How Do Support Groups Help Me?

How Do Support Groups Help Me?

Community is a significant aspect of the recovery process. Sobriety is not something that we should do on our own–it often takes a group effort. Support groups are an excellent way for you to build a community of support in recovery. In addition, support groups can help you find a shared experience with other sober individuals from whom you can learn. The most common type of support group is 12-Step programs; however, there are various non-12-Step support groups, too. Finding a suitable support group for you and your needs can be an essential part of your recovery. 

12-Step Programs

The most known type of support group is 12-Step programs. There are various different 12-Step programs, with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) being the two most widely recognized. In addition, there are also 12-Step groups that focus on specific drugs, such as Heroin Anonymous (HA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Marijuana Anonymous (MA), and more. All 12-Step programs follow the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as originally outlined by AA. 

In 12-Step programs, you work the Twelve Steps. Much of the Twelve Steps center around a “Higher Power.” Although this Higher Power is up to the individual to define, many people find themselves uncomfortable with the idea. It is essential to recognize that a Higher Power does not mean God and can be anything you see as a power greater than yourself (i.e., nature, the group, and more). However, if this is a concept you are not comfortable with, a 12-Step program may not be suitable for you. 

Other significant parts of 12-Step programs include attending meetings, finding a sponsor, and being of service. A sponsor is primarily a person who walks you through the Twelve Steps; however, they are also there for you in times of need. When challenging feelings arise, or you experience cravings, a sponsor is there for you to call. Being of service typically entails finding a service position in the fellowship, such as group secretary, treasurer, or the person who makes coffee. However, service work can be as simple as helping set up chairs before a meeting. If you find the idea of sponsorship and service attractive, a 12-Step program may be right for you. 

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is the most widely known alternative to 12-Step programs. These support groups focus on self-empowerment. The acronym SMART stands for “Self-management and recovery training.” A facilitator, often a licensed counselor, leads each group and guides each person through a four-point program. The four-point program offers specific tools and techniques for each of the program points:

  • Point One: Building and maintaining motivation
  • Point Two: Coping with urges
  • Point Three: Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors 
  • Point Four: Living a balanced life


The purpose of SMART Recovery is to support individuals who have chosen to abstain or are considering abstinence from any type of addictive behavior by teaching how to change self-defeating thoughts, emotions, and actions. They also help individuals work towards long-term satisfaction and quality of life. The SMART Recovery approach: 

  • Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance
  • Encourages individuals to recover and live satisfying lives
  • Teaches tools and techniques for self-directed change
  • Meetings are educational and include open discussions
  • Evolves as scientific knowledge of addiction recovery evolves 


LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based, anonymous organization dedicated to providing a safe meeting space for people to experience a non-judgemental recovery conversation with peers. They do this through the lens of LifeRing’s three-S philosophy of Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Help. 

LifeRing believes the power to overcome your addiction is within you. Their approach is different from many other support groups. LifeRing holds the idea that you are the best person to design your own personal recovery program because you know what’s needed in your life and what has to be abandoned. You know what triggers cravings and what provides healthy and strengthening pleasure. You know the path you want to be on, and you are the only person who can figure out how best to get there. LifeRing provides safe and supportive contact with others that enables that process to succeed.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is a network of autonomous, non-professional local groups dedicated solely to helping individuals achieve and maintain sobriety from alcohol and drug addiction. The program stresses the need to place the highest priority on sobriety and uses mutual support to assist members in achieving this goal. 

SOS recognizes genetic and environmental factors contributing to addiction but allows each member to decide whether or not addiction is a disease. SOS believes that those in sobriety can recover but that ultimately addiction is never cured; relapse is always possible. SOS also does not endorse sponsor/sponsee relationships.

The SOS program is based on the Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety, emphasizing the “sobriety priority.” In order to change, members must make abstinence their top priority. SOS suggests members follow a daily, three-part Cycle of Sobriety: 

#1. Acknowledgment of their addiction

#2. Acceptance of their addiction

#3. Prioritization of maintaining sobriety 

Members are also encouraged to develop strategies that strengthen their resolve to maintain sobriety. The Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety emphasize rational decision-making and are not religious or spiritual.