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Article Summary

A Guide To Support Groups

Drug and alcohol abuse support groups are designed to help individuals recover from addiction. They provide a haven where you can receive the assistance and encouragement you need to quit using drugs and other addictive substances, while also providing the same to other addicts. Many studies have also leveled proof that these groups help addicts and alcoholics navigate through recovery and rebuild their lives.

In most cases, support groups form part of a comprehensive treatment process - including detox and rehabilitation. Similarly, you will start on or continue with one once you leave regular medical care in the context of the aftercare process. By joining one, therefore, you will be able to maintain and enrich your recovery from substance abuse.

At these groups, addicts at every stage of recovery will come together and discuss their unique experiences, sources of hope, and coping strategies. By so doing, the group collectively helps individual members fight addiction and overcome it over time.

Today, even the USDHHS (United Stated Department of Health and Human Services) supports mutual support groups, labeling them as an essential component of the addiction recovery process.

Basing its arguments on proven clinical research, the USDHHS additionally reports that those who actively participate in these groups will significantly increase their chances of getting clean and staying sober.

Last but not least, the support group you attend will provide you with all the assistance and information you need to maintain your emotional wellness and physical health. Read on to learn more about these groups:

Understanding Addiction Support Groups

Defined, a support group is an organization of individuals sharing a common disorder - such as drug addiction, anxiety, or depression. The individuals meet every once in a while to share ideas, discuss their experiences, and support each other emotionally.

In many cases, the support group would be led by a proactive member with some training in providing group support and facilitating discussions. Although formal groups are led by professional therapists (including psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, and social workers), self-help addiction support groups are led by laymen.

However, this does not mean that the latter is not as effective. In fact, both types of groups are effective in the sense that they provide helpful coping mechanism that will complement the formal medical treatment you received at rehab.

Otherwise referred to as self-help groups, mutual aid groups, and mutual help groups, support groups are defined by the NIAAA as an organization of more than two individuals who share a problem or an experience and who join to provide support and problem-specific help to each other.

In such associations, you will receive the help you need to deal with such problems as drug and alcohol addiction, grief, loss, survival from disaster, as well as mental disorders, among many others.

More specifically, an addiction support group will be focused on alcohol and substance abuse - as well as on other types of behavioral addictions. In this group, you will learn how to handle the different issues typically associated with addiction recovery.

Types Of Addiction Support Groups

There are several types of addiction support groups focused on the different kinds of compulsive behavior typical of drug, alcohol, and substance abuse. Since addiction is more than alcohol and drugs, you should be able to find different associations focusing on a variety of subjects.

For instance, one of the groups you attend might be focused on your addiction to narcotics while another might work on helping alcoholics. It is because of this reason that there are so many different kinds of support groups in existence across the country.

In most of the treatment programs, you will undertake while battling your addiction, your participation in a group is likely to start from the beginning. At the early stages of your recovery, you might also start meeting with the other substance abusers who are recovering either at an inpatient rehabilitation facility or an outpatient treatment center.

Once you get discharged from the treatment program, you might also continue attending support groups as part of your new life of recovery, such as by attending the different meetings they host within your community.

Due to their success rate, addiction support groups attract many former addicts - most of whom will continue participating in such a group throughout their lives to continue their growth in recovery as well as prevent the opportunities for a relapse.

Alternatively, you might end up attending secular and spiritually-based programs in your community - which will also help you get clean and start reaching up to your full potential in various spheres of life.

Most of the support groups you will come across provide both open and closed meetings. Consider the following:

i) Closed Meetings

A closed meeting is only accessible to those with a genuine desire to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs.

ii) Open Meetings

The general public, family members, and friends can attend open meetings.

As you might already have observed, support groups will provide the lifeline that your friends, children, spouse, and partners. By so doing, the group effectively helps you deal with your chemical dependency, while also providing those who are close to you with the mechanisms they need to cope with your addiction and recovery.

Consider the following types of popular support groups:

1. 12-Step Programs

Otherwise referred to as twelve-step groups, these programs include CMA (Crystal Meth Anonymous), (CDA) Chemically Dependent Anonymous (CDA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), and Narcotics Anonymous.

Most of these support groups are based on the series of steps (12) prescribed by the twelve steps to empower you and advance your spiritual and emotional development. Further, these 12 steps were founded through the involvement of certain core elements. The USDHHS defines these elements to include:

  • The encouragement of addicts so that they can assume the responsibility for their full recovery
  • The reliance of participants on support from any higher power that they choose to believe in
  • The attendance of patients at group meeting where they get the opportunity to share their personal experiences to encourage others and give them hope and strength
  • The encouragement of members to work through the 12 steps with sponsors who have already completed each of the 12 steps
  • The provision of service to the local community by the recovering addicts while at the same time helping any newcomers in search of treatment
  • The discouragement of asking for participation fees, and the commitment to remain non-profitable to perpetuity

There are twelve-step addiction support groups all over the world. Although membership is provided free of charge, you might be encouraged to make small donations (of between $1 and $2) at every meeting. These charges are designed to offset the snacks, coffee, and room rental.

2. SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a 4-point program that you can apply to a wide variety of addictions, including but not limited to gambling, alcoholism, and drug addiction. At the face to face meeting, you will learn more about the addiction and how to counter it before it takes root in your system. Today, there are even online support groups, as well as message groups for those more interested in taking the internet approach to recovery.

At a SMART Recovery meeting, you will learn that most types of chemical dependence are learned behavior/habits that you can easily modify through the following basic cognitive tools:

  1. Learning how to build personal motivation, and maintain it
  2. Coping with your urges to start seeking or using the substance you are trying to quit from
  3. Managing your behavior, feelings, thoughts, and just about anything else that likely to contribute to your chemical dependence
  4. Learning how to kick start and lead a more balanced, fulfilled life

To this end, SMART Recovery will provide a self-empowerment support program which is likely to teach you how to deal with your substance and alcohol abuse, dependence, tolerance, and addiction.

3. Save Our Selves/Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS)

Commonly abbreviated as SOS, Save Our Selves provides secularized alternatives for alcoholics and addicts. As such, it will help you whenever you are looking for a way to separate your recovery from a religious or spiritual source.

In many SOS groups, the principles will often be based on the generally-accepted belief that addiction is your responsibility. This eventually means that you will have to shift your priorities from addiction to full sobriety. The other top priorities you are likely to adopt once you join such a support group include:

  • Choosing rational, nondestructive approaches to creating and leading a sober and healthy lifestyle
  • Communicating knowledge, experiences, and feelings honestly and clearly
  • Keeping the content of all meetings private
  • Protecting members, and maintaining their anonymity
  • Remaining open minded about different theories about the varied nature of drug, alcohol, and chemical dependence

In many instances, SOS meetings are designed for autonomy. This means that the groups hardly ever follow any standardized format. Similarly, you can find meetings in several countries and all states in the US. As a member, you won't have to pay anything because SOS support groups are not-for-profits sponsored by the CSH (Council for Secular Humanism).

In general, the following is a list of most of the support groups available for recovering drug and alcohol addicts:

i) Alcohol
  • Women for Sobriety
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
ii) Drugs
  • Pills Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Dual Recovery Anonymous
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
iii) Behavioral Support Groups
  • Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • Overeaters Anonymous
  • Online Gamers Anonymous
  • Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous
  • Food Addicts Anonymous
  • Debtors Anonymous

Some of the groups listed above are quite distinct in their approach and membership. For instance, WFS (Women for Sobriety) is a group that only allows female members to join and engage in discussing the unique struggles they undergo with alcoholism. AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), on the other hand, accepts both male and female members.

Apart from the above, certain support groups exist to allow individual members to discuss different types of addictions. In SMART Recovery, for example, you will be able to discuss all types of addictions with other addicts suffering from different forms of chemical and behavioral addiction.

Over and above everything else, since there are so many different varieties of support groups, it is highly likely that you will be able to find the right group for your particular needs.

How Support Groups Work

The nature of support groups is varied. However, the basic format is that a small group of individuals (10 or thereabouts) will meet every once in a while to discuss their personal experiences as well as provide each other with mutual support to overcome their addictions.

Similarly, you might find that addiction support groups often work on certain principles which are highly likely to remain unaltered through the years. As part of the group, you will contribute to renting the venue.

According to the NIAAA, most of these groups work without professional involvement. As a direct result, no member will conduct professional treatment or therapy of any kind. Instead, sponsors run the meetings - where a sponsor has a history of drug, substance, or alcohol abuse but isn't necessarily licensed as a counselor.

Members attend the meetings as frequently as they prefer without judgment or penalties. However, attendance is highly recommended especially immediately after you join because that is the only way you might be able to enjoy the full effect of the program.

Conclusion

In most cases, you are not likely to require insurance approval or consent from a clinician to attend these types of groups. Since the program is not based on any benefits, attendance is usually free for anyone. This makes support groups different from professional addiction treatments (such as detox and rehab), in the sense that the latter are usually costly.

As a member of such a group, you will be encouraged to enjoy the support of the other members, while also providing them with support using your own experiences and understanding of the ravages of addiction and the vitality of treatment and recovery. This means that you are likely to get unique opportunities to bond over your current recovery and mutual history of drug and substance abuse.

Last but not least, you are more likely to enjoy lasting recovery if you forge friendships with other members and support each other beyond the group setting. It is for this reason that you might be encouraged to pick a personal sponsor - preferably someone who has been engaging with the program for far longer and who can come to your aid in times of trouble.

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