families Anonymous is so effective for its members is because it allows anyone to join who is dealing with an addicted loved one. The problem of addiction does not only include substance abuse or alcoholism, so providing members with a place to engage with others is key to their own recovery.

For members to start the recovery process, getting a sponsor is recommended so that they can assist in working the steps. A sponsor in Families Anonymous can give newcomers a person to confide in, listen to their stories and share their own tools of recovery. When just beginning the program, obtaining the numbers of others in the fellowship is a good place to start building a support system.

Along with building new relationships with fellow members, Families Anonymous encourages newcomers to attend meetings for at least six weeks before deciding whether or not the program is the right fit. The fellowship of Families Anonymous works hard to ensure that issues that can destroy the group aren’t focused on, including disallowing the discussion of religion, gossip, dominance and dwelling on the past. This allows members to all feel welcome to every meeting they attend.

Common Questions about Families Anonymous

How do I know if Families Anonymous is right for me?

Anyone who is interested in becoming a member of Families Anonymous is encouraged to find a meeting in their area to see if they are a fit for the group. Free pamphlets are available on the official website, including “Are you torn apart trying to cope with a substance abuser?” which includes a questionnaire with 20 questions. This questionnaire is an easy way for individuals to decide if they might be in the right place.

Does Families Anonymous cost money?

There are absolutely no dues, fees or costs for membership to Families Anonymous. The only requirement for membership is the concern about the use of mind-altering substances or related behavioral problems of a relative or friend. The program is self-supporting through their own contributions and literature sales. Although members are encouraged to contribute when they can, they are never required to.

Are there online meetings?

While Families Anonymous does still hold face-to-face meetings, which can be found in the meeting directory on their official website, there are now meetings available online. Along with virtual meetings, there are also phone meetings and email meetings for individuals who need multiple resources to connect to other members.

What is the difference between Al-Anon and Families Anonymous?

Al-Anon and Families Anonymous are similar in some ways, but the programs are very different from each other. Both programs do offer members a safe place to share their struggles with a loved one’s addiction problems and support creating coping skills, as well as regaining emotional clarity. Families Anonymous is different because it focuses on members who are dealing with any kind of addictive behaviors, from substance abuse to gambling to sex addictions.

What are the 12 promises of Families Anonymous?

Like many other 12-step programs, Families Anonymous has 12 promises that members will begin to see as they work the steps of the program. Whether these promises arrive quickly or gradually, all members who make an honest effort to their recovery will witness these promises come true.

1. We are going to know a freedom from worry and a new happiness.

2. We will not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it.

3. We will comprehend the word serenity.

4. We will know peace.

5. No matter what we’ve been through, we will see how our experiences can benefit others.

6. Those feelings of resentment and self-pity will disappear.

7. We will lose interest in trying to change others, and we will gain an appreciation for those special people in our lives.

8. Self-righteousness will slip away.

9. Our attitudes and our outlook on life will change.

10. Our insecurities and our fear of other people’s opinions will leave us.

11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us.

12. We will come to realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

12 Steps of Families Anonymous (FA)

1. We admitted we were powerless over drugs and other people’s lives—that our lives had
become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood
Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure
them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

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.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to
others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

-familiesanonymous.org

12 Traditions of Families Anonymous (FA)

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal progress for the greatest number depends on unity.

2. For our group purposes there is but one authority—a loving God, as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. Individuals concerned with another’s abuse of drugs or related problems of living, when gathered together for mutual aid, may call themselves a Families Anonymous group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation. The only requirement for membership is a concern about the use of mindaltering substances or related behavioral problems of a relative or friend.

4. Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups or FA as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose: to help those concerned with someone who may have a problem of drug abuse or dependence. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of this program, by encouraging and understanding those affected by this illness, and by welcoming and giving comfort to the families and friends of individuals with a current, suspected, or former drug problem.

6. Our family groups ought never endorse, finance, or lend our name to any outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Families Anonymous Twelfth Step work should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. Our groups, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to the groups they serve.

10. Families Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence our name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, TV, and any other public or private media. We need guard with special care the anonymity of our members as well as those of other recovery programs.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.

-familiesanonymous.org