A recovery group can be a huge asset to a person who is trying to get and stay sober. A recovery group provides the wisdom and support of others who have faced their addiction and entered recovery. The most well-known recovery groups are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but these are far from the only support groups. Recovery meetings are generally free to attend and may be “open,” meaning that anyone can attend, including relatives or friends of people in recovery, or “closed,” reserved only for those who are struggling with addiction.
What AA and NA Offer
AA and NA are both faith-based 12-Step Programs. Identities of members are kept anonymous, with members using only their first name and last initial in many cases. Both AA and NA are somewhat rigid in their structures, with protocols for sharing and response as well as requirements for completing the 12 steps in order.
These groups teach members to draw on a higher power of their own choosing for support in their recovery journey. Both groups also utilize sponsors, people with some time in recovery who volunteer to mentor individuals who are newer to sobriety. Meetings are often held in churches or other community spaces. AA and NA are international organizations with meetings happening around the world.
Why People May Prefer Something Else
Every person is unique, and so is each person’s recovery journey. What one individual finds helpful may not work for someone else. For that reason, some people prefer to consider recovery meetings other than AA and NA. Individuals pursuing these other meetings may be seeking something to meet their own recovery needs, such as:
- Less religion
- SMART Recovery – this group is geared toward people who want to drop religion from the discussion and who prefer not to rely on a higher power. Some may feel that the concept of a higher power teaches helplessness instead of accountability. This group has most of its resources available online and has specialized tools for groups such as young people, the LGBTQIA+ community, and Veterans.
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety – this is a collection of local community groups that help people with various types of addiction, not just substances. The group focuses on research and science-based options for addressing addiction.
- LifeRing – this secular recovery group shares the anonymous nature of AA and NA but takes a non-religious approach built around being non-judgmental toward one another.
- Adherence to a specific faith tradition
- Celebrate Recovery – CR meetings are centered around the teachings of Jesus Christ, so they are generally more comfortable for people who are Christians or open to Christian teachings.
- Refuge Recovery – while participants in these groups are not required to be Buddhist, the program draws on Buddhism to help people get and stay sober and attain overall well-being.
- Gender-specific support
- Women for Sobriety – some people find it distracting or uncomfortable to talk about their recovery around individuals of the opposite sex. Women for Sobriety provides an option for women to give and receive support in the company of other women.
While not all of these groups offer in-person meetings in as many places as AA and NA, online meetings are often available.
How is a Recovery Group Different from Therapy or Treatment?
Some people who aren’t in recovery don’t understand why treatment and therapy cost money and recovery groups are free because “they all do the same thing.” While therapy, treatment, and recovery groups all aim to help people who are entering sobriety to develop a lifestyle that will support their long-term recovery goals, and they can be used in combination with each other, they are unique approaches with different benefits.
- Therapy – can be completed one-on-one or in a group but requires a clinician who is licensed and trained in a mental health related discipline to facilitate the session. This person may or may not have lived experience related to substance abuse or mental health. While they may not specialize in treating addiction, they can help to address the underlying issues that led a person to start using and that could keep them from staying sober.
- Treatment – generally led by people who have training and licensing specific to substance abuse. Their knowledge of addiction will likely be more in-depth than a therapist, but their understanding of mental health may not be as great unless they also have training in a mental health related discipline. They may or may not have lived experience with substance abuse.
- Recovery groups – these are facilitated and attended by people who have fought addiction in their own lives. Though they may not have any professional credentials, they have first-hand knowledge of the struggles involved with addiction, the harm it has caused them and others, and what it takes to rebuild a better life. They are unpaid and remain involved in recovery meetings in order to give back the gift they received from those who mentored them.
If you or your loved one needs help sustaining a healthy recovery or would like to begin your journey out of addiction, our team at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, can help. Reach out today to speak to one of our caring team members.