Self-help meetings are effective
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Am I a problem drinker?” , perhaps it is time to start looking to get help. For over 250 years, Americans with alcohol and other drug problems have banded together for mutual support in recovery. It’s true – it began in the 1730’s when Native Americans organized abstinence based recovery circles. Since that time, a variety of groups have come and gone, but the efficacy of self-help meetings has been well researched and proven to be effective in many ways.
What makes a good alcoholism support group?
Successful recovery support groups provide tangible benefits. For example, participation in support groups has been shown to enhance long-term recovery outcomes, and reduces continuing care and post-treatment health care costs. Successful recovery support groups also have a few characteristics in common. Specifically, successful alcoholism support groups:
- contain members who have transformed their lives using the group’s key ideas and methods
- provide the opportunity to enhance self-esteem
- provide daily prescriptions for recovery maintenance
- create a social “linkage” for alcoholics looking to be a part of a community again
Many paths to recovery
In addition to AA, there are a number of support groups and alternatives to 12 step recovery that stand ready to help people overcome their addiction to alcohol. Each program has merit, and the best outcome occurs when an individual selects a program that best matches their needs and beliefs. (Note: people are welcome to use a combination of a variety of programs – there are many pathways to recovery, and each individual deserves to find what works best for them.) So, what alternative programs are out there that may be a good fit for you?
1. LifeRing, www.lifering.org . Established in 1999, LifeRing offers sober, secular self-help to abstain from alcohol and non-medically-indicated drugs by “relying on our own power and the support of others”. The program operates according to the “3S” Philosophy: 1. Sobriety, 2. Secularity, 3. Self-Help. Meetings are friendly, confidential, non-judgmental gatherings of peers, and the atmosphere is relaxed, practical and positive.
2. Moderation Management, www.moderation.org. Established in 1993, MM offers education, behavioral change techniques and peer support for problem drinkers seeking to decrease their drinking — whether to moderate levels or to total abstinence. MM offers a variety of behavioral methods for change; guidelines for responsible drinking; and tools to measure progress. The program follows 9 Steps Toward Moderation and Positive Lifestyle Changes (check out the website for the 9 steps).
3. SMART Recovery®, www.smartrecovery.org. Established in 1994, SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training) participants learn tools for recovery based on the latest scientific research. SMART provides a 4-Point Program: 1. Building and Maintaining Motivation; 2. Coping with Urges; 3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors; and 4. Living a Balanced life. Tools include Stages of Change, Change Plan Worksheet, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Hierarchy of Values, ABCs of REBT for Urge Coping and Emotional Upsets, DISARM (Destructive Irrational Self-talk Awareness & Refusal Method), Role-playing and Rehearsing , Brainstorming, and more, which can be found on their website.
4. Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Ourselves, www.sossobriety.org. Established in 1985, SOS takes a self-empowerment approach to recovery, and addresses sobriety (abstinence) as “Priority One, no matter what!” The program credits the individual for achieving and maintaining his/her own sobriety, and Respects recovery in any form. There are six suggested guidelines for sobriety, including Sobriety is our Priority, and we are each responsible for our lives and our sobriety, and the others can be found on their website.
5. Women for Sobriety, www.womenforsobriety.org. Established in 1976, WFS is the first and only self-help program accounting for the special problems women have in recovery, specifically the need for feelings of self-value and self-worth, and the need to expatiate feelings of guilt and humiliation. Their purpose is to help all women with addiction through the discovery of self, gained by sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women in similar circumstances. The “New Life” Acceptance Program includes thirteen statements to aid those participating in the program, which can be found on their website.
Each program offers online services in addition to face-to-face meetings. Be sure to check out each organization, and then select the program (or programs) that will help you on your recovery journey.