Addiction is a complex and progressive disease that even with treatment requires consistent monitoring. Someone who has struggled with addiction and has gained traction in their lives will still need support once their lives return to normal.
Addiction is something that you will live with for the rest of your life, but like any disease, as long as you give it the respect it deserves and maintain your well being, you can live a full healthy life outside of active addiction. Addiction can lead to a lonely lifestyle with cycles of complicated interactions and emotions. Substance use and dependence, in most cases, leads to isolation that usually results in mood and health changes.
When someone returns from treatment for a substance abuse issue, they are not cured. Addiction and triggers must be managed daily. Recovery isn’t about reaching the destination after a long journey, but rather achieving a milestone in the process. Think of it as graduating from college, knowing that you must get a job afterward. When someone returns from treatment, you can expect things to be different, and that’s because they are.
Recovery is sometimes a confusing, vulnerable, and awkward time for the person who goes through it. To effectively further someone in their journey of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, health, home, purpose, and community are all factors that can best support recovery.
There are people at all stages of recovery trying to find their way, but those who have made more progress in their journey often want to share what they’ve learned to inspire and educate others on the same path. In each city and town across the world, there are people whose primary objective is to ensure you succeed in your recovery.
Support groups are a tremendous asset to anyone that wants to make real changes in their lives. Support groups can be made up of people who see the same therapy team, who share 12-step goals, or people wanting to achieve the same milestones. Support groups offer words of encouragement, help, and accountability. The purpose is to make you feel like you’re never alone in your recovery.
Historically, these support groups have been a critical component of many existing addiction treatments and recovery approaches. Varying approaches that include a mixture of services such as support groups, individual counseling, and case management have emerged as a highly effective and empowering method to manage the social context of substance abuse.
When people leave rehab, various emotions run through their minds. For some, this is the first time they haven’t been numb by drugs in years. While 90 days in treatment was enough to understand and start living with these, it takes much more time to learn how to cope with these newly founded feelings.
What is a Support Group?
A substance abuse support group is made up of people who share similar experiences and perspectives. All members usually have common mutual goals on the path of sobriety after time spent trapped in a substance use disorder. Typically, support groups come in one of two forms with the first type as a group therapy session put together by a psychotherapist.
The groups tend to be held under the premise of a definite treatment plan in mind. For these sessions, all of those in attendance are at similar stages in their recovery plan.
The other support groups are peer-led. These are held in a more casual and informal setting. The first type of group that may come to mind is a 12-step support group, and this is where members will share their individual stories for the benefit of other attendees. It is inspiring to hear others’ stories about struggle and overcoming them and relating them to your own life. These are groups where attendance is voluntary, but those who attend can feel like they are part of a family. Twelve-step support groups are great places to visit to create a new network of friends and begin living your new life without drugs or alcohol.
Why are Support Groups Important?
Isolation is a symptom of addiction that contributes to the cycle of addiction. You feel sorry for yourself because you are lonely, but you are lonely because you isolate yourself when you are using drugs. Support groups are important because they let each person in attendance know they are important and do not have to be disconnected from other people. There is also a network of advice, assistance, and skill-building activities all geared toward making your life as simple as possible while healing.
As a group of different people with different backgrounds usually yields, there are different perspectives and approaches to sobriety that can help shape your outlook. The exchange of information often opens new doors for different coping strategies. It is comforting to know that someone has been through the same process and may have insights into the various stages and elements recovery brings.
One of the most important aspects of support groups is that they are known for accountability. Someone who has completed treatment will always be in danger of relapse. Unfortunately, that is just the nature of addiction, and having a support group that can keep you on track for sobriety and abstinence is often an overlooked asset. It is much more meaningful when accountability is assisted by those who are aware of the dangers of relapse.
No one can better understand the risks and temptations that are faced, but they can use their voice of experience to motivate without using shame or guilt.
Possible Risks of Support Groups
While support groups may sound like the best solution for a recovering former user, some drawbacks could dilute the experience for some. Effective groups generally depend on the facilitator to help steer away from these problems. Some problems can include:
- Disruptive group members
- Conversations dominated by griping
- Lack of confidentiality
- Inappropriate or unsound medical advice
- Emotional entanglement
- Interpersonal conflicts
- Competitive comparisons whose condition or experience is worse
While these are fewer and farther in between, they do exist. You should not give up, however, if you attend a bad support group. There are many options in several towns throughout the country, and one bad apple should not spoil the tree since support groups are vital in continued sobriety.
To move forward with confidence in your sobriety, surrounding yourself with the right people is the first step you can take to do so. To find a good support group, the treatment facility you attended should be able to give you the right information. Top notch treatment centers offer alumni programs that help further your sobriety.
If you or a loved one is ready to take the next step in your recovery and start a healthy sober lifestyle, it’s time to turn your dreams into a reality.