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Relapse Prevention: The Importance Of Choosing Good Meetings And People Who Take Recovery Seriously

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 2, 2019

One of the ways someone who is working on overcoming their addiction can facilitate recovery is through group meetings. Various organizations and facilities schedule regular meetings where people who are going through recovery, can get together and can talk about their struggles with addiction, share their stories of recovery progress, and hear how others are dealing with similar issues.

Being able to communicate with others who are also struggling with addiction is a valuable tool when working on recovery. A support system made up of others who have “been there” can make a person feel like they’re not alone in their efforts to overcome dependency on drugs and alcohol. Addiction is isolating and lonely and having a community of supportive people to meet with can give you the strength you need to continue on a path to recovery and reduce the chance of relapsing.

A Good Meeting Means Good Attendance

One problem with group meetings is often people stop attending. Usually, these reasons come from the person in recovery themselves. They include:

  • I’m fine without meetings – thinking other methods you use are enough, whether counseling, rehab therapy, deterrent drugs, etc.
  • I’m not like those people – feeling like you don’t relate or are “above” them, or even like they’re too good because they’ve been successful and you’re still in initial struggles
  • I’m too scared to participate – having trouble with feeling self-conscious or shy
  • I can’t fit it in my schedule – feeling like you have too much else to do or to take care of such as working long hours or having to take care of a family
  • They focus on things I don’t believe in – they may have steps that touch on religion or beliefs that you don’t share
  • I have no way to get there – maybe your license has been suspended or you live too far from the closest meeting and can’t use public transportation

For the most part, all of these issues can be resolved. For instance:

  • You can decide that it wouldn’t hurt to get all the help available to you in your efforts at recovery
  • Realize you have something in common with everyone else at the meeting – addiction
  • Spend a few meetings just observing and learn how others participate and follow their example
  • Decide it should be a “must” rather than an “if convenient” and find ways to work meetings into your schedule
  • Find out how others deal with the issue of beliefs and find a way to make that aspect work for you, even if by taking everything else you need from meetings and viewing the meeting yourself as your belief system
  • Ask family, friends or other group members if they can give you rides, to and from meetings

You can’t benefit from meetings if you don’t go, it’s as simple as that. Discipline yourself to not make excuses, and to see group meetings as a valuable resource that should be taken advantage of.

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A Wide Range Of Methods And Procedures To Choose From

Even within specific groups that follow particular methods, there are usually different kinds of meetings that approach recovery in different ways.

Most group meetings have one thing in common – sharing. This consists of someone telling their own story or offering insight into recovery. Usually, this is by the attendees themselves but can also be a scheduled speaker or facilitator. Often everyone is encouraged to stand up and take part in open discussion. Usually, these types of meetings are “closed” – only those actually going through recovery may participate in the interest of allowing anonymity, which can help people feel comfortable being open. Sometimes meetings are “open”, allowing participants who are not going through addiction recovery themselves. An example would be a spouse or relative who wanted to understand or help their loved one with their recovery efforts.

Sometimes groups follow a procedure of steps toward recovery. Step-oriented meetings involve working each individual step in a series and discussing how to do so. Occasionally the same group may break from step meetings and have a less structured, open dialogue where any subject can be discussed.

Some meetings follow a particular book or manual. In these meetings, sections of the book are often read together, discussed and worked on in some way. This may involve assigned passages to read in preparation for the next meeting or involve workbooks with assignments to complete.

These are just a few examples of how meetings work. Whatever the methodology, meetings are designed to help encourage open and direct participation in your recovery process. Group guidance and activity help a person working on recovery do just that – work. It gets you involved and helps you learn through others going through the same process.

What You Can Expect To Encounter

Often there is a facilitator of some kind who guides the meeting and helps keep it on track. They might have a set guideline or schedule they adhere to, or they may simply be there to redirect if the subject of a discussion strays too far from that of recovery. Groups without facilitators may exist, but it can be difficult to keep such a meeting from falling into anarchy. Things can get rowdy or chaotic as each person tries to speak, sometimes in a manner that doesn’t foster the good intent of a supportive group.

The members of the group often range from the very poor to the very rich, from business professionals to freelance artists, and everything in between. Being surrounded by such a broad spectrum of personalities and people of different social strata going through the same thing can help you see this disease can affect anybody. And if these people can put aside their differences and come together over this one issue, then you can fit in and benefit, as well.

People going to meetings regularly, tend to be very serious about recovery. They’re putting in the effort to better themselves and they want to see themselves progress. They are working toward a successful recovery, so they diligently apply themselves to the process. Some people can be pretty militant about it, and others more laid back, but so long as they participate and work on methods of recovery, what works for them is fine.

Signs A Particular Group Will Be Beneficial

For a group to be effective, it has to be just that – a group. There has to be some cohesiveness of the people in attendance, after all, the purpose of the group is to support. A good group is one that exercises supportive methods and behavior.

There needs to be good dialogue. A silent meeting is not a helpful meeting and people need to be able to share their struggles and be heard without judgment. Judgment only causes one to feel ashamed about opening up about their addiction. Without opening up, nobody can offer you insight that could guide you to successful recovery.

There should be an emphasis of the good over the bad. Again, sitting there and being constantly judged and belittled will only turn a person off and make them close down. Positive reinforcement goes much further to help a person feel confident in their efforts than negative feedback. Most groups do discourage judgment and browbeating. Rather, they applaud successes and milestones and sometimes even hand out rewards such as certificates and medallions.

What You Will Get From An Effective Group

Besides support and encouragement, information, guidance, and coaching are benefiting one gets from good group meetings. Listening to other people’s stories about their own recovery efforts, you can learn what to do, and what not to do to avoid relapse. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to obtain information about recovery.

Remember, these people have been through the same thing as you. They have had their struggles with things like cravings, and they can help you learn how you can get through them. They have hurt friends and family and can give you insight into how to repair relationships. They have relapsed and gotten back on track and can teach you what to look out for, what to avoid and how to progress rather than fall back.

A good group will be welcoming and in ways a comfort to you while you work through addiction. They are called “support groups” for a reason. They offer reassurance, sympathy when applicable in proper doses, and help you take pride in your efforts. Sometimes a more tough approach will be warranted and a successful group will know when to apply pressure and when to back off. They will certainly encourage you to take steps necessary to move forward, but won’t allow you to bend until you break and harm your efforts. They want to see you succeed in the way they have.

Groups are made up of individuals and some of these individuals can become mentors or sponsors. These are more experienced members who are able to guide you when you need it. They will almost always offer you contact information such as phone numbers and emphasize that they are there for you when you need them. They really do mean it when they say, “Call me – Anytime.” Sometimes someone might be open to meeting with you outside of scheduled meetings for things like a quick pep talk over a cup of coffee.

A Successful Meeting Requires Your Input And Efforts

You can’t just show up at a meeting, sit there and expect it to be beneficial to you. You have to participate and put in the work necessary to the recovery process. Things you need to do may include:

  • Initial observation to learn the process and gain courage
  • Do the work involved such as reading or activities
  • Participate in discussions
  • Be open to input from others
  • Go consistently to meetings
  • Add more meetings if necessary

Don’t give up if you don’t get what you need the first time you attend a meeting. If one group doesn’t work, try another. You want to feel you’ve been heard. You want to feel like you are benefitting from your efforts. There is sure to be a group out there that will satisfy these needs and more. We at RehabCenter.net can help you find a group that works for you, as well as offer additional counseling and support that will ensure your successful recovery. Contact us to find out more.

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