What Happens in a Support Group Meeting?

Group support meetings are not the same as group therapy. Group support meetings involve individuals with addictions helping each other by openly sharing their challenges and successes as they work together to maintain a drug-free lifestyle.

Group support meetings are most often based in the community, although some meet online. They are open to anyone of any age or walk of life who is struggling with any type of drug addiction, and there is no charge to attend a meeting. Some groups meet several times a day so that you always have adequate support. Meetings are informal, and last names are not used – so everyone’s identity is kept strictly confidential.

You may start attending group support meetings while you are in full-time drug addiction treatment – and even if you don’t, most therapists recommend that you attend them once you return home. The main advantage of joining a support group is you can benefit from the experiences and advice of other people who are dealing with the same issues and challenges that you are.

Many support groups will assign you a sponsor, a member of the group that you can contact whenever you need support. In this way, support groups provide a continuous means of help whenever you need it.

The classic model for support meetings is the 12-Step program that was first used by Alcoholics Anonymous. Narcotics Anonymous originally came out of AA model, appearing in the late 1940s in the Los Angeles area. Today there are 25,065 Narcotics Anonymous groups in 127 countries, operating in over 50 languages. There is also a subgroup of NA called “Cocaine Anonymous,” which is also a 12-Step program. Recovery Couples Anonymous is a similarly structured support group for couples.

Twelve-Step programs are based upon the philosophy that drug addiction is an incurable lifelong disease that requires surrender to a higher power in order to overcome it. Members work through 12 steps, which involves admitting they have a problem, taking inventories of their lives, making amends for past mistakes, experiencing a spiritual awakening, and committing to help other addicts like themselves. The underlying philosophy is spiritual, not religious, and you do not have to join a church or religion to work the 12 steps.

Every 12-step group sets its own agenda and runs as an independent group. Some groups are informal and spontaneous, while others have formal parties and events.

Some people do not want to join 12-step programs because they do not like the spiritual approach. These people can join alternate support groups such as “SOS” and “Smart Recovery,” which emphasize self-reliance and a scientific approach to drug addiction.

SOS stands for “Secular Organization for Sobriety” and “Save Our Selves.” James Christopher, a sober alcoholic and the son of an alcoholic, started SOS as a support group that emphasizes personal responsibility and self-reliance. Smart Recovery is another network of support groups located throughout the United States (and online) that helps people cope with their urges to use drugs, apply problem-solving techniques, and achieve a lifestyle balance.

Many former drug addicts have used support group meetings as a powerful tool to help them achieve and maintain a drug-free lifestyle.