Mutual Support Groups
Alcoholism is a form of substance use disorder which is a chronic disorder where people are unable to control or manage their alcohol consumption. Specifically, it is the final stage of alcohol use disorder where a person tends to binge drink and misuse the substance.
When someone has alcoholism, it is not usually that they do not want to stop drinking, but rather they find themselves unable to resist the urge to drink even when they really want to stop, which is why support throughout sobriety is so important if a person is going to avoid relapse.
Understanding the different reasons that someone might turn to alcohol and develop alcoholism is important in understanding why support groups are so important.
While none of these reasons is the sole cause of alcoholism, when someone uses alcohol in an unhealthy way, they are more likely to start abusing it and become dependent on it.
Common Causes of Alcoholism
When a person drinks alcohol, they tend to experience a temporary relaxed and euphoric feeling as the central nervous system is depressed. Some people first turn to alcohol as a way to cope with and relieve stress.
Grief, especially grief relating to the loss of a loved one, can be an extremely taxing and traumatic experience that can lead to feelings of depression and/or hopelessness. Often people will turn to alcohol while they are grieving as a way to ease or even numb the pain.
There are a few reasons that someone might turn to alcohol when they are lonely. First, just like with grief, a person may be using alcohol to ease or numb the feelings.
Second, a person may also turn to alcohol as a way to make more friends. They might have more confidence when they drink and therefore feel like going out and getting drunk regularly is a good way to make friends and have fun.
If a person is facing challenges in their life that are causing them to feel overwhelmed, they may use alcohol to try to cope. These challenges can be any number of different things, from losing a job to divorce, to homelessness.
Understanding Support Groups
Because alcoholism is a chronic disorder, when a person is in recovery, they have to work to stay sober consistently. When people do not play an active role in their recovery, they are much more likely to relapse.
Alcoholism has a high relapse rate of between 40 and 60 per cent. One of the best ways a person can play an active role in their own recovery is by attending and participating in support groups.
In support groups or, more specifically, mutual-help support groups, people come together who are in all different stages of recovery. During meetings, people are able to learn coping skills and gain valuable tools that they will need to stay sober when faced with triggers and life challenges.
It is helpful that everyone in the meeting is suffering from alcoholism because they can all empathise with each other and understand each other’s situations.
One of the most important things about these support groups is that they are usually made up of people at all different stages in their recovery. People who have been sober for longer can offer support, encouragement, wisdom, and hope to those who are newly sober.
In fact, sometimes the people who have been sober longer will get paired up with members who are newly sober and act as a mentor or sponsor. A mentor or sponsor is a person who is available pretty much all the time in case the sponsee or mentee needs help coping or dealing with something and staying sober.
Open and Closed Support Groups
As far as meetings go, there are two main kinds of meetings: open meetings and closed meetings. Open meetings are open to anyone who has been affected by addiction and/or are in support of someone in recovery.
These meetings can be really great for people who may not have addictions themselves but have been hurt by or dealt with the addiction of another person. On the other hand, closed meetings are meetings that are only open to those who have addictions themselves.
Meetings generally started with some sort of welcome that may be led by a leader, speaker, or member, which often ends with a moment of silence or prayer.
Most support groups have some sort of spiritual nature, though they tend to also be nondenominational and open to all different religions. Of course, if you are looking for a support group based on a certain faith, there are those out there too.
After the prayer, a leader of some sort will explain the policies and practices of the group, and the meeting will begin. New members may also introduce themselves at this time, depending on the group’s protocol.
Because these meetings are usually self-sustaining, during the meeting an offering plate or donation basket of some sort is usually passed around. Donations are not usually required, but these groups tend to run on them.
After the meeting is over, members can often stick around for a time of fellowship where they may talk to each other and enjoy provided refreshments. This can be especially important for people who are newly sober because they may be looking for a group of friends that partake in sober activities and will support them in sobriety.
Different Support Groups
Below is a guide to different support groups that are offered to individuals suffering from alcoholism:
12-step groups are probably the most common form of support groups for addictions. There are a number of different support groups that cater to different forms of addiction, but the one geared toward alcoholism is Alcoholics Anonymous or AA.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a global support group that focuses on providing people with a group of peers that can support them in staying sober.
The programme is based on people working through twelve steps, starting with accepting that you have a problem and ending with a spiritual awakening as a result of all the previous steps.
Often, people get paired up with a sponsor who has already been through the steps and has been sober for a while. This sponsor will help the sponsee work through the twelve steps and just offer continual support in sobriety.
Women for sobriety acknowledges the idea that men and women face different issues in recovery and sobriety, so they designed their programme to specifically aid women in recovery.
This is a mutual support group, so it does put emphasis on people supporting each other in sobriety by creating a community.
However, it does have a self-help aspect, so members can get the benefits of both self-help groups and mutual support groups through this programme. Women for sobriety or WFS emphasises three main things: positivity, responsibility, and emotional growth.
Members of this group tend to believe that behaviour and thoughts both have an impact on health and happiness, so it is important to change your thoughts and behaviours if you want to live a happier, healthier life.
To achieve this, members work to practice a total of thirteen different statements. Rather than steps, these are points that each member strives to follow each and every day.
Celebrate a Recovery is a great option for people who are looking for a support group that is based on the Christian faith. The group centres meetings around Biblical scripture that can encourage members to find strength through God during recovery.
The group offers members both literature and a specific curriculum to work through that is heavily influenced by and built around the bible.
This curriculum encourages members to accept that a higher power is in control, and they can lean on him with their challenges and burdens rather than alcohol.
JACS stands for Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others. It is a support group that works to support specifically Jewish people who are wanting to live addiction-free, independent lives.
One of the main ways that they foster recovery is by integrating members in the Jewish community, but they are a very open group and accept all variances of the Jewish faith without judgement.
The group also puts a lot of emphasis on education and works to teach members about what addiction is and the various causes. If there is not a JACS meeting near you, you can subscribe online to join in on virtual discussions.
Moderation Management or MM takes a slightly different approach to recovery than the other support groups on this list as the programme does not require complete abstinence after a full month of sobriety.
If members want to, they can remain completely abstinent, but they can also choose to partake in moderate drinking.
The goal of MM is not to eliminate drinking entirely, but a rather problematic drinking and any of the negative behaviours associated with said drinking through a series of steps known as the Steps of Change.
MM offers in-person meetings, but if there is not a group near you, you can also partake in virtual meetings.
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