Six Tips for Attending Self Help Support Groups

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 23:00
Posted in category Ask Rickhead
<div class=\"postavatar\">Six Tips for Attending Self Help Support Groups</div>

Post written by Rick Doyle

Six Tips for Attending Self Help Support Groups

Dear Rickhead:  My son was recently sentenced to 90 meetings in 90 days along with attending counseling and several other punishments for a DUI he got.  He is 24 and while he realizes that if he doesn’t do what he has been court ordered to do, get treatment/help for his drinking he faces some jail time.  He has done most everything but getting to the 12 step groups is like pulling teeth.  I don’t have any experience with this sort of thing can you give any suggestions that I can pass on to him to encourage him to go and that might make this punishment less intimidating? 

                                                          -Thanks, WorriedMom 

Dear WorriedMom:

I have found that when it comes to attending self help support groups or meetings, I have six suggestions that may help you:

1. Keep an open mind. Not all meetings or groups are good or bad. It just may be that some are better than others for you. There is nothing you can do wrong. Chase your recovery the way you chased your problem/addiction. By quick definition, addiction occurrs when one continues to engage in something despite the consequences. In other words, it drinking causes you problems and you keep drinking despite the problems, it’s a problem. I would also suggest that this is very close to the definition of insanity, repeating an action the same way and expecting different results. A group of people who share how they made lasting change away from these destructive behaviors might prove a great resource.


2. What you put into the meeting and your recovery is directly proportional to what you will get out of your recovery. Examples of this might be showing up 60 seconds before the meeting and bolting out immediately at the close of the meeting. Instead stick around and put your hand out to the person who shared that you connected with. Chances are whatever group or problem you’re seeking help with will also be connected support groups for families, friends and spouses. People who are solidly recovering with some good time under their belt will be able to show you how to abstain, change, learn to have fun again, reconnect, engage in healthy relationships, basically reverse the path of destruction that led you to their door/group.


3. Attend a meeting at least three times before you give it the ax for three reasons. First, it’s new and new is usually uncomfortable, so give it a chance. Two, you could be catching it on just an off night. Finally, don’t judge a book by its cover. There are usually many different meetings, formats, and people in recovery so if you stick with it for a while you’ll find what you need and the format you are most comfortable with. In other words some people change their drinking holes with their addiction and the same is true of those looking for their drug of choice.  Finding what works for you in recovery might involve following various suggestions from those you meet and connect with.  Find out what meetings and formats seem to fit you by asking those you enjoy listening to, “where do you go?” Most people with any addiction bounced around and sample more than one drink, drug, or relationship before they found what eventually became their favorite.  Recovery is no different.


4. Not everyone is healthy or in the same place that you are. Remember why you are there, and how you and the other people got there. Look for the similarities, not the differences. Chances are if a Judge or Officer of the Court sent you there, it wasn’t because they thought you could get great free coffee. You might find that people who regularly attend self help groups, work the suggested program of recovery, engage with others who have successfully made changes via these self help groups, may actually be able to help you avoid that Judge or get that Officer of the Court off your back, for good!


5. Reach out and ask for help! Everyone was new at one time or another. Therefore, ask for what you need. Those who have been around recovery for a while rely on you to pass their message of recovery on too. In other words, if you are new, you are the most important person in the group.


6. Last but not least, remember the best anyone will ever be is human and chances are if a person is sitting in a room for lying, cheating, conning, drinking, using, over eating, under eating, controlling others, relationship or other addiction, 2 weeks of recovery does not make them the expert nor should they necessarily be your first choice for advice. Seek out long term recovery where possible, 5-10 years plus. It is usually a good idea to stick with the same gender for a while. I have never had PMS, pregnancy issues or certain other problems unique to women, therefore the connection and advice I should seek should initially come from my own gender. Not everyone has honorable intentions or is healthy yet just because they are at a meeting. The reverse is true too. Use a little common sense, ask questions, get to know people over time, you’ll figure out by experience and reputation who the winners are.

You should also bear in mind that recovery is a process and not an event. Note that anonymity is the foundation of most all of the 12‑step recovery programs, and the traditions of these groups should be respected and adhered to at all times. 

Groups are not for everyone and most people will benefit from either concurrent treatment with a competent therapist who is specifically trained in your problem area, or by completing or engaging in an inpatient or outpatient setting first, as deemed necessary by a trained /credentialed professional/assessor. There is no experience or better qualification than to sit across or next to someone who has been where you’ve been, done what you’ve done and has successfully recovered and can share that recovery with you to help you get where you want to go!

It is important to realize this is only a brief overview and is subject to the reader’s interpretation of the descriptions. For most people, suit up and show up with consistency will be a great start to making change and in some cases might just result in making new friends and a better life, at least one with less legal supervision.  Lastly, Mom let him go! You might want to look into some support or a support group for yourself.  He got himself into this he has to WANT to get himself out.  There is a fine line between support and codependency but that is a subject for another time. I hope this helps, I’m sure others will add on to these six suggestions as those who are in recovery love to give a helping hand wherever possible. 

To Ask Rickhead a question, please email: askrickhead [at] topicisland [dot] com

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One Response to “Six Tips for Attending Self Help Support Groups”

  1. Wm Vandevender says:

    July 12th, 2010 at 8:44 am

    This is a great post.

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