Support groups are nothing new, but they have been a booming place for those looking to get better – as we begin to understand more and more about addiction, the stigma around struggling with drugs starts to fall to the wayside and we can start to truly feel comfortable about approaching our issues with other people.
Sadly, for most, addiction is still an issue that evokes a lot of shame and anger. Beyond the initial emotion of denial, many people who struggle with drugs think of themselves as weak, either because others say so or because of an inner anger at their “failure” to get better. The truth is that addiction, especially initially, is a chronic disease – and one where “failure” is just one step closer to long-term recovery. It really does take a village sometimes to instill in someone the confidence that their path, even if its riddled with difficulties, can lead them towards a happier life.
What is a Support Group?
A support group is a recovery community of people who come together on a regular basis to meet and discuss their feelings towards recovery. Sometimes, it’s a way to unwind, release and get things off your chest in a way that was never possible in your addiction days. Sometimes, it’s a way to listen to others talk about their problems, their progress, their shortcomings and their triumphs, and both support them in their struggles and victories and find a way to draw your own lessons from their experiences.
Support groups can be valuable for several reasons.
- They help you discharge negative emotions and vent out to people who can relate to you.
- They help you pick up new perspectives and ways to deal with common problems in recovery, such as anger, relationship issues and depression.
- They help you belong to a group, and form bonds with people in a way that helps bolster your self-esteem.
- They help keep you on the straight-and-narrow in your most trying times.
To many people in early recovery, support groups are the key to surviving the first year. While rehab is generally a drug-free place, once you get out of rehab and are back in the real world, the urge to relapse can be quite powerful. You’ll be reintroduced to familiar sensations, familiar places, and sometimes even old friends.
You’ll face struggles and challenges that mix with the already tumultuous emotional rollercoaster that early recovery can present itself as. As such, a support group can be the safety net you need to survive the first twelve months of recovery without giving up on yourself.
Are Support Groups for Everybody?
Ultimately, yes. However, the exact usage for support groups will differ from person to person – it’s never a bad idea to join a support group, but some people will get better mileage out of them than others.
For some, a support group is a way to hear other people’s takes on addiction. Even if you don’t enjoy making a lot of new friends, hearing others talk about their problems can help. You may not entirely relate to the story nine times out of ten, but then you do catch that one detail that makes you think of your own struggles, and you may find a new perspective to deal with your addiction.
In recovery, it never hurts to have too many options. Support groups can be a fantastic way to explore new options.
Defining “After Recovery”
Support groups never cease to be useful – even years into recovery, it helps to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and see how they’re doing. Sometimes, you may hear about a friend who has fallen off the wagon and is struggling to get back into recovery – and you could be a part of their journey to getting better again. Other times, you’ll catch wind of a remarkable success story that might help keep your hopes up that anyone can indeed get better with time.
In a way, recovery never ends – if you’re not using, you’re sober. Staying sober is the name of the game, but the game is never over. At some point, it becomes pointless to continuously hang onto programs to stay on the straight-and-narrow – that is when you could say you’re past a defining point in your recovery. After the rehab, after the sober living, after outpatient programs and other methods, you’ll be in a part of your life where you simply must keep at it, day in and day out, living the life you want to live while finding new reasons not to ever use again. Even then, keeping up-to-speed with your support group can be a way to not only never forget those early days, but it can also be an opportunity to help others struggling in their journey.
It does go without saying that, in the end, everybody is different – and what may be true for most will not always be the best approach. But an important component of the addiction healing process is figuring out what works by trying everything – and being open to the idea of trying everything. Turning your life around from a life of drug use to a life completely without drugs takes time, but more importantly, you need to fill your life with things that can adequately replace the good feelings that a high used to give you.
It’s true, that can be very hard, but everybody has it in them to find that one thing that makes them solidify their decision and wholeheartedly believes in staying sober – that one thing that makes it all worth it, to them. For some people, it’s something as close to home as a family. For others, it’s the thrill of a sport or a competition, or art. Some people just want to see the world and experience different things. Others just want a shot at a healthy, happy life, and needed a hand to help them out of their addiction and give them that chance to start fresh.
Support groups help because they give you some perspective – even if you don’t like other people very much and don’t want to engage in the healing process with others, hearing their stories and watching how they cope with their own issues can help you relate and even apply some of what they’ve learned in your own private recovery. A support group, even if you feel introverted, can be what you need to help further that decisive step towards lasting sobriety in your life.