Joining a support group, regardless of the type of group, means more than just attending, drinking coffee, and listening to the stories. The group brings together people who are going through the same ordeal, and that is a powerful thing.
Here are seven of the best support group tips, including ways to make the most of your group, to help yourself and others.
Making the most of your support group
- Participate — A support group is not a passive gathering. The healing benefits come from the participation of all members supporting each other. It is perfectly understandable to remain quiet initially. It is important for you to be comfortable with the group before you really get involved. But, eventually, it is important that you do. Be ready to share your experiences and to get to know your peers, both for your own recovery, and to help those around you.
- Be honest — It will not be easy to open up and share your personal, and often shameful, experiences with others. You can help others, though, by being totally honest. Don’t gloss over your most difficult times. Being open and being honest will help you find release from your shame and self-loathing, and will help others understand that they are not the only ones going through this.
- Listen — As you are opening up and being honest with your group members, make sure you are also listening to their stories. Listening will help you feel better, and will also show your group members that you are there for them, supporting their recovery.
- Work with your sponsor — A sponsor is a mentor who has been clean for a long period of time. This person acts as a role model for you, and a personal, one-on-one support network. You can call on your sponsor when you are feeling weak and like you might relapse.
- Become a sponsor — When you have been sober for a long enough period of time to qualify, pay it forward by being a sponsor for a new group member. Your support and your experiences can help an individual, the way you were helped by your sponsor.
- Get involved — Having a purpose can be very powerful while you are recovering and trying to resist the urge to relapse. Your support group is a great way to get involved in a healthy activity. Beyond simply attending meetings, offer to be of more assistance. You can show up early to set up, or stay after to clean up. If you have been sober for a while, you may offer to lead group meetings or start new groups in areas that have few.
- Develop relationships — Perhaps most importantly, use your support group to develop healthy relationships. One of the biggest mistakes people in recovery make is going back to old friends with bad habits. Spend time with people who will support your sobriety. Beyond your sponsor, make new friends and develop lasting and supportive relationships.
Recovery support groups are what you make of them. If you are a good member, willing to be open and honest, a good listener who supports fellow addicts, you will get a lot out of your group, including a healthy new lifestyle, free from addiction.