An Early History of Online Al-Anon

Imagine the screach of an old 1200 bits-per-second dial-up modem and having to type "C:\" before each DOS command, one at a time, onto a monochrome computer screen. That was the technology in use when members of Al-Anon Family Groups first began to gather together on the Internet for mutual support.

Here are some notes from the early days of online Al-Anon -- a history compiled by some of those early OLA pioneers who founded the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee, initially called the Online Al-Anon Informations Service (OLA-IS).

Late 1980s

An Al-Anon member ran a PCBoard Bulletin-Board System [BBS] and made various pieces of Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous literature available in a special file directory to anyone calling his BBS.

An Al-Anon member carried on discussions with a few other Al-Anons on a recovery message board found, while searching for bulletin boards on recovery.

1989 - An individual on a hobby bulletin board talked about problems of living with alcoholism and a fellow participant, a double winner, 12th stepped her into Al-Anon. Subsequently she formed a BBS network for 12 step recovery.


1990 - On the Prodigy Medical Board, a support group for families and friends posted messages about Al-Anon, focusing on helping newcomers and urging them to find face-to-face [f2f] meetings. It kept going until 1993.

July 4, 1992 - An Al-Anon member with an interest in carrying the Al-Anon message to Russia attended a church conference; met an individual from the Magadan Area (Russia) who expressed a concern for helping families of alcoholics; and presented her with a copy of the newly-released-to-Delegates Russian ODAT. Later the member made an internet connection with a priest in Magadan, who provided computer time and then physical space for two local women to start an Al-Anon meeting there.

1993 - Several Al-Anons found each other on a Medical Problems bulletin board listed under "Alcohol Abuse" and formed a small sub list for families and friends.

November 1993 - An Al-Anon member founded a meeting in the CompuServe Recovery Forum, which held weekly meetings with a f2f group format.

August 1994 - The individual trying to get the Al-Anon message to Russia made a connection with an expert in computer networking which resulted in a website for Al-Anon/Alateen being launched at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville [UTK].

November 1994 - At the Southwest Regional Service Seminar in Denver, Colorado, Al-Anon members set up a computer at the hotel and demonstrated an Al-Anon website.

November 1994 - On a list for medical professionals discussing alcohol and drug abuse, two women connected when one asked if anyone knew of an Al-Anon on-line list. They decided to start an Al-Anon email sharing list which became Tranquility.

Winter 1995

February 24, 1995 - Tranquility was launched on a listserve, grew to 25 within a few weeks and by 1998 had about 170 members.

March 1995 - CyberSerenity [CAFG] was launched from the Al-Anon/Alateen website at UTK using a UTK listserve and grew to about 700 members by September 1996.

Spring 1995

April 1995 - Tranquility attempted to register as an Al-Anon Family Group [AFG] and began helping to support Al-Anon World Service Organization [WSO] through donations.

April 1995 - Al-Anon Chatters launched on the WBS website with about 10 people

May 1995 - WSO gave Tranquility permission to post two to three lines from the Conference Approved Literature [CAL], One Day At A Time [ODAT] and Courage to Change [CTC] daily readers via Tranquility AFG on-line.

Fall 1995

August 1995 - A chat room for persons affected by the drinking of another, was found on America On Line [AOL].

October 1995 - Friends of Lois W. began as an off-shoot of CAFG as a member contacted folk in AOL forums and elsewhere to enlist interest for a small sharing meeting which would stick closely to the Traditions; and have volunteer trusted servant positions which rotate, a meeting structure, topic for a week and mail forwarding.

October 1995 - American Families Online AFG began on AOL and by 1998 had over 500 listed members and 28 meetings per week. By May 1998, participants were from 44 States and three countries outside the US.

October 1995 - The Policy Committee of the World Service Office adopted a list of copyrighted materials to be "made available for public use and reproduction on-line". It included Public Information materials and did not include permission to quote Conference Approved Literature.

November 1995 - CyberSerenity by vote declared CAFG an Al-Anon Group; pursued being listed at WSO; and established an ad-hoc committee to work out a structure for the meeting, considering the "suggestions" provided in the Al-Anon Service Manual and seeking input from other on-line Al-Anon meetings.

Winter 1996

January 1996 - The Board of Trustees for the Al-Anon Family Groups Headquarters, Inc. authorized a three year pilot project to list on-line meetings as electronic meetings and appointed an Ad Hoc Committee "to study the impact of the Internet on Al-Anon".

Spring 1996

Spring 1996 - Courage to Change [C2C] began as an off-shoot of CAFG as a meeting for women, with 15 members and expanded to 40 by the end of the year. The format used, was digests of collected shares forwarded to the members twice a week.

April 1996 - The World Service Conference Delegates received the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Internet and saw shares posted on CAFG.

April 1996 - ESH [Experience, Strength and Hope] began as an off-shoot of CAFG, using mail forwarding.

May 1, 1996 - A Serenity Place [ASP] began as an off-shoot off CAFG.

May 1996 - CAFG selected a Meeting Contact to serve as the CAFG liaison to the World Service Office, and the fellowship of Al-Anon Family Groups in general.

June 18, 1996 - CyberSerenity [CAFG] was listed at WSO.

June 21, 1996 - Tranquility was listed at WSO.

June 21, 1996 - Men's One Day At a Time was listed at WSO.

June 28, 1996 - Undernet Al-Anon Group was listed at WSO.

Summer 1996

July 10, 1996 - Al-Anon Family Online [on AOL] was listed at WSO.

July 18, 1996 - Three Legacies began as an off-shoot of CAFG with the intent to rotate posting shares on a Step, Tradition and Concept with nine participants keeping a personal address book. The meeting expanded some and eventually faded when the founder's circumstances changed.

August 28, 1996 - Al-Anon Chatters AFG was listed at WSO.

September 1996 - THE FORUM published an article entitled "Nothing Sacred" containing the opinion of an online participant, suggesting that the focus be on sharing experience, strength and hope, and that the idea of a group for email sharing is more divisive than inclusive.

September 26, 1996 - Awakenings, focusing on Steps 3 and 11, began as an off-shoot of CAFG and was launched with 22 members who each kept a personal address book and who adopted Guidelines for participating in the meeting.

Fall 1996

October 12, 1996 - WSO launched the Al-Anon/Alateen website.

Spring 1997

April 7, 1997 - Awakenings listed with WSO, moved to a listserve, adopted suggested tasks for Trusted Servants needed to keep the meeting flowing and grew from 58 members to 130 by January 1998. Participants are currently from 26 States, Japan, British Columbia, Germany, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Ontario, and Quebec.

April 17, 1997 - Delegates at the World Service Conference [WSC] received a list of the Al-Anon meetings listed at WSO.

Summer 1997

July 19, 1997 - Key To Harmony began as an off-shoot of A Serenity Place and was launched on a listserve.

Fall 1997

August 27, 1997 - Key To Harmony registered a domain name and published a website which was listed on search engines. It grew from 40 to 290 members in nine months.

September 1997 - The elected Trusted Servants and many members of CyberSerenity moved to a listserve at Best. Others remained and continued as CyberSerenity (UTK).

October 13, 1997 - EFNET Al-Anon was listed at WSO.

October 1997 - Awakenings Group Conscience added to its Guidelines: "Awakenings is listed at the Al-Anon World Service Office along with other OLAs. It is designed as a special focus meeting on Steps 3&11/ Spirituality. Al-Anon service arms wishing to include OLA meetings listed at WSO in publications should contact WSO for the list."

October 1997 - Saturday Night Butterflies was launched on the Recovery site of the Mining Company (now

November 1997 - The Meeting Contacts for CAFG [Best] and Awakenings contacted all other known On-Line Al-Anon Meeting Contacts regarding participation of OLA at the Salt Lake International Convention July 2-5 1998. An OLA-SL committee with participants from 11 OLA meetings was launched to work together to meet the request of WSO Planning Committee for OnLine Al-Anon participation at the International with a hospitality room for computers and a workshop.

December 1997 - Meeting Contacts for meetings listed at WSO received the Tri-Annual Appeal letter for the first time.

Winter 1998

January 1998 - The OLA-SL computer committee launched a model On-Line Al-Anon Information Service [Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee] web page listing meetings listed at WSO.

January 1998 - WSO Group Services designated one person to assist OLA meetings in becoming listed.

January 23, 1998 - A Spanish language on-line meeting began as an off-shoot of CyberSerenity (UTK). Membership currently includes members in USA and 5 Spanish speaking countries.

February 1988 - Awakenings, by Group Conscience vote, added to its Guidelines: Awakenings participates with other Online Al-Anon Program Meeting representatives in joint efforts to serve the fellowship as a whole.

February 5, 1998 - Al-Anon Beginners Chat was listed with WSO.

February 5, 1998 - Key to Harmony was listed with WSO.

February 5, 1998 - Saturday Night Butterflies was listed with WSO.

February 26, 1998 - Heart to Heart Al-Anon Chat was listed with WSO.

February 26, 1998 - Closed Alateen Chat was listed with WSO.

March 11, 1998 - Fifth Tradition Al-Anon Family Group was listed with WSO.

Spring 1998

April 1998 - Meeting Contacts for meetings listed at WSO received the Tri-Annual Appeal letter for the second time.

April 15, 1998 - Member Contacts from CAFG (Best), Awakenings, Saturday Night Butterflies and Key to Harmony affirm suggested Guidelines for an Online Al-Anon Information Service [OLA-IS], which were then sent to WSO.

April 17, 1998 - The Board of the Al-Anon Family Groups Headquarters, Inc., adopted Guidelines for Electronic Meetings and distributed them to Delegates attending the WSC, along with a list of 15 meetings currently listed at WSO.

April 22, 1998 - A Serenity Place [ASP] was listed with WSO.

April 28 1998 - The Group Conscience of the CAFG (Best) meeting voted with substantial unanimity to choose a new name, re-list as a new meeting at WSO and give 1/3 of the group funds it had on moving day, to the CyberSerenity (UTK) meeting which had now also moved to a listserve at Best.

May 1998 - Tranquility members decided to become part of the emerging OLA-IS.

May 1998 - For the first time all Meeting Contacts for OLA meetings listed at WSO received the same mailing that went to registered AFGs.

June 2, 1998 - CyberSerenity II [Spanish] was listed with WSO.

July 2, 1998 - OLA hospitality room at the Al-Anon International opened in the Cottonwood Room at the Marriott. Funds for the rental of computers were donated by participating OLA meetings.

July 4, 1998 - OLA members presented a workshop at the Al-Anon International entitled "Caught In the Web - Al-Anon Online."

Spring 2004

February 2004 - The online Al-Anon meetings that met at the Alcoholism site moved to when decided to close all of its chat rooms.

Spring 2006

April 2006 - The Delegates at the World Service Conference approved the following change to the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual.

MOTION #6 - (88 yes, 6 no, 0 abstentions) - CARRIED

To amend the text of the 2004-2006 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual, Policy Digest section, page 71, Meetings, following Open/Closed Meetings by adding the following section:

    Electronic Meetings

    The Internet and other electronic telecommunication media are tools for carrying and sharing the Al-Anon program of hope and recovery around the world. These electronic meetings occur globally as well as locally without geographic restrictions. Consequently, electronic meetings do not have a Group Representative and are not part of any structure. They do, however, have a Meeting Contact.

    When electronic meetings form, they register with the World Service Office (WSO) in order to use the Al-Anon name. Upon registration, they receive support from and have their voices heard and represented through the WSO. Registered meetings may request a license from the WSO to use in text format the Steps, Traditions, Concepts of Service, Suggested Welcome, Suggested Closing, and excerpts from Conference Approved Literature (CAL).