Self-help support groups are, for many people, the backbone of recovery. The classic 12-Step group, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), is the oldest and best known of the self-help groups, but there are many different types of 12-Step groups, and still more self-help groups that use a different model. Self-help support groups are not group psychotherapy, but they can be a core component of any recovery and/or relapse prevention program. At Journey, we introduce clients to 12-Step principles but we also recognize that there are many effective paths to recovery and support our clients in finding theirs.
Addiction is a disease that for many people involves secrecy, deception, guilt and shame. Self-help support groups help remove the secrecy and ease the guilt and shame, as participants speak openly about their struggles. Many participants talk about the powerful relief of being able to say out loud, “I am an alcoholic,” for example, as everyone in the room has experienced the overwhelming emotions involved in reaching this understanding.
Self-help groups hold group gatherings in which participants talk about what’s happening in their lives, with regard to the problem or issue that the group is addressing (e.g., drinking in AA or eating in an Overeaters Anonymous group). Some meetings are much more structured than others depending upon the group; in some areas, AA groups will offer specific beginner’s meetings, women’s meetings, men’s meetings, 12-Step meetings, Big Book meetings, and so on—and some self-help groups don’t use the 12-Step model and organize their meetings differently. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
Benefits of Support Groups
Some people may think, “How can people who were just as messed up as I was help me?” It’s normal to have doubts and concerns about trusting others to be partners in your healing, but that’s the beauty of self-help: precisely because everyone in the room has been there, they can offer a unique type of help and support based on an intimate understanding of your situation. Some specific benefits of self-help groups are:
- Becoming engaged in a caring community can be a positive force for healing.
- Having role models who have successfully managed the same challenges you face can provide hope that you can grow and change too.
- Recovery is full of “first times” and tough spots, in which you’ll need to figure out what to do to avoid a relapse, or reduce the risk of a relapse. Sometimes the strength of a self-help group is the concrete knowledge and real world advice, tips and techniques that are shared. Having the knowledge and wisdom of people who have been there can be a huge asset.
- Having a responsibility and commitment to others in your group, whether it is a concrete responsibility such as making the coffee or unlocking the door, or an emotional responsibility to be there for others, can help you focus on others instead of yourself. Helping others by sharing your story can be a healing force in recovery. Feeling helpful and needed can be profoundly moving, especially if that touches deep feelings of unworthiness. Feeling unlovable, sometimes due to actions taken while using drugs or alcohol, and sometimes due to events prior to using drugs or drinking, is common in people suffering from addictions. Discovering that others need you and respect you can make a big difference in moving forward. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
Self-help support groups exist nearly everywhere people gather. They are free, confidential and widely available; sometimes they’re even offered right in a drug rehab center. Each group has its own personality—if the first group you visit isn’t the right fit, try again. Sometimes it takes a little sampling to find your home group, but don’t give up. A great support group can be the cornerstone of a happy and healthy sober lifestyle.