Peer support groups that have sprung up around the 12-step model can provide important support to those who struggle with addiction. However, they’re not perfect, and they’re certainly not the only type of support available to people on their journey to recovery.
In this article, we’ll dive into:
- What you can and can’t expect from peer support groups
- Other recovery and support options available to you
- How to make wise choices when it comes to the people and places you turn to for help
- The importance of cultivating a powerful mindset while acknowledging the realities of your addiction and seeking help when appropriate
- Key things you need to know if you really want to be “recovered,” instead of always “in recovery”
The Pros and Cons of Peer Support Groups in Addiction Recovery
While there’s extensive proof that peer support groups work, they’re certainly not the only way to recover from addiction. And as with everything, there are pros and cons.
Peer support groups like AA, NA and SMART Recovery can be good for:
- Connecting with people who understand firsthand what it’s like to experience addiction
- Continuing with group therapy after rehab
- Getting support when your resolve to stay sober weakens
- Staying accountable to your recovery goals and commitments
However, there are limitations to what an addiction peer support group can provide. For instance, they:
- Can’t completely take the place of professional treatment
- May or may not be led by people trained in addiction recovery
- May not line up with your personal values and beliefs
- May include people who prey on the vulnerable, as in the case of 13th stepping
Even with all the success stories that have come out of 12-step programs, the fact is there are certain types of support that you can only get from professional addiction treatment. Thankfully, most legitimate rehab centers include group-based programs such as the 12 steps or SMART Recovery, along with both traditional and modern forms of therapy.
In fact, peer support groups that are overseen by addiction treatment specialists are often a safer option, and more likely to be run according to empowering principles.
The Pros and Cons of Professional Rehab for Addiction Recovery
There are some types of addiction recovery support that you can only get from professional treatment, such as:
- One-on-one therapy from trained experts
- Cutting-edge therapies like EMDR and hypnotherapy
- Medically supervised detox
- Help with managing co-occurring mental health disorders
- Education on how to manage cravings, deal with triggers, and stick to your sobriety plan
Additionally, many treatment centers offer holistic methods such as yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, etc. that have been scientifically shown to support the recovery process.
However, just as not all peer support groups are of equal quality, the same is true of addiction treatment centers. It’s important to talk to the staff at any rehab facility you’re considering and make sure that you’re confident that they will not just treat you like a patient to be cured, but empower you with the tools to take control of your own recovery after you leave their facility.
Besides detox, the most important benefit you will get from a quality addiction treatment center is that the staff will help you address and resolve whatever problems or situations led you to substance use in the first place. This is critical because until you deal with the root cause of your addiction, relapse is always going to be knocking at your door.
The Problem with 30-Day Programs
Just detoxing from drugs or alcohol can take 30 days – or longer. Given that most rehab programs are 28 or 30 days long, you might be wondering when you’ll have time to address the root cause of addiction and learn how to stay sober.
While 30-day programs make some attempt to do these things, the reality is that they just don’t have enough time to do it fully. So what happens with a lot of people who go through these programs is they either end up right back on their substance of choice (and then perhaps back into the same rehab that let them down the first time?) or they struggle to keep their sobriety going on their own, getting what support they can from peer groups.
But while peer support groups are great for bonding and sharing stories, they’re not a substitute for professional therapy. The people in your AA group may have experienced addiction and rehab like you, but that doesn’t make them experts in counseling or treatment. Their experiences and wisdom may be very valuable to you, but they don’t have to be your only source of support.
So where do you turn for support – the kind of support that is right for you?
The Power of Your Mindset
While there are many resources out there for overcoming addiction, the first and most important resource you have is your own mindset. Sure, sometimes your resolve falters, and you’re not perfect. But if lasting and satisfying sobriety is really what you’re after, then know this:
You’re powerful enough to achieve it. Any programs you sign up for, groups you join, therapy you attend, are there to give you skills, help you feel better and generally boost your confidence in yourself.
Beware of any person or organization that sends you the message that you’re too weak, too diseased, too flawed to make a full recovery. Even if they don’t say it directly, it may be implied. You’ll know it because these types of interactions will make you feel less confident, less disciplined, less worthy.
You want – in fact you need – to be around people who will support you and build you up. This doesn’t mean that they placate you with white lies or tell you you’re a saint when you’re not. You’re still accountable for everything you do and have done.
Good helpers push you to take responsibility in a powerful way. When this happens, you don’t feel guilt or shame: You feel free. You feel in control. You realize your own power to affect the course of your own life. This is what acceptance really means – acknowledging that you’re in charge of what you say and do.
And surrender doesn’t mean giving away your power over yourself. It means acknowledging that some things aren’t in your control, and never were. This type of surrender also fills you with a sense of relief, a weight being lifted off your shoulders.
So whether you’re looking for a good 12-step group, rehab program or simply a friend to talk to, make sure those people help boost your self-empowerment so that you can stop saying you’re “in recovery” and say instead, “I’ve recovered.”
Harmony Place is an addiction recovery treatment center located in Woodland Hills, California. Their world-class drug and alcohol rehabilitation program includes medically assisted detox, dual diagnosis, relapse prevention aftercare, and more. For more information about their facilities and treatment, please visit their website at www.harmonyplace.com.