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The Purpose Of Support Groups
Rehab is the best place to start your path of overcoming an addiction. Attending rehab will give you all the tools necessary to remain sober and heal. Each loving staff member cares for their patients individually in order to help them discover the underlying causes of their addiction and find their own reasons for moving on from their past. It is recommended anyone suffering from addiction attend rehab to heal; however, just because they have graduated from their rehab program doesn’t mean temptation will end in the real world. There is still temptation surrounding each person. That is where support groups come into play.
Support groups are groups of people who come together on a regular basis, usually at meetings or gatherings, to provide each other with support over a shared experience or trauma. Support groups are designed for those who need extra help after rehab to stick to their goals and maintain their sobriety with the help of people who are in the same position as they are. These meetings are supplemental to their treatment and are very successful when attended frequently. Support groups are available to provide individuals with a new lifestyle, new supportive peers, accountability, support, and structure. Attending meetings regularly is the best way to achieve success in the first year of recovery.
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12-Step Groups: What Are They?
Groups like the popular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA) are joined by people in all stages of life that have similar experiences.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the original 12-Step Group and is the model all other 12-Step Groups are based on. AA is the world’s largest substance abuse support group. The group is free to attend and is always looking for new people to join and support other members.
Individuals in AA meet with others in recovery to bond and participate in supportive group meetings. Each week, a new group format, such as discussion groups, literature groups, and speaker meetings, is available to members to gain new insight and hear the message of experience, strength, and hope. One person opens and closes the meeting as well as guides the direction of the conversation. You are not required to talk, open up, or even stay. Volunteering to come, leave, and share is entirely up to you.
Participants are encouraged to attend meetings daily and obtain a sponsor, who is someone who has a minimum of one year in recovery and has completed the 12-steps. A sponsor takes a newcomer through the 12-steps, which are a set of spiritual principles that assist individuals in their recovery as they work to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol and other drugs.
AA uses a spiritual approach that includes a belief in a higher power. Members define that higher power based on their own understanding—it does not have to be God. The steps are a way of life, and once you reach step 12, you continue to live all of the steps to your best ability in your daily life, while helping others on their journey of recovery.
Al-Anon was developed to address the needs of family members of alcoholics, as alcoholism is a family disease. This includes enabling, co-dependency and other issues. Al-Anon is for family members and friends who have been affected by someone else’s drinking problem. As a safe place for those who have and are still witnessing their loved one’s struggle, it provides help and encouragement to get through the tough process of being on the sidelines of the problem. It further helps family members who struggle with codependency, anger, or enabling loved ones with addiction by helping them learn to set healthy boundaries.
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Just like Al-Anon, Alateen is a place for those who are affected by someone else’s drinking problems, except this one is just for teens. Being a kid and making your way into your teenage years is an extremely stressful time in anyone’s life. Dealing with an alcoholic parent or family member can make a young child feel lost, with no one to turn to. This program allows that child to make friends with those who are facing the same situations. It provides the tools needed to grow stronger and gaining wisdom they can use as they get older. Alateen also offers supportive coping skills, stress management techniques, education on the disease of addiction, prevention of alcohol and drug abuse, and a safe place to gain support for any family member(s) who may be abusing alcohol or other drugs in the home.
Narcotics Anonymous is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous because they are both spiritual programs that promote sobriety from alcohol and drugs while working a 12-step program. Both programs are similar because the further emphasize the following:
- Spiritual growth and personal development
- Eliminating addiction-based thinking and behavior
- Processing and working through difficult emotions
- Learning healthy ways to cope with emotions and daily life stressors
- Honesty, openness and willingness
While Alcoholics Anonymous is for recovering alcoholics, Narcotics Anonymous is for anyone looking to achieve sobriety from drug addiction. There is only one requirement: the desire to stop using drugs. Each member is there for support, to support others, accountability, structure, and to make friends. Meetings are held daily or weekly and are free.
Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program for Christians who are in recovery from any mood-altering substance or behavioral addiction, that also share the same religious beliefs. They started in churches and are now growing into other venues such as recovery houses, rescue missions, universities, and even prisons. Celebrate Recovery aims to spread its faith and good nature to any Christian looking for a helping hand from God. Similar to the other 12-Step groups in its makeup, it aims to heal each member from their past with unconditional love and support.
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SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training and promotes independence from any addictive behavior. SMART Recovery groups encourage each member to talk to each other and help support their goals in achieving sobriety. It differs from 12-Step programs in a number of ways, including how communication flows and in the lack of 12-steps. It is not based on a spiritual foundation, but rather a more evidential and proven way to maintain freedom from substance abuse. It is not sponsored but obtains funding from donations and grants.
Women For Sobriety
Women for Sobriety or WFS, is a group dedicated to supporting women who are struggling with a substance abuse addiction. Although it is a widely known organization, it accepts donations to fund its program and goal of meeting each women’s needs. Their program consists of 13 acceptance statements that help women identify their underlying problems in order to find themselves once again. The program, which comes with a booklet, is recommended to practice every day in order to bring positivity and renewal in each woman’s life.
Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, And Significant Others (JACS)
JACS is a program for Jewish people struggling with addiction and their families. Rather than separating the two in segregated groups, JACS ensures those suffering from addiction can grow and heal with their family members by going through the process together. JACS provides additional services with their support groups along with support. It also provides addiction counseling and education about the disease of addiction for members of the Jewish community.
How Effective Are Support Groups?
Support groups and their efficacy have been studied extensively, and the results speak for themselves. According to one review of the literature regarding support groups and how well they work, “The results show that there is a consistent pattern of evidence, over a long period of time, which confirms the effectiveness of mental health support groups for carers and people living with mental illness.” There are many reasons why support groups are necessary to individuals in recovery; human beings have a fundamental need to belong and to fulfill a role within a group, and support groups can help scratch that itch. Furthermore, individuals in support groups may gain coping skills they would not have been able to learn anywhere else, and perhaps there is no one more qualified to impart these coping skills than like-minded individuals who are facing the same challenges as oneself. The individual that at first benefits from the expertise and advice of older group members may come to fill this role themselves in due time; playing both the role of the mentor and that of the mentee can be rewarding and challenging.
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Support groups are always encouraged for graduates of rehab centers for continuing support in achieving sobriety for the long term. However, any addict should start in a rehab center, so they can get the medical help they need (such as proper detox) to start their pathway into this new era of their lives. Going to support groups can help, but it is always recommended to get clean first professionally at a rehab center before attempting to achieve sobriety on your own. Looking for a rehab center to start your path to freedom? Contact an addiction provider today.
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