The need for fellowship meetings is a hotly debated topic within the addiction recovery community. There is little doubt that such meetings can be of value to some people, but it is less sure if they are necessary for everyone. The fact that so many people are able to escape addiction without attending meetings gives support for the idea that they are not always required. It is possible to build a successful sobriety without joining a fellowship, but for some people attendance at meetings may be a better option. It is up to each individual to decide on which path will be most appropriate for them.
The reason why the meeting format has been so popular in the treatment of addiction is that it does provide definite benefits including:
* The individual will be surrounded by other individuals who are on a similar path. There is a great sense of unity and people no longer feel that they are alone in their struggle against addiction.
* Time heals all wounds and people can forget how bad things were. By attending these meetings the members get constant reminders of what life back in addiction would mean.
* When people hit a bad patch in recovery they will have the meetings to turn to for support and advice.
* The new members can learn a great deal from the older member’s experience. This means that they do not need to find everything out for themselves.
* These meetings usually offer a program for recovery. The individual may find that following this program helps them better deal with the challenges in life.
* One people have been sober they will be in a position to help newcomers. This means that continued attendance at the meetings will be a way to give something back.
* If a member is going off track there will be other members who can pick up on this. It is easy for people to take a wrong turn in recovery and not realize it.
* Attendance at recovery meetings offers members an outlet for their stress. Without such an outlet they may be tempted to turn to more maladaptive methods for dealing with stress.
* There is an important social element to these meetings and this may be why people continue to attend even though they have been sober for decades. Recovery meetings might even be fun.
There are aspects to recovery fellowships that some people will find objectionable such as:
* The different fellowships will tend to have their own views on addiction and recovery. There will be pressure (sometimes subtle) from within the group to accept these views.
* The 12 step programs tend to have religious overtones with their talk about God or higher powers. This emphasis on the spiritual can be off putting for those who are non-believers.
* Some would argue that these meetings become a new type of dependency. The individual may even become uncomfortable if they are not able to attend meetings for a period of time.
* The idea of a lifetime of recovery meetings is not going to be an acceptable idea for some individuals. They may not be willing to give sobriety ago if they think this it is the only option – thankfully it isn’t.
* There are many addicts who will have already tried this approach to recovery and not had much success with it. They now desire to try something a bit different.
* Some people struggle in groups but do well on their own.
* If the individual becomes too involved in these groups it can cause further problems for family and friends. For many years these people will have taken a back seat to addiction but now they will be expected to take a back seat to recovery groups.
* It is suggested that long term attendance at these groups reinforces the idea that the person is an addict – albeit a recovering one.
* The individual can become so dependent on these fellowships that they struggle to make decisions without first consulting the group.
* By putting too much faith in a recovery group the individual may be handing over responsibility for their recovery. This means that if they do relapse they will blame the group and not themselves.
* In groups like Alcoholics Anonymous they remind people that it is the steps and not the meeting that keep people sober.
* Some people feel that their problems with addiction are over and therefore there is no need for them to go to meetings to fix a problem they no longer have.
Rational Recovery is sometimes described as the antithesis and irreconcilable arch-rival of Alcoholics Anonymous. In the beginning this group did use meetings as a means to help people learn more about the program while getting some support, but it was later decided that these meetings provided no real benefit. Rational Recovery now holds a much tougher stance on the use of meetings in recovery and views them as ultimately harmful because they reinforce the addict identity. This group believes that so long as the individual continues to attend meetings they will continue to view themselves as having an addiction problem.
If people give up an addiction but do not make any further changes to their life it could mean that they will fail to find real happiness. In order to get the most out of sobriety the individual needs to change their approach to living, and this can be difficult if people refuse any assistance. The dangers of going it alone in recovery include:
* If people go it alone it can sometimes mean that they have to reinvent the wheel. Rather than learning from the mistakes of other people the individual will need to find their own way past every obstacle that comes their way – may will give up and relapse back to their addiction.
* It can be hard to face the challenges of recovery alone. Without the right support the individual can easily feel overwhelmed.
* Some people will have underlying issues that drove their addiction. They may require professional guidance to deal with these issues.
* There are also individuals who have a dual diagnosis – this means that they have a mental health problem, such as depression, alongside their addiction. Failure to deal with the dual diagnosis will mean that it continues to cause problems.
* Other people in recovery can spot when the individual is going off course and they can raise the alarm. Such a warning system will not be available to those who are going it alone.
* When people first become sober they will often lack a support network of friends and family. By going it alone they will be further isolating themselves.
* Loneliness is one of the most common relapse triggers. It can lead to symptoms of depression, and the individual may decide that their own solace is to return to substance abuse.
* If the individual feels on the verge of relapse they might not have anyone to turn to.
There is no doubt that attendance at recovery meetings can be of great benefit to many who are trying to break away from their addictions. It is also obvious that this is an option that is not suitable for everyone. Many individuals do build a successful recovery without the need for meetings. Some of the ways they manage to do this include:
* The individual can enjoy most of the benefits of a recovery group without actually attending meetings. For example they could become a member of an online recovery community and get support that way.
* Stress is a real danger for people in recovery so one of the first things that people want to do is learn relaxation techniques. They will also want to investigate tools for managing and eliminating stressors.
* The internet has been a game changer when it comes to addiction recovery. The individual can now freely access all the information they need.
* Those people who belong to a religious community may find that this offers them all the support they need.
* Committing to therapy sessions in recovery can allow the individual to delve deep into their problems. The therapist can also guide the individual towards building the type of life they have always wanted.
* It can be a big help to have a friend who understands the problems associated with addiction recovery – ideally this will be someone who has already recovered from addiction. The individual will then be able to turn to this friend for support and guidance as required.
* Some people build their own recovery program using practices such as mindfulness meditation.
* One of the biggest challenges for people in recovery is to find better coping strategies for dealing with life. There is plenty of books and online information where they can find out about effective techniques.
* Some people find that daily journaling provides them with an outlet for their frustrations and worries. Instead of sharing these things in a meeting they can just write them down on paper.