The lifestyle of addiction can be a lonely one. As a user spirals deeper and deeper, they find themselves increasingly isolated and paranoid, cutting off all connections except to those with people who can still provide them with their drugs of choice. Even family members, who once provided stability and a home, now find themselves shut out.
However, the road back from the abyss does not have to be so bleak.
Support groups, whether consisting of former addicts, friends and family members, or a combination of all circles, assure the patient that they will have a system of encouragement, help and accountability. Whatever the addiction and whatever the condition, support groups play a fundamental role in recovery for your loved one.
Defining Support Groups
Most support groups consist of people who share similar experiences and perspectives. They have a common disorder or are mutually on the path of rehabilitation after a substance abuse problem.
Support groups come in two forms. The first type is a group therapy session put together by a psychotherapist. These groups tend to be conducted with a definite treatment plan in mind, and all attendees of the group are at similar points on their recovery plans. While these group therapy sessions are technically support groups, they aren’t what most think of when they hear the term. On the other hand, most support groups are usually in a more casual and informal setting, where members (on varying places of the recovery spectrum) share their individual stories for the benefit of other attendees. Attendance is voluntary, as is leadership.
Communication and Understanding
The effectiveness of support groups to provide communication and understanding to recovering patients is why there are more than 500,000 such groups across the United States.
Why Do Support Groups Matter?
Support groups are important because they let the patient know that he or she does not have to be disconnected from other people, a problem which may have led to their use of addictive and harmful substances in the first place. They will not be judged for their choices or actions, because the other people in the support group have made the same mistakes as them. Since those other people have been able to kick their habits and turn their lives around, support groups serve as a source of positive influence on someone who is starting treatment. It reminds them that for all their past behavior, they are never alone, and it is never too late to change.
The exchange of information in support groups may also open new doors for coping strategies. Simply knowing that someone else has been through the same process, and may have insights into the many different stages and elements of recovery, is why support groups bring a vital and much-needed dimension to a patient’s successful rehabilitation. This is also done in complete confidence, so your friend or family member will have a safe and supportive network in place.
Support groups are also important for accountability. Even someone who has successfully completed a rehabilitation program will always be in danger of relapse. Having people who can keep the patient on track for sobriety and abstinence is an incredibly important component. This is made all the more meaningful when the accountability is monitored and enforced by people who know the dangers of relapse. They understand the risks and temptations the patient faces, but they can also use their respective voices of experience to impress the importance of staying clean, always doing so without using shame or guilt. Additionally, they may also provide your loved one with their contact information, so when he or she is inevitably tempted to start using again, a sympathetic ear – or a stern one – is only a phone call away.
Also, fostering an environment of encouragement can make the patient more willing to improve himself or herself. Someone new joining the group might be inspired and similarly motivated to clean up and stay clean if they hear your loved one’s story – not just the successful parts, but also the difficult parts – and how those difficulties led to them being clean. The knowledge of this might encourage a patient to remain strong in their recovery, knowing that someone in the support group is depending on them as well.
Open and Honest Participation
If a support group is convened and led by a non-professional – that is, the group is not part of an overall treatment program put together by a psychologist or a treatment facility – this may encourage more open and honest participation by the attendees.
They may feel more encouraged to share stories and perspectives if the room is filled by other people who have walked in their shoes, as opposed to if the group is moderated by mental health experts who has studied the addiction but never fully experienced it for themselves.
Finally, support groups work. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that five million people attended a self-help support group in a single calendar year, and of that number, almost 50 percent abstained from using drugs or alcohol in the previous 30 days. Furthermore, the people who attended those support groups aren’t just reformed criminals, gang members and bikers; a report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that people as young as 12 years old attend support groups because of their substance abuse problems.
What Problems Can Support Groups Address?
Almost any condition, disorder, health issue or other ailments can be addressed, and its effects mitigated, by a support group. Across the entire country, people are getting together to talk about and offer solidarity for:
- Mutually coping with grief and bereavement
- Providing gays and lesbians with a safe place to talk about their sexual identity and orientation
- People freshly out of substance abuse rehabilitation programs
- People looking to curb bad or destructive habits, like problem gambling or shopping addiction
- People dealing with stress, anxiety or depression
Any problem, concern or issue you may be going through is also being suffered through by someone else. You are not alone.
How Do I Find a Support Group?
There are a number of ways you can find support groups if you are, or someone you love is, going through recovery:
- Your treatment facility and doctor may know of a support network
- Churches and other places of worship sometimes host, or even arrange, support groups
- Libraries and community centers either host support groups or offer relevant resources
- Your city or county may have a local organization specifically for your addiction or disorder
- Talking to other people who have been through similar experiences
These days, there are a number of online resources that can help you find the right support group for you, or your friend or family member. Many of these websites, blogs, bulletin boards or social networks are frequently used by former addicts who share their stories in the hope that other people who need help will feel emboldened to get in touch and start attending group sessions.
Call Us Today
Finding the way back from the depths of addiction can seem daunting and intimidating for you or your loved one, but it doesn’t need to be. Not only are there other people who have firsthand knowledge of what that feels like, but these people are also willing to share their lessons. Here at Black Bear Lodge, we know that recovery is a process, not simply an event. Contact us today to learn more about how support groups can augment your recovery process.