Youve completed an addiction treatment program for alcohol or drug abuse. That alone is not an easy feat. As you probably heard from your addiction counselors, however, your work isnt over. Ongoing support is crucial if you want to stay clean. More than likely, youve been told to start going to the meetings of a formal support group for alcohol or drug abuse.
Addiction Treatment: What Support Groups Provide
These self-help groups, also called mutual support groups, offer their members support on a wide variety of issues. Some are designed to help the substance abuser; others exist to provide support for family members, close friends, or anyone else affected by alcohol or drug abuse. Unlike therapy groups that are run by medical professionals in formal programs at addiction treatment centers, support groups are run by their members. Research shows that participating in these groups increases the odds that the addict will avoid a relapse.
The main focus of these groups is to help members get and stay sober. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is probably the best known. AA members use meetings as a place to talk about their feelings, the events in their lives, and how they are doing in their efforts to avoid alcohol. They follow a specific 12-step program to help them develop a fulfilling life without the need for alcohol. We benefit from the power of example in the meetings, says Jack, a recovering alcoholic. By going to meetings when I first started treatment, I found people who had been in the exact same place I was in.
Addiction Treatment: A Wealth of Choices
Support groups are designed to provide members with a safe and accepting environment outside of a formal treatment facility. There are many types of support groups to choose from beyond AA. You can join a group that focuses on your particular addiction, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Cocaine Anonymous (CA); there are groups for people trying to quit everything from methamphetamines to inhalants, including those who are wrestling with dual disorders, when two substances are being abused.
There are also groups just for women, like Women for Sobriety (WFS), and many that focus on cognitive healing with a secular, or non-religious, approach rather than a spiritual one, including Secular Organization for Sobriety/Save Ourselves (SOS) and SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training). You can find contact information on these groups and dozens more at http://dasis3.samhsa.gov/.
Another expansive list of choices, including culture-specific groups, can be found on the Web site for Recovery Month 2009.
Help can be as close as your phone, too. Addiction help lines, like the one run by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatments National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service (CSAT), can be good sources of support in times when physical meetings arent available to you. The CSAT line is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). (This is also a good number to call if you want to reach drug abuse hotlines or addiction counseling services in your area.)
All of these resources can also provide information on support groups for family and friends of addicts, such as Al-Anon and Alateen (if the substance is alcohol) and Nar-Anon (if the substance is a drug or narcotic). At their meetings, loved ones can share stories and talk about issues affecting them, such as codependency or physical abuse.
Addiction Treatment: Finding Online Support
If you are in a geographically remote area, cant physically get to a meeting, or prefer to remain even more anonymous, an Internet or a phone support group might be right for you. This can include:
- Online message boards. These provide a way for members to share comments in individual posts. Think of it as posting a message on a regular bulletin board. You get to say whatever you want, and people can then reply to your post to offer support or leave thoughts on the topic. One limitation is the lack of back-and-forth communication in real time.
- An online chat group. These groups let you have an online conversation with other people in the group. You type in what you want to say and others can respond to it right away. Joining these types of groups is easy: You just register for the Web site offering the chats and select the group thats right for you.
- Phone support group. Members participating in phone support groups dial in to a telephone number reserved for their conversation. The result is somewhat like a large conference call; everyone is on the line at the same time and can talk and listen to one another. You dont need a special kind of phone to participate.
The forum you choose for support is entirely up to you. What is certain is the role that social support can play not just in your recovery, but also in helping you to avoid a relapse.
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