Benefits of Attending Support Groups

Benefits of Attending Support Groups

Recovery from alcohol abuse is a challenging journey. Accessing support through addiction recovery communities can be a lifeline for many going through this process.

Throughout your battle with alcohol, you may well have lost connection with people and activities from your life before addiction. The strain on relationships is often too exhausting for either side to manage. Joining a support group can give you the guidance and company you need to stay rooted in recovery, reducing isolation and loneliness at the same time. There are many benefits of taking part in meetings and events with others on a similar journey as yours. Those at the beginning can take hope and advice from those further ahead, and those who are further down the line can provide positive inspiration for newcomers.

There are a number of support groups in the UK if you are looking for advice about alcohol addiction. If you or somebody you know is struggling with alcohol use, there are communities out there that can help. Whether you are looking for face-to-face meetings, or you are more interested in virtual sessions, we look at some options below.

How Can Group Therapy Help?

Group therapy can provide a lifeline for individuals living with substance abuse. This therapy helps people communicate their thoughts and emotions, connect with others in similar situations, and begin to learn about their addiction in a safe and supportive environment. Support groups cover a wide range of activities and topics to help individuals work through their behaviour and manage any co-existing mental illness. Working through these issues as part of a wider community can increase success as it provides members with greater perspective, support, and inspiration.

The setting of addiction recovery communities can give individuals a better understanding of their own personal problems. Listening to the stories and experiences of others can often highlight their own struggles in a crucial way to encourage change. Recovery from an addiction can be incredibly isolating, but support groups provide an opportunity to connect and find joy with others. Addiction recovery communities provide an opportunity for those present to work on their communication skills, build connections with other members through shared experiences, and receive supportive, honest feedback from peers.


What Can I Expect?

Every support group is unique and discussions will depend entirely on the group members. However, there are some common topics and activities used by a number of communities to help guide conversations in helpful directions. These topics can be challenging, but they are essential for sustained recovery.

What are some common addiction recovery topics?

  • Common relapse triggers
  • The importance of self-care
  • Recognising relapse signals
  • Looking after your mental health
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • The power of gratitude
  • The power of forgiveness

What are people in recovery working on?

  • Stress management
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Anger management
  • Noticing and tackling negative thought patterns
  • Avoiding isolation
  • Forming healthy relationships
  • Creating and holding boundaries

When Should I Take Part in Support Groups?

When to join an alcohol addiction support group is completely up to the individual. Some people may find inspiration and confidence to seek medical help after joining a support group during their addiction. For others, going through detox is the initial stage and joining a community comes later.

Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) may draw individuals who are in the process of accepting they have a problem. AA operates on a single requirement for membership, and that is a shared goal to stop drinking. There is a responsibility for members to inspire others to quit alcohol use.

Other groups such as Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery), may be more suited to individuals further down the line who are ready to address their underlying mental health and psychological factors which led to addiction.

When to join a support group is an entirely personal decision, and looking at the values, goals, and requirements of each group can help you decide what is right for you. There is a support group for everyone, and for every step of the journey. Seeking advice and community from people who truly understand you is a highly beneficial decision.

Finding Support Through Others

There are a number of ways to access support groups. Your GP or therapist will be able to advise you of local support groups and guide you in the right direction for your situation. You can also search on the internet for groups, both online and face-to-face communities. The online NHS directory also has an extensive list of groups.

It is generally advised to use mutual support groups in combination with a professional therapy programme. Maintaining attendance at group sessions, as well as individual therapy, is proven to increase the chances of sustained recovery.


What Groups Are Out There?

As mentioned, there are a number of communities to join depending on your situation. Here we look at some of the options available.

Fellowship Groups

One of the most widely recognised approaches to recovery from alcohol addiction is fellowship groups. This is typically modelled on the 12-step group approach, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). There are other fellowship groups available that use an alternative model but AA is the most commonly known. AA is not everyone’s first choice for recovery, but for some people, it can be life-changing. Through fellowship groups, you can find a true sense of community, with people who have been through similar experiences to yourself.

Alcoholics Anonymous was the first of this type of group to gain acceptance from the general public and it is still going strong today. The group organises and meets around weekly or bi-weekly meetings. This gives a reliable sense of community and support throughout the more challenging days of recovery.

These meetings are self-run, meaning there are no paid employees or therapists, rather everyone attending is there for the same reason: a desire to stop drinking.
Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, with strong spiritual principles which are still in place today. Some of those include the following:

  • Admitting being powerless to alcohol, and that life in the grips of addiction is unmanageable.
  • Deciding to turn one’s will and life over to the care of God.
  • Admitting to God, to oneself, and to other human beings the exact nature of one’s wrongs.
  • Making a list of all people who have been harmed during addiction, and become willing to make amends to them all.

Alcoholics Anonymous works on the basis that the welfare of the entire group is the top priority. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. The ultimate shared goal of the group is to spread its message to alcoholics who are still in the throes of alcoholism.
AA groups run in most major cities as well as in some rural areas. AA also operates online which offers flexibility for those who cannot, or do not want, to attend in person.
Alcoholics Anonymous is free to join, but donations are accepted in order to support the running of the groups.

SMART Recovery

SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. This approach to addiction recovery is about self-empowerment and building strength to move towards healthier life choices. Addiction can make you feel powerless and empty, often causing a perpetual cycle of abuse. SMART Recovery focuses on overcoming addiction through education, skills-building, and increased self-esteem. This method is rooted in the most up-to-date addiction and recovery research, and has been practised for over twenty-five years.

In a similar way to AA, SMART participants will include individuals who have successfully come through their addiction using the programme. This is a brilliant inspiration for those at the start of their journey. SMART Recovery sessions are run by experienced facilitators and take a formulaic structure. Although there is some variation between meetings, they are typically run weekly and last for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Sessions tend to work on addictive behaviour more generally, rather than the specific substance itself. There is a focus on the present and future, setting personal goals which encourage healthy behaviour. Unlike some other support groups, SMART does not focus on the past. Newcomers are encouraged to come along even if they are not ready to participate. It is common to find individuals observing and listening for the first few weeks until they feel ready to contribute with their personal experiences.

SMART fuses cutting-edge addiction science with compassionate experience to create a comprehensive recovery programme for individuals ready to tackle their substance abuse. Meetings are held both online and in person, with participants involved in creating their own recovery plan. It is thought that this close involvement creates a more purposeful recovery journey. SMART Recovery does not only focus on the individual who experiences the addiction, but they also provide resources for those around them. This is an extremely valuable and well-received output from the organisation.

Support for Families

Support groups do not only work with individuals living with alcohol addiction. There are many communities supporting and advocating for the wellbeing of family members of addicted individuals. One such group is Families Anonymous (FA). This is a community that exists to support the needs and hopes of family members who live with an addicted loved one.

FA is not a religious-based community, though it has spiritual values. It is open to anyone regardless of their faith system. Families Anonymous is an inclusive space that is not affiliated with any specific religion or political party. Sharing experiences and advice to others who have a loved one in a similar situation can be extremely helpful for what is otherwise an often isolating experience.

Through this community, it is possible to find the confidence and strength to manage the effects of your loved one’s drinking. Meetings take place in person and online. Virtual meetings are increasingly popular due to the flexibility and accessibility of them. Similar to other support groups, Families Anonymous is run by volunteers and is funded by voluntary contributions given at meetings. There is no prescribed meeting fee.

One of the fundamental pillars of this group is in the name, anonymity. All community members must agree to and abide by this value. All members should feel confident and safe in what they share, and what is said in meetings must not be repeated outside of the space.
During these meetings, there is no onus on anybody to contribute, it is possible to observe and listen to those who feel comfortable sharing.

Support for Children Affected by Alcoholism

Support groups such as the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) exist to support the needs of children who are growing up in households where one or both parents or caregivers are living with a substance addiction. Recent research found that 1 in 5 children are living in homes affected by their parent’s alcohol abuse.

There are four main goals of NACOA, and these include:

  • Offering information, advice, and support to the children of alcohol-addicted parents
  • To build support networks for these children with the professionals who work with them
  • To raise awareness of their situation
  • To increase research into the problems faced by this group and prevent alcoholism from developing in this vulnerable group

If you, or someone you know, is living with alcohol addiction, seek help as soon as possible. Alcoholism is a serious disease and professional help is always advised. Support groups can provide an excellent sense of support and inspiration, but medical advice is often necessary as well. Don’t suffer in silence; reach out today.

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    Jason Shiers
    Author / Jason Shiers / Dip.Psych MBACP
    Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist who is a specialist in addiction, trauma and eating disorders. He has been working in the field of addiction for 25 years now.

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