If you’re thinking about joining a self-help recovery, you may be responding to a suggestion from your therapist. Or you may be bravely taking this step on your own accord.
Whatever your circumstance, you should first know that you’re doing the right thing. Reams of studies show that individuals who attend peer support meetings have higher rates of recovery and abstinence than people in recovery who don’t. Some studies even indicate that you’re more likely to remain abstinent than someone who is receiving medication only or undergoing outpatient treatment only.
Now that you’re ready to join a self-help recovery group, how do you find the right one for you? Following are some thoughts to consider.
Spiritual-based vs. Secular Groups
You may be aware that 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) include spiritual principles based on the existence of God. However, use of the term “God” is not a requirement for joining AA or any other 12-step program. In fact, in its publication called The “God” Word, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services states that many of its members are atheist or agnostic. If God is not a term you’re comfortable with, you can try substituting it with the term “higher power.”
If relating to a higher power isn’t your thing, you can also find recovery support groups based on secular principles.
- SMART Recovery bases its program on cognitive-behavioral approaches to treating addiction. Meetings are geared to help members maintain their motivation, develop coping skills. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for self-empowered addiction recovery is also an important aspect.
- LifeRing Secular Recovery encourages members to develop their own personal path to recovery with the support of positive social reinforcement. The organization provides a workbook with tools to help you build your personal recovery plan.
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) has members focus on sobriety as their number one priority in life. Employing the precepts of personal responsibility and self-reliance is key.
Joining a peer recovery group where you have something in common with others can feel comfortable and welcoming. Whatever your demographic or interest, you’re sure to find a group where you feel you fit in, such as:
- Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
- Narcotics Anonymous meetings
- Cocaine Anonymous
- Crystal Meth Anonymous
- Marijuana Anonymous
You can also find recovery groups dedicated exclusively to women, men, youth, seniors, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and even specific professions, such as doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, and professional athletes.
In-Person vs Online Groups
Whether to join an online group or in-person group is another point to consider. Attending face-to-face meetings offers undisputed advantages. It’s easier to get to know people in person, to read emotions and body language, and your peers can better interpret how you’re feeling, too.
But if attending an in-person group isn’t feasible, an online recovery group also can provide you a source of connection, support, and personal development. With an online group, you can easily expand your social circle, and if you don’t like one group, you can try another.
Online groups can vary a lot in format and quality, so here are some things to look for when choosing a group to join:
- Does the format of the group work for you? Some groups offer “synchronous” or live meetings at scheduled times to encourage consistent participation. Others are “asynchronous,” meaning you can post and receive communications at any time of your choosing.
- Does the group have a facilitator; if so, what are their qualifications? Facilitators with addiction and mental health expertise will be able to offer sound guidance and education.
- Are there established ground rules for participants to ensure respectful communications?
- Are there regular topics discussed to provide some structure and ongoing interest, or are people just left to share what they want?
The Bottom Line
Whether you join an online or in-person group, you should be able to notice some personal benefits from your participation over time. These gains may include:
- Feeling supported by others also focused on a healthy life in recovery
- Staying motivated to continue your recovery
- Improving your skills to cope with life challenges
- Learning more about addiction and treatment options
- Noticing improvements in depression and anxiety
The path to lasting recovery isn’t easy. But having the ongoing support of others who understand your challenges can make all the difference in the world. If you’re ready to take the first step towards your recovery, consider talking to a treatment specialist at (888) 401-1241 and know your options.