THOUSANDS of people across the region are suffering because of alcohol – not because of their own drinking, but because of the problem drinking of a family member, partner, or friend.

In these times of economic hardship and after the difficult years of Covid many fear that the problems have become more widespread with more people now looking for help and support.

It is estimated that for every problem drinker at least five other people will be adversely affected.

Across the area, from east Hampshire to south Dorset, there are groups, mainly meeting weekly which can offer support and understanding.

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Al-Anon Family Groups work anonymously and, incredibly, without support or sponsorship, helping those who have been affected by someone else’s drinking.

“For many of us just knowing you are not alone and are able to share your experience and to listen to others is a tremendous comfort,” said a spokesperson for the group, who started attending meetings himself after problem drinking by a close family member.

“This is not a rehab’ programme, it’s not a ‘cure’ for a loved one, but it can be a comfort and offer the tools to help you, as an individual, and to support the alcoholic in your life,” he said

For those attending there is no need to share experiences unless you want to and there is no fee, or charge, although many do make a voluntary contribution towards the cost of teas and coffees and meeting room hire.

“People come from all walks of life, all ages, all background – alcoholism does not discriminate who it affects,” said the spokesperson.

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Meetings are on first name terms, nobody has to give their family name or sign up, and most sessions last somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. Often there will be a theme to a meeting.

One piece of advice is that, if you attend a group and don’t like it, try another if you are able to, as each group, although working on common themes has its own ‘vibe’, and try to keep going for at least six meetings.

For those who do not want to travel, or are unable to, some groups also offer online sessions or hybrid sessions, a trend which started during Covid, which many found useful, and has continued.

The groups are confidential, non-religious, non-political, non-discriminating and non-professional, working on a self-help group ethos.

Across Dorset and Hampshire meetings are held in Bridport, Dorchester, Weymouth and Portland, the Bournemouth, Poole, Shaftesbury, Ringwood, Milford-on-Sea, Basingstoke, Southampton, Ryde, Hedge End, Winchester, Shanklin, Southsea and Havant. Dorchester, Winchester, Bridport and Basingstoke also offer an online ‘meeting’.

For young people aged 12 to 17 there is a parallel organisation, Alateen.

Details about the groups and Al-Anon can be found by calling the Al-Anon helpline on 0800 0086 811, by emailing or visit the website

You can also write to Al-Anon Family Groups at 57B Great Suffolk Street, London, SE10BB.