December 1, 2022

5 Support Groups for Alcohol Addiction and Their Benefits

support groups for alcohol addiction

Support groups for alcohol addiction are vital to aftercare and recovery. Support groups include peer support, which is the process of giving and receiving aid from nonprofessional, non-clinical individuals with similar mental and substance use disorders to each other.1 Support groups are where people in recovery voluntarily gather to assist each other in peer support.

The Purpose of Support Groups for Alcohol Addiction

Support groups are meetings for individuals to receive support from each other and share:

  • Knowledge

  • Experience

  • Coping strategies

  • Understanding of each other

Support groups are designed to assist you in achieving long-term recovery from mental health conditions and addiction. Support groups do not replace formal alcohol addiction treatment or clinical guidance, but support groups can be an effective addition to your treatment.1

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Research suggests that recovery can be seen as a process of social identity change. This change occurs when you gradually accept and adopt the norms and values of a new group. Ideally, this new identity is more functional than your previous identity (i.e., addiction). Moving towards the new group identity helps you move away from using social networks and less functional past identities.2

Your support groups are an essential part of helping form this new identity. But to reap the full benefits, you will not only have to attend but participate.

Many support groups are available in-person but recently more opportunities have become available to attend support groups online. Thus far, research has shown the delivery of support groups online may be a viable alternative to in-person groups. Research has further shown that participation in online sources produced positive associations between identifying with said social group and improved health outcomes.2

Benefits of Support Groups for Alcohol Addiction

There are many benefits to becoming a member of a support group.

The benefits of support groups for alcohol addiction include:2

  • Feeling as if you belong in a social group

  • Feeling understood

  • Learning new coping tools and skills

  • Improved treatment outcomes when peer support groups are used alongside formal addiction treatment

  • Developing relationships with others who may be struggling with the same issues

  • Developing a new support system focused on maintaining your recovery efforts

1. Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a highly utilized intervention, and research has consistently shown positive outcomes. It is a fellowship of people who have decided to come together to solve their problems with alcohol consumption.3 AA does not cost any fees to participate and has its own curriculum. Their membership is open to anyone seeking assistance with their drinking problem.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are widely available and likely to be the most prominent group in your area, as well as the format most commonly offered in alcohol addiction treatment programs. Alcoholics Anonymous online meetings are also available, which can connect you to support no matter where you are located.

The primary purpose of AA is to help people with alcohol addiction achieve sobriety through the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. The 12 Steps are a set of spiritual principles to guide you through recovery and show you a new way of life.

Alcoholics Anonymous is composed of individuals who have discovered and admitted they are powerless to control their alcohol use. Although AA’s stance is that they are not aligned with any specific religious denomination, there is a reference to a “higher power.” AA members are asked to share their experiences with alcohol to establish and maintain connection but should not impose their expertise onto you.

AA uses peer mentors called sponsors who assist you in moving through the 12 Steps and provide specialized attention and support.

2. SMART Recovery

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery is a mutual support meeting that is free and open to anyone who seeks science-based, self-empowered addiction recovery.4

During SMART Recovery meetings, participants will assist each other in resolving problems with addiction. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery is designed to assist with a wide range of addiction problems in addition to alcohol addiction.

In SMART Recovery, participants are encouraged to find and develop the power within themselves to strive towards change and live a fulfilling and balanced life. SMART Recovery was developed to be a transformative method to move you away from substances and negative behaviors.

SMART Recovery teaches skills designed to help in achieving abstinence.

SMART Recovery meetings are offered online and in-person and led by peers and professionals. There are many SMART Recovery meetings and resources to meet the needs of various communities and friends and families of individuals who have an addiction.

3. Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a Christian 12-step recovery program for anyone struggling with pain, hurt, and any form of addiction.5

Celebrate Recovery is a place where you can find a community and the freedom from various issues that control your life. The difference between Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery is that in AA, you can choose who/what your “higher power” is and within Celebrate Recovery Jesus Christ is the only “higher power” recognized.

Similar to SMART Recovery, not everyone who attends Celebrate Recovery struggles alcohol addiction. Celebrate Recovery focuses on addressing “hurts, hang-ups, and habits,” using several books and resources. The goal of Celebrate Recovery is to help provide invaluable resources that will equip you with skills to learn, live, and lead through a healing journey in faith.

4. LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based anonymous program.6

LifeRing has a 3-S philosophy:

  1. Sobriety: Sobriety can mean different things to various people, but in LifeRing sobriety means abstinence. LifeRing welcomes anyone, regardless of their drug of choice, as long as they have a desire to remain abstinent from all alcohol and non-medically indicated substances.

  2. Secularity: Secularity refers to LifeRing’s welcoming of all people regardless of their chosen faith or lack thereof.

  3. Self-Help: Self-help for members of LifeRing means the key to their recovery is their own motivation and effort.

LifeRing has an emphasis on positive and practical aspects of the present-day, helping to turn your feelings of anger and despair into hopeful beliefs and resolve. LifeRings supports you to strengthen your sober self and weaken the addict self. The main purpose of LifeRing is to help reinforce your inner strengths and strive to remain sober.

LifeRing Secular Recovery meetings are available in-person in select areas and online. LifeRing members share advice, understanding, and encouragement while focusing on their current lives and not on the hurt and damage once caused by their addiction. LifeRing has several books and resources available for purchase and can be found on multiple social media sites.

5. Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety is the first peer-support program specifically designed to meet the needs of women overcoming any substance use disorder.7 Women for Sobriety is an inclusive group for any woman regardless of background, religion, race, and ability.

Women for Sobriety have both online and in-person meetings. Their New Life Program was developed to provide supportive, empowering, life-affirming principles that address women in recovery and their unique needs and challenges.

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Support Group for Family Members of People With Alcohol Addiction

A support group worth mentioning that can also assist you or your loved one is Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a group for individuals worried about someone who has a drinking problem.8

Al-Anon is a mutual support group applying Al-Anon principles to their problems and how it relates to the effects of a problem drinker in their life. Alateen is a peer support group for teens who struggle with the effects of someone else’s problematic drinking.

SMART Recovery also offers SMART Friends and Family meetings.

If you need alcohol addiction treatment that includes or is in addition to the unofficial support offered by peer-led groups, call 800-661-1690 (Who Answers?) to speak to a treatment specialist.

Resources

  1. Tracy, K., & Wallace, S. P. (2016). Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addictionSubstance Abuse and Rehabilitation7, 143-154.
  2. Bliuc, A. M., Doan, T. N., & Best, D. (2018). Sober social networks: The role of online support groups in recovery from alcohol addictionJournal of Community & Applied Social Psychology29(2), 121-132.
  3. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2022). What is A.A.?
  4. SMART Recovery. (2022). About SMART Recovery.
  5. Celebrate Recovery. (2018). What is Celebrate Recovery?
  6. LifeRing Secular Recovery. (2022). About LifeRing.
  7. Women For Sobriety. (2022). New Life Program.
  8. Al-Anon. (2021) Al-Anon Meetings.
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