Navigating support groups

Navigating where to get help especially if you are concerned that your drug use may be becoming problematic can be difficult and confusing. Everyone has an opinion about drug use and they want to share it with you.

Maybe you just want to know where you can go and what are your options are so you can make an informed decision. Knowing what your options are can help you make an informed decision about what would be best for you.

You can ring Alcohol Drug Information Service, ADIS, on 02 9361 8000 or free call 1800 422 599 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for education, information, support, crisis counselling and referral to services in NSW. Or check out their website.

Many people have heard about programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Smart Recovery.  You may have heard good or bad things about how these groups can help you develop coping skills for problematic drug use. Below is a summary of support group programs so you can make an informed decision if this is the best option for you.

Who can join a support group?

Most support programs are based on lived experience and peer support and so they are not only open to people who may be experiencing problematic drug use but their family members as well.

What are 12 Step Programs?

A 12-step program is a structured step-by-step program to help you overcome destructive or problematic behaviour. The 12-Step programs have helped many people achieve abstinence.  The 12-Step programs usually involves joining a group made up of peers, people who have had similar experiences to you or similar struggles with problematic behaviour who want to change that behaviour.

Some of the more well-known programs include AA, NA, and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). All these group follow the same 12 steps with the underpinning message that, “Addiction is incurable all we can do is fight it one day at a time”.

Why do 12 Step Programs work?

The 12 step groups work because they are designed to help you feel connected. Joining a group you suddenly realise you are not alone. Often many of us deal with problematic behaviour by trying to cope alone, problematic drug use and the shame we feel can be isolating. 12 step groups give you the chance to reach out and ask for help without the fear of being judged. By meeting other people who are managing their problematic behaviour you can develop the confidence that you need to make the changes to your life.

What are the costs?

Most 12 step programs are free or only ask for gold coin donation to cover the cost of tea and coffee. You can find 12 step support groups in nearly every country in the world on every day of the year. You can also join a join on line group if you can’t get to a meeting in person. Check out the link to online meetings.

What groups can I join?

In Australia there are approximately 400 different 12 steps self-help groups that you can join for various different addictions and disorders. These include NA, Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA), AA, Nar-Anon, Al-Anon, GA to name a few.

NA is a not for profit group for men and women for whom opiate drug use has become problematic. NA is built on the concept the 12 step concept that addiction is an incurable disease and it can only be treated-one day at a time.

Recovering addicts meet regularly to help each other stop using. This is a program is based on complete abstinence from all drugs. There is only one requirement for membership, the desire to stop using.

How successful you are is based on following a set of simple principles designed to be used in your daily life. There are no strings attached to NA they are not affiliated with any other organisations religious or otherwise.

Even though NA is not affiliated with any religion most 12-step programs traditionally follow a spiritual path to recovery while not affiliated with a particular religion, terms such as “God” or “Higher Power” are used in the recovery process, often leaving it up to you to define what these terms mean to you. There are no joining fees or dues, no pledges to sign, no promises to make to anyone. Anyone can join NA regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion, or lack of religion.

CMA is also a 12 step group for men and women for whom stimulants use has become problematic. Like NA, CMA is open to anyone and the only one requirement is the desire to stop using. CMA follows the 12 steps with its underpinning message about addiction.

Why is SMART Recovery different from 12 Step?  

S= Self M= Management A=And R=Recovery T=Training

Smart Recovery is similar to NA it is based on a four point program aimed at:

  • Building Motivation to Abstain
  • Coping with Urges
  • Learning Problem Solving Techniques: to Help Manage Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours
  • Achieving Life Style Balance

SMART Recovery is an alternative to 12 step group program. SMART Recovery groups still aim to assist people  deal with problematic behaviours they may have, including problematic drug use, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, food, shopping, Internet and others.

SMART Recovery meetings, like 12 step groups, are run by trained peers and/or professionals. The difference is SMART Recovery uses cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and motivational tools and techniques aimed at participants learning to help themselves and help each other rather than relying on a higher power.

SMART Recovery may look similar to programs like NA or 12 Step programs, but SMART Recovery program is built on proven scientific methods rather than spiritual recovery. SMART Recovery focuses on teaching group members to become more self-reliant rather than surrendering to a higher power. SMART Recovery meetings are also different they are discussion sessions in which individuals talk about their problems as a group, rather group members sharing an experience.

SMART Recovery encourages attendance for months to years, but it is not a lifetime commitment. Unlike 12 step programs Smart Recovery does not have sponsors. SMART Recovery also discourages use of labels such as “alcoholic” or “addict” but focuses on teaching members how to cope with problematic behaviour.

How can I find a group near me?

If you want find out more about NA or 12 step programs you can check out their website, or if you want to find out more about 12 step program check out their website.

If you want to know more about SMART Recovery or find a meeting you can check out their website.

You can ring ADIS on 02 9361 8000 or free call 1800 422 599 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 24 hours a day for information and referral to group near you.