Choosing a Support Group: What You Need to Know

In recovery, we can experience loneliness and alienation without support that is positive and helpful. When we get back home from a stay at a treatment facility, our friends outside of the recovery community might not relate to our experience or accept our newfound sense of self. When we feel lonely and isolated, we are at risk of relapse or resorting to socializing with people pressuring us to use again.

How Can We Combat Feelings of Loneliness in Recovery?

One of the best ways to deal with loneliness in recovery is to find a supportive peer group that shares similar goals of committing to a healthy and sober lifestyle. Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey and Dr. Bruce Liese discuss the value of “Mutual Help” on “Beyond Risk and Back.” According to Dr. Liese, group therapy can help to combat feelings of loneliness during recovery and offer individuals a supportive atmosphere that is unmatched elsewhere in their lives.

What Kind of Support Group Is Right for Me?

The kind of support group that each person chooses is up to them. Each person will respond differently to each type of group. Some groups specialize in addiction to drugs, while other groups are geared toward alcohol. Groups can often be intermingled, as recovery from any substance can have many similarities in terms of struggles and coping devices needed for success. Some groups are specialized to help find support for other issues, such as:

  • Eating disorders 
  • Trauma 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression 
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • And other underlying issues of addiction

Most addiction recovery groups are based on 12-step models, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Another style of recovery group, called “SMART Recovery,” is growing to be more common among treatment facilities and support groups. Deciding which type of group is right for you may take some time and experimentation. 

Remember that your recovery journey may not look like everyone else’s. You might want to explore different types of treatment and support to find what works best for you. By learning more about what each group offers and how they differ, you can make an informed decision to select a support group.

12-Step Programs Versus “SMART” Recovery

Twelve-step programs have been around for a long time. These support groups have effectively treated those with addiction and offered a supportive atmosphere for those in recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the 12-steps primarily focus on three domains:

  1. Acceptance of addiction as a chronic disease that cannot be treated by sheer willpower alone
  2. Surrender of control to a higher power while committing to the fellowship and programming of 12-step groups
  3. Active-Involvement in activities and group meetings related to the 12-steps

The key characteristic of 12-step programs is the focus on surrendering control to a higher power. Members work through the 12-steps while supporting one another through the process of recovery. As members gain more experience with their recovery journey, they may be asked to “sponsor” new group members. Sponsors act like mentors to support new members through the initial stages of recovery.

SMART Recovery (or “Self-Management and Recovery Training”) offers an alternative to the more commonly known 12-step programs. SMART Recovery uses a science-based 4-point program, which emphasizes these areas:

  1. Motivation to change and to maintain motivation during recovery. This area also emphasizes the importance of goals in recovery.
  2. Coping with the urges and cravings that lead to addictive behaviors.
  3. Managing our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in healthy and effective ways.
  4. Living a balanced life is key to recovery from addiction.

SMART Recovery’s 4-point program helps individuals find motivation, challenge negative thoughts and beliefs, manage difficult or uncomfortable emotions, and learn positive behaviors to live a healthy life. While 12-step programs emphasize surrendering control to a higher power, SMART Recovery is grounded in learning coping strategies from within.

The Importance of Support in Recovery

Both 12-step and SMART Recovery can help you recover by connecting you to like-minded individuals seeking positive changes in their lives. We might struggle to find peers who share a similar mindset about our health and wellness during early recovery. Some of our friends might continue to use drugs or alcohol to cope with life or distract themselves. 

As we grow in our recovery, we might feel disconnected from others who are not committed to seeking a healthy, fulfilling life. By connecting with a support group based on a common struggle, you can find solidarity with your peers through a common goal. You might want to consider an addiction recovery-based group and a group to support you through underlying issues. Building a support system and strong community can help you find success in your recovery journey!

Finding a support group can help you learn new coping skills and connect to peers in recovery. Recovery can be a lonely experience if we do not find support. Our friends and family might support us in other ways; however, our emotional experiences of addiction may be difficult to explain to others. Family and friends might not understand what we have gone through. We can benefit from sharing our experiences with like-minded individuals. Peer support can help us not feel so alone in recovery and remind us that, although our friends and family may not have these issues, we are not alone. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help alumni of the program if they continue to struggle. We can help guide you to the support that you need if you continue to struggle following treatment. Call us today at (303) 443-3343, and be sure to visit “Beyond Risk and Back” for additional discussions on recovery.

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