Guide to Support Groups

support groupSupport groups are a vital component to recovery for addicts. They come in many formats in today’s world, including but not limited to:

  • 12-Step programs, such as AA and NA
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
  • Al-Anon
  • SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training)
  • Internet-based support groups

12 Steps to Sobriety

The 12-Step program has long been held as being synonymous with Alcoholics Anonymous. While AA uses this program and promotes it as one of the best, many other networks have applied it to their treatment regimens as well.

The traditional steps are as follows:

  • Admitting the addiction has made your life unmanageable and you cannot control it
  • Belief that a higher power can restore your health and recovery
  • Turning your life over to that higher power
  • Deciding what your morals are and what needs improving
  • Confessing your wrongdoings
  • Allowing the higher power the control over removing these flaws from your character
  • Praying to the higher power to help you make the required changes
  • Making a list of those you’ve wronged and being willing to repair those issues
  • Making amends with those people
  • Staying vigilant and when you make new mistakes, correcting them
  • Developing a closer relationship with the higher power and praying for knowledge of your purpose
  • Promoting this belief to others and experiencing a sort of spiritual awakening throughout the process

The Salon reports a variable 5 to 10 percent success rate for AA. Offshoot programs, like Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, follow the same format.

Most rehab facilities have 12-Step meetings available to those in treatment, too. That being said, many offer options to tweak the 12-Step format so it fits in more with the addict’s individual views. One of the biggest sources of dissatisfaction with the 12-Step plan for some is that it is heavily rooted in Christian beliefs. As such, some facilities will work around this and change ideas like “develop a closer relationship with the higher power/God” to “develop a closer relationship with yourself/your inner strength.” Changes like this can make the program work for everyone.

AA carries the biggest following nationwide of any sobriety organization. The Scientific America reported more than two million members belonging to over 115,000 AA chapters worldwide as of 2011. Narcotics Anonymous has made similar strides in the world of drug addiction, as have various of the subspecialties of NA, such as Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA), and Marijuana Anonymous (MA). These organizations have created support systems for addicts just like AA did for alcoholics.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is akin to AA but without the religious aspect. The 12-Step program isn’t the focus. Rather, members of SOS take responsibility for their own choices and addictive behaviors. They do not believe God is liable for changing them or capable of doing so. Some SOS members are agnostic or believers of other faiths, while others are Christian but have little confidence in the 12-Step program or don’t believe their addiction can be cured through faith alone.

Nicknamed Save Our Selves, group members believe it is their job — and only their job — to turn their lives around. An American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse study states that 70 percent of SOS members identified with no religion, 70 percent claimed to be agnostic or atheist and 22 percent described themselves as being spiritual but not affiliated with a church.

SOS is open to all kinds of substance abusers and addicts, and it centers on promoting sobriety as a way of life. The organization offers in-person and online meetings to accommodate a wide variety of people who are struggling to overcome their dependency. Like many other treatment approaches in the support group department, SOS stemmed from the need for options that differ from the traditional AA roadmap.

SOS members admit they are addicts. They live their daily lives from a place of knowing that drug and alcohol use of any kind is not okay for them. Feeling depressed and having a tough time occasionally are just normal parts of life, and they are not reasons to drink or use drugs.

SMART Recovery
Finding Support Online
Are They Really Necessary?

Al-Anon was created in 1951 as a support group for those who love an alcoholic. The premise of the group is not to teach family members and friends of a problem drinker how to get help for the addict in their life, but rather to teach them how to help themselves regardless of whether the addict ever gets help. Al-Anon strives to educate those affected by alcoholism in how to cope with the issues that stem from it.

As of 2012, 17 million adult Americans were abusing or dependent on alcohol, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports. Each of these people has family members and loved ones who endure the hardship of watching their loved one struggle. Al-Anon wants those people to know they aren’t alone.

Most members of this support group have an average of three alcoholics in their life, while 45 percent have at least four, Al-Anon reports. The group has branched off and created Alateen to assist in supporting younger people affected by alcoholism, such as those with an alcohol-abusing parent. Having an alcoholic parent makes you two to four times more likely to become an alcoholic yourself, SAMHSA states. The support offered by Alateen can help to protect teens from traveling down the same path toward addiction.

The SMART Recovery platform uses rational emotive behavioral therapy to change the way addicts view their addiction. Though it boasts fewer than 1,000 meetings, per the Huffington Post, SMART Recovery methods are gaining traction in the self-help department. The module of therapy is quite similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has produced impressive rates of efficacy itself.

SMART Recovery is reliant on treatment options that have scientific evidence supporting them as beneficial, rather than word of mouth or long-touted but outdated methods of treatment with poor rates of efficacy. The SMART Recovery program doesn’t refer to addiction as such or someone who is dependent as an addict, and the participant is only engaged in the program as long as he feels he needs help. A lifelong membership isn’t a requirement.

There is no strict set of rules or beliefs you must abide by with SMART Recovery; it allows for flexibility. If you think alcoholism or drug dependence is a disease, you’re welcome here; if you think they are choices, you’re still welcome here. Medication is also accepted within the SMART Recovery model. Success rates for the program overall range from 35 to 50 percent, per The Fix.

Online support groups are readily available in today’s fast-paced, tech-driven world. One of the biggest benefits of an online support group is the availability to connect with someone around the clock. Many of the above listed organizations have implemented formal chat rooms, message boards, and similar support systems for people to log onto any time of day, share their troubles, and seek encouragement.

Nearly every treatment facility in the country recommends their clientele participate in support group meetings during treatment and encourages this behavior afterward. Support groups can be the driving force that keeps you on the right track once you re-enter your daily life, without the controlled environment that treatment provided.

The longer you are sober, the more likely it is that you’ll stay that way. Psychology Today notes the risk of relapse is just 15 percent after an addict remains abstinent for at least five years.

Many support groups utilize sponsors to help new members. A sponsor is your primary source of support in hard times. She is the person who is going to answer the phone when you call in the wee hours of the morning, when you’re unable to sleep and thinking you want to use. If you are headed toward relapse or she thinks you are prone to it, she is going to encourage you to seek further treatment and attend more meetings. Your sponsor will be there cheering you on when you graduate to each milestone throughout your recovery journey. She will introduce you to others like yourself so you can build a social network that is amendable to your needs.

To be a sponsor, you must remain sober for many years and understand the support group system of your choosing quite well. If sponsorship is something you desire or feel would bring you joy, think of it as a milestone or a goal you want to reach. This can help you to stay on track with your recovery.

Support groups don’t just address drinking or using drug. They encourage a friendly atmosphere where you can speak openly about family troubles, regrets, past traumas and other events that may have been precursors to substance abuse. These groups don’t just serve addicts, but those with comorbid disorders, too. You’ll meet others who are struggling with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression and anxiety disorders. According to the Healthy Place, around 53 percent of all drug addicts and 37 percent of alcoholics have at least one serious mental health disorder.

The Full Scope of Treatment

successful goal planningTreatment isn’t just about medicated therapy and detox programs. A huge part of the rehabilitation experience involves establishing healthy habits to replace the not-so-positive bad habits you had before treatment. Many treatment centers will urge addicts to take advantage of the education they’re given in rehab regarding how to eat right and exercise. Others will touch on fantastic coping skills, such as meditation and mindfulness. Support groups are just another addition to this practice.

Support groups serve as a beneficial supplement to a thorough treatment program that already includes other therapy modules. Most in recovery report positive experiences with support groups, and many go on to continue using them after treatment.

In addition, they are the perfect place to meet new friends and form lifelong relationships that will carry you through the ups and downs of recovery. If you’re looking for a rehab experience that will supply you with encouragement, a soft place to land, and a hand to hold, we can help. Call us at The Oaks at La Paloma now and find out what it’s like to be supported.