Addiction often leads to a lonely lifestyle with cycles of difficult interactions and emotions. Substance abuse and dependence often leads to isolation, and resulting mood and health changes often stretch addicted individuals to the brink of their coping skills. Life with a looming presences of addiction is not usually a pleasant one.
However, the road back from the abyss does not have to be bleak at all. There are people who want to help and support each other through recovery in every city and town in the world. Support groups can be a huge asset to anyone who wants a better life.
Support groups can be made up of people who see the same therapy team, who share 12-Step goals, or who want to reach similar milestones. Support groups offer a ready system of encouragement, help, and accountability. Whatever the addiction and whatever the condition, support groups play a fundamental role in recovery for you or your loved one.
What Makes a Support Group?
Most substance-use support groups consist of people who share similar experiences and perspectives. Members of groups may have a common goal or are mutually on the path of rehabilitation after a substance abuse problem.
Most support groups come in one of 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 usually at similar points in their recovery plans. Groups that are put together by a counselor may also be known as group counseling or group psychotherapy.
Other support groups are peer-led. These groups are usually held 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.
Why Do Support Groups Matter?
Isolation is a problem that only contributes to addictive and harmful substances. Support groups are important because they let each participant know that they do not have to be disconnected from other people. They also offer a network of advice, assistance, and skill-building activities.
Members of support groups will not be judged for their choices or actions, because the other people in the support group have committed to non-judgment and may have similar life experiences. New group members can look to other participants who have been able to make successful changes. The experience of others can aid in future goals.
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 brings a vital and much-needed dimension to anyone’s successful rehabilitation.
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 each other on track for sobriety and abstinence is an incredibly important asset. This is made all the more meaningful when the accountability is assisted by people who already know the dangers of relapse. They understand the risks and temptations their peers face, but they can also use their respective voices of experience to impress the importance of staying clean, and do so without using shame or guilt.
Groups offer encouragement, a powerful force that motivates us all to do better in life. Someone new who joins the group might be inspired and similarly motivated to stay healthy if they hear the stories of others– not just the successful parts, but also the difficult parts – and how those difficulties led to improvements. The knowledge of this might encourage a person to remain stronger in recovery, knowing that someone in the support group is depending on them as well.
Open and Honest Participation
Both types of support groups are beneficial. Groups led by licensed therapists can offer greater structure and direction, along with targeted healing for mental health concerns or recovery plans. Peer support groups may offer more convenient scheduling, and a possibility to continue group support for years at a time. In any setting, groups that consist of people who have been through similar experienceshelp others feel encouraged to share stories and perspectives.
Support groups work. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that an average of five million people attend a self-help support group each year in the U.S., and of that number, almost 50 percent abstained from using drugs or alcohol in the 30 days before their interview.1
Support groups are for people of all ages and backgrounds. A report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that people as young as 12 years old attend support groups to help heal from substance abuse problems.2
“Every support group is comprised of many different types of people, each with unique insights, life experiences and stories to share,” writes Anna at HeroesInRecovery.com. “Some may be early in their recovery, while others are well into their journey. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you can learn from and grow with your support group by listening to their stories, advice and experiences – and by sharing your own.”
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
- People who want to gain coping skills and reach goals
- Providing LGBTQ populations 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 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 often host support groups or offer relevant resources
- Your city or county may have a local organization specifically for your addiction or diagnosis
- Other people who have been through similar experiences may offer resources
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 people in recovery 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.
1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Self-Help Groups and Recovery. Jan 2009.
2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Nov 2008.