What Is Families Anonymous?
Families Anonymous (FA) is an organization dedicated to helping family members and friends of people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Members began holding FA meetings in 1971. It resembles 12-step organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous (AA and NA, respectively). Like AA and NA, Families Anonymous:
- Offers both in-person and online meetings that are free to attend (but the organization also accepts donations and sells literature).
- Encourages members to proceed through a series of twelve steps to find healing.
- Features twelve traditions that provide guidance for the organization and explain what it is.
- Promotes twelve promises, which are benefits that FA claims that it can provide as well as other statements about healing.
- Respects the anonymity of its members, who can refer to themselves by their first names only.
- Provides literature that contains more about the programs, addiction, and addiction-related issues.
These similarities may help Families Anonymous members better understand their loved ones with addictions, especially if the loved ones are attending Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or other sobriety meetings themselves.
To further guide members, FA also warns people against four destructive forces that can prevent people from healing:
1.Discussing specific religions
2. Gossiping about other FA members
3. Dominating meetings
4. Dwelling on the past
Families Anonymous Meetings
Meetings are an important aspect of the Families Anonymous organization.
The organization encourages the family and friends of people who are addicted (or people who are in recovery) to gather. Recognizing shared experiences can be cathartic. People can share what has helped them heal. Just as importantly, they can reveal what hasn’t helped them heal.
Members of FA can meet other members in various ways.
By visiting the Families Anonymous website, people can find meetings near them. The organization has meetings across the United States and throughout the world.
People who can’t find a meeting in their areas may want to consider starting a FA group near them by using the information on FA’s Starting a New Group page and ordering a free FA Starter Kit.
For people who don’t have meetings in their area or can’t attend gatherings for other reasons, local Families Anonymous chapters host virtual meetings.
Such virtual meetings are known as Meetings Without Walls (MWW). They allow people to participate in voice chats with each other in real time. FA offers a script template for MWW online voice chats.
The organization encouraged more online meetings due to COVID-19. The pandemic shut down many places that host meetings while governments discouraged or banned social gatherings.
Another way to attend remote Families Anonymous meetings is by phone. The meetings occur on Saturdays at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) and can be reached by dialing:
- 605-313-5141 in the United States.
- 0330 998 1210 in the United Kingdom.
After dialing either of these numbers, callers are required to dial the access code 164804# and wait for the moderator to begin the meeting.
People who are more comfortable writing about their thoughts and feelings may find that the Families Anonymous E-Meeting is a good fit. It’s an email discussion group that consists of members from around the world.
In addition to its diversity, another advantage of the E-Meeting is its convenience. People can visit the group at any time of the day or night to ask or answer a question, discuss something, or read what others have posted. They can start participating online by following the instructions on the Families Anonymous Virtual Meetings page.
What Happens During Families Anonymous Meetings?
Some of the advantages of FA are its inclusivity and flexibility. Any member can lead a meeting and the organization encourages different people to lead.
Leaders don’t have to conduct all meetings the same way, but for guidance, FA offers a suggested meeting format.
For example, a meeting leader can begin by welcoming newcomers, making announcements, and asking others if they have any announcements of their own. The leader can describe what Families Anonymous is and what it does.
Members can read FA’s twelve steps, twelve traditions, and twelve promises, as well as information about drug abuse and helping by being, not doing. Members can also provide contact information to others.
After a break in the meeting, discussion time can begin. According to Families Anonymous, “Any piece of FA literature, such as a bookmark, a Step or Tradition, or a reading from Today a Better Way (TABW), makes an excellent topic for discussion.”
While anyone at the meeting can participate in these discussions, FA discourages what it calls crosstalk, which it defines as
- Talking without the leader recognizing them.
- Holding one-on-one side conversations during the meeting.
- Counseling or questioning other members.
During Meetings Without Walls sessions, members can request to make comments during the meetings and be recognized by the leaders.
Such requirements allow everyone to contribute. They allow people to focus on the speakers and let speakers truly be heard, which can provide emotional boosts when they need them the most.
Following discussion time, leaders can pass a basket for voluntary donations, ask newcomers if they have questions or comments, and ask if anyone has anything else to contribute.
At the end of the meeting, the leader can remind members that FA offers suggestions and that the program works differently for different people. The leader can also remind members that Families Anonymous values the anonymity of its members, so it discourages discussing what happened at the meetings outside of the meetings themselves.
Finally, like other 12-step groups, FA often ends its meetings with the Serenity Prayer:
- God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
- Courage to change the things I can,
- And wisdom to know the difference.