Support Networks for People Overcoming Addiction

Addictions, like any other diseases or disorders have a unique set of stressors involved in overcoming them. They not only affect the person inflicted with addiction but also affect the family, friends and other social circles.

Once addiction has progressed to a level whereby a person needs help they usually only receive a limited amount of stress relief from acting out on their addiction. One challenging aspect of overcoming addiction is when is under stress again they sometimes feel compelled to act out.

If you’ve already established that acting out on your drink, drug or process of choice you might find that you are tempted to act out in different ways.

These are called “cross addictions”, they may include the following:

  • Drinking Alcohol
  • Taking prescribed drugs
  • Taking drugs perceived as less harmful
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Money
  • Shopping

In order to address addictive disorders and sustain changes made during a rehabilitation program it is recommended that a person commits to a life-long recovery program.  You may already be familiar with groups such as NA and AA but there are more than just these groups that can help you sustain the changes you want to make to your life.

12-Step Recovery

12-step recovery is the name given to any program of recovery that uses the 12-steps to recover from whatever affliction is affecting a person.

12-Step recovery originates from Alcoholics Anonymous, the main driving force behind 12-Step recovery is that people attend meetings regularly and undergo the process of following the 12 steps with a sponsor.  A sponsor is a person who has already completed the 12-Steps and is willing to share with you their experience of “working the steps”.   A sponsor will give you feedback and advice on how they have maintained a recovery lifestyle.

For those in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, maintaining a recovery lifestyle means being free from all mind-altering substances and the “Clarity statement” means there is no difference between substances.  Therefore, there is no difference between cannabis, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, diazepam or meth.

In other 12-Step group concerned with process addictions such as Gambling Anonymous (GA), Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) they are often abstinence focused at first to gain control over their lives but then set themselves boundaries for the future. These typically include measures to prevent themselves from acting out or acting in ways which cause them the most harm.

All 12-Step groups have spiritual connotations. 12 Step meetings account for the largest amount of recovery focused groups in the world. 12 Step meetings can be found in over 130 countries and can be easily accessed in most major cities across the world.

The format of 12-Step meetings is that there will be a speaker who will share their experience of recovery with a group of people who are seeking to remain sober. There are also some meetings that are step based where people share their experience of working that step.

Pros:

  • Meetings globally
  • Anonymity
  • Easy to access
  • Peer lead, no hierarchy
  • Free to attend, no payments required
  • One of the most established, best known methods of treating addictive disorders

Cons:

  • Labelling as alcoholic
  • Lacks treatment of co-current disorders (dual diagnosis)
  • Despite being non-religious based, 12 step meetings have connotations of organized religious meetings
  • Not professionally facilitated

 

SMART Recovery

SMART recovery stands for Self-Management-And-Recovery-Training, it is the biggest alternative to 12-Step groups.

SMART recovery provides assistance to those seeking support from addictive disorders which include substance use and behavior.  SMART recovery does not view addiction as a disease but as a dysfunctional habit that can be unlearned through a better management of underlying issues and accountability to a group through a CBT process.

SMART recovery groups are very different than 12-Step groups, there is no speaker at the groups. The groups are facilitated by a group facilitator. The groups reflect only on how the last 7 days have been and only how the next 7 days might be, members are no permitted to past-time about how events throughout their life have shaped their experience. SMART groups are very similar to therapy groups, where the facilitator may feedback or challenge an individual based on what they share with the group.

The group are invited to explore their issues around addiction through means of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy  (REBT). REBT is a model of psychotherapy  CBT that addresses the thinking and behavior in order to change how people emotionally respond to life and events. Attendees are encouraged to balance out their thinking styles in order to reduce how they interact.

In SMART recovery people do not identify as addicts and alcoholics, they identify just as a person.

Whilst the object of many people in SMART is to remain free from addiction they are not entirely abstinence based.  There are three tiers 1) Abstinent 2) Control 3) Minimizing. However, despite this many of the group members are using SMART groups to eventually gain abstinence.

Pros:

  • REBT is a form of evidence based psychotherapy that have proven benefits to help a person reduce their negative experiences of life.
  • Groups are professionally guided
  • SMART recovery is independent of all spiritual aspects
  • There is a workbook to complete

Cons:

  • SMART recovery meetings are substantially limited and are not wide spread
  • There is some confusion around what goals work best for certain individuals.
  • SMART recovery individuals do no keep track of their clean time and may lack the investment they have in remaining away from drugs and alcohol
  • There is no focus on fellowship and belonging, which people can find cold and distant

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a network of people who have either experienced or are still experiencing ongoing issues with depression, bipolar disorder and other mood disordered.

DBSA have merged with the mental health charity MIND in the UK and now only offer support groups through their services.

Groups are run by people who have experienced mood disorders for people with mood disorders.  They provide people a platform to share and speak their mind but they are not therapeutic groups, they are coordinated but they are not facilitated by a trained professional. The groups are a chance for people to share and reflect rather than a real therapeutic process.

Pros:

  • Across the globe, face to face meetings far spread
  • Giving people with mood disorders a chance to share

Cons:

  • Emphasis is on dealing with depression, not addiction
  • No therapy or workbook involved

 

Al-Anon, Families Anonymous, Nar-Anon

Al-Anon was originally described as the meeting for the wives of alcoholics, as a good proportion of people in AA in 1935 were male. Al-Anon is a group of people who described themselves as either the family, partners or spouses of alcoholics and addicts.

Al-Anon meetings are 12-Step meetings that meet regularly to share their experiences and work a program around living with an addict.   They used the same 12 steps and same format as the other 12 step meetings.

In the groups people work on their powerlessness and inability to control the actions of their loved ones. Group members receive support on setting boundaries and dealing with the stresses an addict can bring.

-Written by Dylan Kerr 2017

 

 

 

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