When Alcohol is a Problem, the Right Support Can be the Key to Recovery

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — November 12, 2020 — 5 min read
Often, when we think of alcohol misuse, Alcoholics Anonymous comes to mind, but it’s not the only option. There’s something for everyone and what matters is finding the support that’s right for you. 

In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), two other big groups offer meetings throughout the United States. They are the secular group SMART Recovery and Celebrate Recovery, a religious group that meets in churches. AA tends to fall in the middle when it comes to including faith as a part of the program.

There are also support groups geared toward specific groups of people. One group called Women for Sobriety focuses on women’s unique SUD support needs. LGBTteetotaler (LGBTt) was created as a safe space to share stories and create community while promoting recovery. 

“All of these groups are ways to get mutual support from peers,” said Cardinal Innovations Psychiatrist Dr. Winston Lane, who is board certified in Addiction Medicine. “You’re with other people who have a common goal and you support each other in achieving that goal.”
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Finding a Support Group That Works for You

Lane said he recommends that you get some sort of peer support, which can improve their recovery success rate.

While AA is often the most readily available option, it may not be the right fit for you, he said. Some reasons why someone may want an alternative options include:
  • A bad past experience with a group
  • A mental illness diagnosis such as anxiety that may make in-person meetings uncomfortable
  • A negative association if attending AA meetings was court-ordered
  • Religious or secular beliefs that do not match with group practices 
Sometimes you don’t need a new organization, you just need to find a different meeting, Lane said.

“I think that might be one of the reasons some people don’t succeed. They go to one meeting and don’t have a positive experience. Then they just never go to another group and try again,” he said. “When I recommend that people go to AA, my advice is to go to multiple groups and multiple meetings. Check out the groups and find the one you feel most comfortable in.”

Lane has heard people say they went to a group and didn’t like it. Maybe the members were too old or too young. Something didn't work. That’s when you look for a different meeting, he said.

“Every group will have its own climate,” he said. “To me, the positive in this is that there’s got to be some place for everybody with all the possibilities out there. There are so many options. That just enhances the possibility that you will have a good fit somewhere and a good outcome.”

Your motivation and goals regarding recovery are also important, said Brooke Robertson, Utilization Management (UM) Supervisor for the Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Team at Cardinal Innovations. Are you searching for an abstinence-based program? Do you want the program to involve your faith? What is your goal? Asking these questions can help you find the right fit.

“People need to find out what works for them. Whatever it is that works for them, that’s what they need to do,” she said.

Options for Alcohol Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Support:

Alcoholics Anonymous – Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) began in 1935. It now has more than 2 million successfully recovery members of AA in more than 180 countries. AA describes itself “an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem.” It is available almost everywhere. The program involves 12-steps to help members work toward recovery. God is at the center of many of the steps.

Celebrate Recovery – Celebrate Recovery is a Christianity-based 12-step program. It started in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Forty-three people attended the first meeting. Now, the group is available in 35,000 churches worldwide. It is also offered in recovery houses, rescue missions, universities, and prisons around the world.  

LifeRing Secular Recovery – LifeRing promotes abstinence using a “3-S” system. That stands for Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Help. LifeRing states that it respectfully embraces what works for each individual.

LGBTteetotalers – This group works to create a community of LGBTQ+ people who are in or seeking recovery and to share positive recovery stories.

SMART Recovery – Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) began in 1994 as a nonprofit with a science-based approach to addiction. It has helped over 1 million people in over 20 countries. This group offers in-person and online meetings (even before the pandemic). Participants help each other with any addiction – alcohol, drugs, gambling, over-eating and others. The program uses a 4-Point Program®.  

Refuge Recovery – This support program focuses on how “Buddhist principles and practices create a strong foundation for a path to freedom from addiction.” The idea is that all individuals can free themselves from the suffering that is caused by addiction.

Women for Sobriety (WFS) – This program is for women with substance use issues involving alcohol or drugs. The group helps women in recovery by sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women.

She Recovers Foundation – This is a non-profit community of more than 325,000 women in or seeking recovery from SUDs, other behavioral health issues and/or life challenges. This group connects women through virtual platforms and in-person community networks. She Recovers has a Facebook group focused on black, indigenous and women of color in or seeking recovery.

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