Addiction and the Importance of a Support Network
If you are trying to recover from drug addiction, connecting with others who know what you're going through can help reduce feelings of isolation, fear and hopelessness.
Building a network that is filled with people who want to lend you guidance and support is essential to the success of any recovery plan. Having a group of people to rely on can help you stay motivated and positive through the tough times.
Benefits of Support Groups
One of the biggest benefits of a becoming part of a support group is that it will help you realize that you are not alone in your fight against drug addiction. For many people, knowing that others struggle with the same problems is a big relief. Being in a group can help a person to learn new skills in order to relate to others. A person can develop better social interaction and communication skills, which can help a person in recovery better his or her relationships outside of therapy. Meeting with people who are also struggling with addiction can open up the possibility of learning new coping skills that perhaps you had not thought of previously.
Although joining a group may seem a little daunting and embarrassing, know that everyone in the group probably felt the same way at some point. You may feel uncomfortable at first when it comes to discussing your problems with strangers, but you can also feel liberated by being able to release your buried emotions. Do not be afraid to share and know that everything said within the group should be kept confidential.
Different Types of Support Groups
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are among the most well-known and widely available groups out there. Both groups model their sessions based on the 12-step process in order to achieve and maintain sobriety. One of the key parts of a 12-step program is choosing a sponsor. A sponsor is usually a former addict who has the time and experience to help guide others towards sobriety, and who can provide support when you are dealing with urges. Meetings are organized by other members, all of whom are recovering addicts as well. These meetings take place on a regular weekly basis, and members are free to attend to any of the meetings.
There are also many other alternatives to AA and NA that you can look into. For example, if you are struggling with addiction and conditions like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, there are groups that deal with these as well. Mental health and addiction have their own unique symptoms that can get in the way of a person's ability to function, handle difficulties or relate to others. For this reason, it is important to address both co-occurring disorders.
What to Expect
Not all support groups are the same, but the basic format is that of a small group of patients who meet on a regular basis to discuss their feelings and provide mutual support. Sessions are usually guided by a professional therapist who is specifically trained in group therapy. The therapist acts as moderator and may suggest a topic for the group's discussion, or will ask for suggestions from the group for a discussion topic. In group therapy it is not unusual to address certain fears and anxieties as well, so do not be surprised if these kinds of topics are brought up. Don't be afraid to open up and share, but remember to not feel guilty if you are not able to do so immediately. Take your time to feel comfortable and to open up to others.
Sources: WebMD.com, HelpGuide.org