Support Groups in Recovery

The Need for Support in Addiction Recovery

Walking away from an addiction can be difficult without the right type of support. There are individuals who have escaped addiction with minimal help from others, but most people who try to go it alone fail. There is debate about the necessity of long-term support for people in recovery from addiction, but there is little doubt that it can help in the short term. This type of assistance can come from therapists or addiction counselors. It can also come from fellowships like AA. By availing of such help the individual is increasing their chances of success in recovery so it is advisable to make use of it. The advantage of support groups is that they are usually free and open to all.

The Benefits of Support Groups

Attendance at a support group can be beneficial in a number of ways including:

* Attendance at such a group can increase self-efficacy; this is the belief that people have in their ability to achieve something. The higher the self-efficacy the more likely the individual is of reaching their goal. One way of increasing this inner belief is by observing peers accomplish goals; this creates the idea that if they can do it then so can I. If the individual belongs to a support group they will see other people make a success of recovery, and this will increase their self-efficacy to do the same.
* Facing a challenge alone can be daunting. Giving up an addiction and building a new life in recovery involves effort. People will find this challenge easier to face if they know that they are not alone.
* The move from rehab back to the community can be a treacherous time. The individual is faced with familiar temptations and can no longer depend on the same level of support that they enjoyed in the protected environment of the rehab. Many people become so overwhelmed during this transition that they relapse. Attendance at a support group can make the transition back to normal living go smoother.
* A common trigger for relapse is boredom. The addict will devote much of their day to using or obtaining drugs or alcohol. This means that when they get sober they will have free time on their hands. If they become bored they may decide that life in recovery is not satisfying. Attendance at a support group means having something to do; this is particularly important during early recovery.
* Escaping addiction usually means saying goodbye to a social network. It is just too dangerous for the individual to continue spending time with their friends who are still abusing substances. This means that people can feel lonely and they may start to miss their old acquaintances. Attending a support group gives the individual the opportunity to build a new social network of people who share similar goals.
* Most support groups will have some members who are more experienced in recovery These old-timers can be a wealth of knowledge because they will have overcome all the common obstacles to sobriety. Newcomers can benefit greatly from the advice of people who have managed to achieve long-term sobriety. Such people can also be truly inspirational.
* 12 Step support groups offer a program for building a successful life in recovery.
* Attendance at one of these groups provides the opportunity to do service. It has been found that helping others is a great way for the individual to strengthen their own recovery.

The Importance of Social Support

Humans rely on social support in order to deal successfully with life. The life of a hermit may sometimes sound attractive, but very few individuals can survive long without companionship. Social support is necessary because it provides a number of important functions including:

* People in the individual’s support network can offer physical assistance. This could include things like helping them to accomplish a task or lending them money.
* Even when the people can’t offer help directly they can still provide emotional support. Just knowing that somebody else understands the problem and sympathizes can be a great help.
* Members of the support group are able to offer information and advice.
* Another important benefit of social support is that it provides feedback on the individual’s behavior. If people make unwise choices this can be pointed out to them by members of their social support network.

People who give up their addiction will tend to have very little social support in the beginning. They can rectify this situation by attending a recovery support group.

Types of Support Groups

There are a number of different types of recovery support group for the individual to choose from including:

* Twelve Step groups tend to get the most media attention, and they can be a good choice for people in recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous was the first group of this kind, but there are now programs that are aimed at almost every kind of addiction. The aims of the 12 Step program is to not only help the individual stay away from addiction, but also to allow them to build a good life in recovery.
* Smart Recovery is an alternative option for people who are put off by the spiritual aspects of the AA program. Smart Recovery prides itself on using the latest scientific research to empower the member to stay free of addiction. One of the main drawbacks of this group is that there are far fewer meetings to choose from than what is available with AA.
* Rehab recovery groups are connected to some treatment facilities. They provide continued support after the individual has left the in-patient program. People will tend to stop attending these groups once they feel secure in their sobriety.
* There are now numerous online recovery groups . A good example of this is the We Quit Drinking forum. Members share experiences and advice and support each other via the web.

Lifelong Attendance at a Support Group

One thing that puts many people off of attending 12 Step groups is the expectation of lifelong attendance. This program views addition as an incurable condition. The individual is only ever in remission and they are at risk of relapsing at any time – even if they have been sober for decades. Lifelong attendance at meetings is recommended because it keeps the individual committed to recovery.

This belief in the necessity of lifelong attendance at a support group is not universally accepted. In fact the evidence refutes it. There are plenty of people with long term sobriety who have never even attended one support group meeting. There are also lots of individuals who did regular attend these meetings for years yet still relapsed.

Long-term members of 12 step groups do claim that regular attendance benefits them. It is also a way for them to show their gratitude to the program, because their presence can be a great benefit to the newcomer. Lifelong attendance might not always be necessary, but it can be highly beneficial.

Advice for Choosing a Support Group

Finding the most appropriate support group may take a bit of effort. Those individuals who live in big cities will tend to have more options than people in small towns or rural areas. Here are a few ideas for how to choose a support group:

* Twelve step groups have much autonomy and this means that there can be variation in how they operate. Although the organization itself is non-denominational, there are groups where there is an emphasis on particular religious ideas. There are also 12 Step meetings that are aimed at specific groups such as young people, homosexuals, women, or newcomers. It may be necessary for the individual to visit a few different groups until they find somewhere they feel comfortable.
* Some of these meetings are open to the public. If people are concerned about protecting their anonymity they might want to avoid the open meetings.
* Atheists and other non-believers can feel put off by the spiritual focus of the 12 step groups. Some atheists do manage to find a place in these groups, but others will choose one of the secular options such as Smart Recovery.
* It is a good idea to research the rules and regulations of these groups before attending. If the meeting is based around some type of recovery program then it is a good idea to investigate this too.

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