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Ultimate Guide To Support Groups For Substance Abuse

NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that relapse rate for alcoholism and drug addiction are at 40 to 60%. As such, it is vital that addicts receive aftercare services through support groups for substance abuse over and beyond treatment and rehabilitation. These services are essential because they effective reduce the rates of relapse, or at least lessen the duration and severity of such relapse should it occur.

Relapse refers to when a former addict starts drinking alcohol, using drugs, and abusing substances after they have been sober for a given time period - often after they have participated in detox or a treatment/rehabilitation program.

To this end, addicts should stay in the treatment program long enough to understand how substance abuse works and learn how to manage their cravings for the drug/alcohol of choice. This duration will also serve to show them how to properly understand and take on any potential triggers that might tempt them in their everyday life.

In the same way, addiction treatment is designed to help patients learn healthy and new ways of handling the ups and downs of life, as well as how to deal with stress and regulate their emotions.

These new ways of acting or thinking and behavioral adaptations do take some time before they form into stable and predictable habits. It is for this habit formation that support groups for substance abuse exist.

That said, most of the effective aftercare support services you may receive after rehab include but are not limited to:

All these common aspects of addiction aftercare are essential. However, in this guide, we will focus on support groups for substance abuse, what it is, how it works, why you need it, and more.

Understanding Support Groups

Support groups for substance abuse are a beneficial and essential component of aftercare, particularly because they insure long term recovery and sobriety. In the same way, they are designed to provide individuals battling addiction with a strong, reliable, and dependable network of people going through the same issues, striving for similar ultimate goals, and trying to maintain and sustain their abstinence.

Most of the support groups you will come across are based on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)-pioneered 12-step program. While AA is designed to help individuals who have issues with alcohol, this peer-support group system now has several offshoots for people dealing with other types of substance use disorder.

For instance, NA (Narcotics Anonymous) is designed to help those struggling with addiction to psychoactive substances, opioid drugs (such as heroin), and prescription painkillers.

CA (Cocaine Anonymous), on the other hand, is a support group that might help you if you are suffering from cocaine addiction and abuse issues, while MA (Marijuana Anonymous) is better suited individuals who wish to stop abusing or being addicted to marijuana.

The Alcoholics Anonymous model is spiritual in nature. Other groups that exist but have less religious undertones include SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety) and SMART Recovery (Self Management for Addiction Recovery).

That said, all support groups are different in one way or the other. To this end, you might want to find one that will feel right for you. Regardless of the kind of support group you chose, however, you can be sure that support groups for substance abuse might prove to be useful and helpful in sustaining your recovery and sobriety in the long term.

According to NIDA, there are 13 steps in the substance abuse treatment protocol that you need to undergo before you can aspire to long term sobriety. Among these steps, and keeping in mind that addiction is a psychological condition, treatment should be available even though no single form of treatment will work for everybody.

Similarly, NIDA recommends that you remain in treatment for a minimum of 90 days, a period of time that might prove essential to your full time recovery. Other than that, you may want to undergo medically-supervised detoxification and rehabilitation during this time before you proceed to taking advantage of the support provided through the different groups for recovering substance abusers and addicts.

More particularly, these groups will act as free albeit dependable sources of encouragement that will offer you emotional support, new friends who are also battling the same issues, and an avenue where you can share your experiences and listen to those of others.

During the group meetings, you will also come across addicts at every stage of recovery. Those present will get opportunities to discuss their experiences, personal sources of hope, and coping strategies.

Today, the USDHHS (the United States Department of Health and Human Services) promotes these support groups, citing that they are essential to the addiction and substance abuse recovery process.

This Department also bases its findings on clinical research to report that active participation in such a group may significantly reduce your chances of relapse while encouraging you to stay clean.

Overall, support groups for substance abuse exist to provide you with the assistance you need to receive the encouragement and education that may contribute to you maintaining your emotional wellbeing and physical health.

The Importance Of Support Groups

The Substance Use and Misuse journal published research showing that self-help groups play a crucial role in helping addicts and those suffering from a variety of substance use disorders maintain sobriety in the long term. This research found that:

In general, support group meetings follow the same format. This means that members will share their story, what it was like, how they came to the program, as well as their experiences since they joined the group.

As mentioned above, support groups for substance abuse are helpful in maintaining sobriety and as safe environments where recovering addicts can discuss their challenges and get the support they need.

More particularly, you will get the chance to connect with other individuals who know - first hand - what it is that you are going through. This may help to reduce your feelings of hopelessness, fear, and isolation - feelings that are common with most people battling a variety of substance use disorders and trying to overcome addiction.

In the same way, it is much easier to stay positive and remain motivate on your journey to recovery when you have other people around you - people you can lean on and turn to when you go through tough times.

The group members, from all religions and races, get the opportunity to admit that they have a problem, that this problem sometimes gets out of control, and that they need support and help overcoming it.

Not surprisingly, attending the meetings is free of charge and you won't have to worry about membership requirements because none exists - apart from your desire to recovery.

Some groups, however, the meetings are open in the sense that anyone can attend or closed meaning that attendance is limited to individuals who wish to stop using drugs, drinking, or engaging in the addictive behavior that the group focuses on.

That said, research has clearly and consistently demonstrated that active involvement in support groups for substance abuse may significantly improve your chances of long term sobriety and recovery. Since these groups exist in virtually every community, village, city, and town across the United States, it should not be difficult for you to benefit from what they have to offer.

Types Of Support Groups

In most addiction and substance abuse treatment programs, you will find that participation in group therapy tends to start at the very beginning. During the early stages, therefore, you will be able to meet together with other recovering addicts at an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation facility or treatment center.

After you get discharged from the rehab program, you may be advised to continue making the support groups an essential part of your life by finding and attending meetings in your community.

It is for this reason that most former addicts continue participating in one or several support groups throughout their lives. This way, they are able to continue growing in recovery as well as avoiding relapse.

Today, also, both secular and spiritually based programs are available. Therefore, it should not be too hard for you to find a group that will help you reach your full potential, get and stay clean, and fight off any temptations to use drugs or drink alcohol.

The support groups for substance abuse may also provide a lifeline for the friends, children, spouses, partners, and other loved ones of individuals who are chemically dependent. This is because such dependence tends to have devastating effects on the relationships and lives of those close to an addict. As such, attending the self-help group may provide coping skills, understanding, and strength after you have been harmed by the actions and words of an addict.

In general, the following are some of the most common types of support groups for substance abuse:

1. 12-Step Programs

12-step groups such as CMA (Crystal Meth Anonymous), CDA (Chemically Dependent Anonymous), CA (Cocaine Anonymous), and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) are all based on a specific series of twelve steps.

These 12 steps may help you advance in your spiritual and emotional development even as you continue battling your addiction and substance use disorder. All the groups are also founded on the initial principles that led to the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Even though AA has evolved since its founding days, most of its core principles and elements are still the same. The USDHHS reports that these elements go as follows:

There are 12-step support groups for substance abuse all through the globe. As mentioned above, membership is free but you may make small donations at each meeting (about $1 or $2) to cover the cost of refreshments and room rental.

2. SMART Recovery

The 4-point program eschewed by the SMART Recovery support groups is applied to a vast range of addictions and substance use disorders, including but not limited to alcoholism and drug addiction. Today, there are face-to-face meetings based on this model taking place everywhere across the globe, as well as online message boards and support groups.

At its most basic, however, the SMART Recovery model views addiction and chemical dependence as learned behavior that you can modify through 4 cognitive points or tools, namely:

This program provides a self-empowering recovery module that will teach you how to deal with addiction to any given substance. Attendance at the meetings is also free of charge, and there are tons of free tools and courses that you can download over the internet to aid in your recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

3. Save Our Selves or Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS)

As it is commonly abbreviated, SOS is designed to provide secular alternatives to the religious support groups for substance abuse. To this end, these groups work well for alcoholics and drug addicts who wish to separate their sobriety and recovery from any religious or spiritual source.

That said, the principles that guide SOS are based on the inherent belief that addiction relief is your sole responsibility and that the number one priority as a recovering addict should be sobriety.

However, the Secular Organization for Sobriety also has a number of other top priorities. These include, but are not limited to:

In the same way, these meetings are autonomous in the sense that they never follow any standardized format. The meetings are also available in several countries and in every state, and attendance is free because the Council for Secular Humanism sponsors this non-profit group.

4. Others

The other types of common support groups for substance abuse include, but are not limited to:

Choosing A Support Group

It might be challenging for you to find and choose the right self-help support groups for substance abuse. During the early stages of recovery, for instance, you may be resistant to the ideal of attending one of these groups.

Alternatively, you may be reluctant to share your experiences and feelings in the open forums provided by these kinds of groups. On the other hand, you may be concerned about maintaining your anonymity.

For many alcoholics and addicts, therefore, finding a program that fits in with your personal ideology might be the biggest hurdle to the aftercare process that is provided through these support groups.

If you face any of these difficulties, you may want to the following advice:

a) Community Meetings

Start by asking yourself if there are any meetings in your community. In most cases, you will learn that there are several 12-step meetings in most communities in the United States as well as throughout the globe. However, some of the lesser known groups might not be quite as available.

Therefore, you may want to ask your doctor or addiction treatment counselor for a recommendation of the best support groups in your community or where you live. They might even point you towards organizations that will help to transport you to the group meetings, in case you need such assistance.

b) Meeting Formats and Frequency

You might also be interested in finding out if the meetings are held in different formats and if they occur frequently enough to enable you maintain your long-term recovery and sobriety.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, accessibility is among the key principles of the effective treatment of addiction and substance use disorders. Therefore, if you are not able to find a face to face meeting when you are in need, you may want to have the option of attending an online support group or talking to representatives of the program you usually attend over the phone.

c) Group Principles

In the same way, you need to find out whether the principles that the group holds dear are a reflection of your personal beliefs. In most cases, support groups for substance abuse hold different beliefs on the reasons behind addiction as well as on the most effective recovery methods.

12-step groups, for instance, are founded on the belief that addiction and substance use disorders are progressive conditions of the spirit and body, and that recovery needs to be as spiritual as it is physical.

Secular groups, for instance SMART Recovery, believe that addiction is learned behavior that you can change by modifying your behavior, habits, feelings, and thoughts outside the religious context.

d) Members' Anonymity

Where possible, look for a program that is famous for protecting the anonymity and attendance of its members. As a recovering alcohol or drug addict, anonymity might be a big concern for you.

In the same way, people with a variety of chemical dependencies come from every walk of life. Most of them also have public identities, families, and jobs that they wish to protect.

To this end, it is essential that you remember that anonymity is among the underlying principles of such groups as SOS and all 12-step programs. Therefore, you might feel safer attending one of these.

e) Attendance Costs

Before you join one, find out if you will be required to pay any membership fees. Luckily, you will find that membership in most of the major non-profit support groups for substance abuse is free of charge. Although you might be requested to make a small donation towards covering any refreshments or room rental charges, most of the programs do not have any dues or fees.

Addiction Support In Rural Communities

In most major cities and urban areas, meetings through support groups for substance abuse are available late at night and throughout the day. Trains, subways, and buses provide transportation to those who do not or cannot drive. However, if you live in a remote rural area and you do not have a car, it might be difficult for you to know what to do when and if you need help with your addiction and substance use disorder.

SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services) published a report on rural addiction and substance abuse. The report profiled a particularly innovative program located in Iowa that provides ongoing and aftercare support to recovering addicts and drug users in their homes.

If you live in an isolated area, the following are some suggestions you might want to consider:

Role Of Support Groups In Long-Term Recovery

Otherwise referred to as mutual support groups and self-help groups, support groups for substance abuse work on the concept of peers discussing ideas, issues, and common experiences as well as offering self-care tips and emotional validation.

These groups run on guidance from leaders who are not professional therapists or doctors. Even though recovery from addiction may require that you work with therapists and physicians, when you get to spend time with others who understand your everyday struggles, you may have higher chances of further recovering and maintaining your sobriety after rehabilitation.

To this end, support groups for substance abuse are designed to help anyone who is already recovering from their addiction - as well as providing guidance and assistance to the friends and family of those dealing with substance abuse issues.

At first, however, you may confuse these groups and what they stand for with group therapy. Although both will provide opportunities for important discussions among people undergoing similar issues - such as overcoming addiction - group therapy is different in the sense that it is guided by trained counselors or therapists.

On the other hand, support groups are led by peers (who may or may not have training on how to lead a group) who are - more importantly - individuals who have already undergone the addiction recovery process.

In the same way, support groups tend to be small. They are also comprised of people who meet regularly - usually once or twice every week - to discuss any issues that arose during that duration as well as review any new thoughts on the issues/concerns that were discussed during the previous meeting.

However, it is essential that you keep in mind that support groups for substance abuse should not be taken as a replacement for ongoing therapy. This means that you may want to continue attending the support group meetings at the same time you are working with your therapist particularly if you have any mental health issues co-occurring with your substance use disorder. This is one of the best combinations for long term sobriety and recovery.

The ultimate goal of this kind of recovery - which is a lifelong aim for most addicts - is the maintenance of abstinence while simultaneously gaining stability as well as resuming your previous active participation in the community.

At the end of the day, you should keep in mind that self-help groups are essential in the transition from treatment and rehabilitation - which is focused on therapy - to becoming a productive and active member of society. As such, support groups for substance abuse are ideal for individuals undergoing recovery because they provide avenues where you can discuss your ongoing successes, fears, and experiences.

Some of the reasons that these groups are a vital stepping stone between re-entering society and overcoming addiction include, but are not limited to:

Developing An Aftercare Plan

According to SAMHSA, even as you continue planning and attending support groups for substance abuse, it is essential that you work with your case manager, therapist, or counselor in creating a binder with detailed information. This folder will act as a guide on your path to recovery and long term sobriety.

It should, to this end, contain your relapse prevent plan as well as all other aspects of your aftercare that involve daily relaxation techniques, appointments, and routines. In general, the primary steps for a reliable and dependable aftercare plan should include:

1. Wellness Toolbox

This toolbox should contain a cluster of the daily activities that will help you stay healthy, relieve stress, and feel better all at the same time, with the following suggestions:

2. Daily Maintenance Plan

This plan should include the steps you will take towards ensuring that you feel better, achieve your goals, and keep track of your exercising and eating. These steps are as follows:

Overall, the importance of support groups for substance abuse cannot be overemphasized. Although it will take some time out of your schedule - time that you might prefer to use to recover things you lost during your period of active addiction and ongoing drug and alcohol abuse - this time will be well worth the expense in the sense that the support groups may prove useful in helping you remain sober and maintain your journey towards full-time and long term recovery over the long haul.

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