Author: William Henken
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What Are Support Groups?
Support groups are a fellowship of people who have something in common, be that a disease, a goal, a life experience, a medical condition, or an addiction. They may meet regularly virtually, in person, or both (hybrid) and often don’t cost anything to attend. One of the most well-known support groups of all time is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a mutual aid fellowship that seeks to help its attendees stop drinking. Those who struggle with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) have many options in addition to AA and should explore their options to learn more about the benefits of support groups and the different varieties available.
Why Attend A Support Group?
There are many possible reasons one might attend a support group. Some potential benefits may include:
- A feeling of camaraderie with like-minded people who have undergone similar experiences in their lives.
- A place to discuss topics that are normally considered taboo or off-limits in the general public.
- A way to hold oneself accountable through regular check-ins with a group one respects and trusts.
- An outlet for unpleasant emotions, such as anxiety, anger, grief, or depression.
- A place where a newcomer can witness that long-term sobriety is attainable.
- A place where someone with long-term sobriety can be reminded of what it was like when they got started “keeping it green.”
- A resource for advice, coping strategies, and information about addiction.
- A means of getting in touch with one’s spirituality.
- A place where people share their experience, strength, and hope.
- A method to improve oneself through goal-setting, introspection, and learning.
What Are Some Support Groups?
There are many different types of people in the world and many different kinds of support groups to choose from. The following list details 7 support groups, providing both online and in person options along with the key characteristics of each group.
- Alcoholics Anonymous. Around since 1935, AA has helped millions of people who have a desire to not drink find fellowship and resources for recovery. AA practices the 12-step philosophy, a doctrine based around admitting powerlessness over one’s addiction, asking for help from a higher power, self-reflection, and making amends. Many AA members consider alcoholism a disease, celebrate sobriety milestones with “chips,” and either work with or serve as sponsors (someone who helps another achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol.)
- Al-Anon. Another 12-step organization, Al-Anon is not as much a support group for alcoholics but is instead a resource for friends and family members of alcoholics. Those who know someone who has a problematic relationship with alcohol may share similar feelings of guilt or anger and may benefit from learning coping strategies or ways to minimize enabling behavior. Al-Anon also offers Alateen, a support group specifically for teenagers who know someone with an alcohol addiction.
- LifeRing. LifeRing, short for LifeRing Secular Recovery, is not a 12-step program but is meant for individuals who have a drug or alcohol addiction. There are no sponsors or appeals to a higher power — instead, members follow a “3-S” philosophy. That philosophy, according to LifeRing, is one of “Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Help.”
- NAMI Connection. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and NAMI Connection is a support group for people with mental health conditions. While not focused on substance abuse, the group may still be helpful to problem drinkers as alcoholism often co-occurs with mental health disorders. According to one user testimonial, “[NAMI Connection] has given me additional tools to not only accept my illness, but to help others along the way.”
- Secular Organizations For Sobriety. Secular Organizations For Sobriety, or SOS, is a network of support groups meant for individuals with an alcohol addiction, drug addiction, or food addiction. The meetings do not follow a 12-step philosophy and thus may be a better fit for nontheists in recovery.
- SMART Recovery™. According to SMART Recovery™, “SMART™ is not just any mutual-support program. Our science-based approach emphasizes self-empowerment and self-reliance.” SMART™, which stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training™, is a non-12-step program that not only offers support for those who use substances but also for their friends and family members. SMART™ offers specialized resources for veterans and first responders, young adults, and treatment professionals.
- r/stopdrinking. This support group is a subreddit, or a small internet community housed within the larger Reddit app and website. It does not offer in-person meetings but instead prides itself on being “a support group in your pocket!” With over 300,000 members and a lengthy backlog of posts for new users to peruse, r/stopdrinking could be a valuable virtual resource for success stories and cautionary tales within the recovery sphere.
How Well Do They Work?
Studies on the efficacy of support groups tend to find that it’s less important which group one has chosen to attend and more important that one attends any group at all. The comfort and camaraderie received from fellowship has been shown to improve outcomes in recovery, with one study finding that “receiving emotional support … improved coping self-efficacy.” Some even consider support groups to be not only effective but crucial to maintaining sobriety, with one research article declaring, “positive engagement with supportive recovery networks is central to an effective and sustainable recovery.”
Get Support Now
There is no shortage of support groups ready to help you on your journey to long-lasting sobriety. If you think you may have a drinking problem, or if you know someone who does, take action to improve the situation. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss available treatment options.
Author: William Henken | Last Edited: August 9, 2022
Medical Reviewer: Dayna Smith-Slade