Having Difficulties? Step Up Attendance at Support Meetings

Let's face it. The first few days and weeks of recovery can be a living nightmare. You're trying your best to become acclimated with this new life of sobriety, but you're totally unsure what's real and what's only in your mind. And, if you are like most newcomers to sobriety, you don't really trust your instincts at this point.

Once again, it's worth repeating that you really need to be among people who are or have been in similar circumstances. Every recovering alcoholic or drug addict - no matter what the drug of choice - has been through what you're experiencing. They can and will help you through this difficult period. Through the strength of individual and group support, you will be able to overcome these feelings of worthlessness and despair.

Until you are able to create new strategies for dealing with these feelings, until you learn even more powerful coping techniques, plan to attend support meetings on a more regular basis - even daily for a few weeks.

Depending on how recently you left treatment, you should be regularly attending support meetings for at least the first six months following completion of rehab. After that, most successful recovering addicts and alcoholics say they keep up a maintenance routine of regular meeting attendance - just as an insurance policy. They know the support method works, since they've been on both the receiving and the giving end of it.

How can this help you? For one thing, you can use their success as an example so that you can strive to achieve similar results yourself. Make use of their ear as a sounding board. Or, just listen as others relate what's going on with them. You may surprise yourself at how you come up with suggestions to help others - and, in the process, you may learn something about how to better help yourself.

By stepping up your attendance at 12-step group meetings, you are doing something proactive for your recovery. You are also helping yourself become better grounded in the recovery principles and getting a firmer grasp of what it's like to live in sobriety.

Celebrate Your Victories and Accomplishments

Who else better than your sponsor and fellow 12-step group members can you celebrate your victories and accomplishments with? Not that your family and loved ones should be excluded, but your home group of Alcoholics Anonymous or other self-help group are the ones who are most familiar with the importance of such realized goals. They can and should be among the first ones to celebrate these victories with you.

Let's look at some of these in a little detail, starting with milestones. Milestones are critically important for those in recovery. When you achieve certain points on your ladder of success, take the time to recognize them and celebrate your achievement. Some 12-step programs have buttons for a certain number of days of sobriety, or some other badge of recognition.

Even without such a group acknowledgement - which is terrific for your ego, by the way - strive to congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished. It doesn't have to be any more than sending yourself a congratulatory e-card, or marking on the calendar with a big star or exclamation point with a highlighter or marking pen. Take yourself out for a celebratory meal - minus alcohol, of course. You might also reward yourself with a weekend trip, or go to a sporting event or play or musical, even a wrestling match. It doesn't matter what the reward is, the important point is that you do something to give yourself the accolades you deserve.

In no time at all, you'll begin to look forward to these special occasions. And they are special, indeed. Each marks another step forward in your life in recovery. Each step means a lot of hard work and determination, fighting off the cravings that seek to insinuate themselves back into your life, reminding yourself that you are a better person now and you deserve happiness.

You are the architect of your own destiny. Only you can make tomorrow the kind of future you want. Embrace that fact. Make it what you truly want. You'll not only be back on track, you'll be leaving all your former demons and doubts in a trail of dust behind you.

Support Groups for Family Members

While we're on the subject of 12-step support groups and how they're a mainstay of successful recovery, it's important to note that there are numerous 12-step groups for the family members and loved ones of those in recovery.

Since addiction is a family disease, just because the addict has gone through treatment and the family members may have gone to family therapy doesn't mean that everything will always go smoothly. It's tough learning how to interact with someone in recovery. Besides behavior changes, there are also deep-seated emotional wounds to heal. Talking things out in groups comprised of other friends and family members of loved ones overcoming addiction helps.

These groups include, but are not limited to: Al-Anon/Alateen (the family component of Alcoholics Anonymous), Nar-Anon Family Group (affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous), Gam-Anon, Families Anonymous, Co-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), Codependents of Sex Addicts (COSA), and S-Anon Family Group.

Summing it Up

While you can attempt to live your life in sobriety without the benefit of 12-step group support and encouragement, why would you even consider doing such a thing? Why not make your entry into recovery as easy on yourself as possible? This doesn't meant that every day is going to be a breeze or that you won't encounter challenges and problems along the way. On the contrary, recovery is all about learning how to manage these and other issues with equanimity and strength of purpose.

And the best way to do that is to surround yourself with others committed to sobriety who can help you keep on the right path in recovery.

Remember, you always can rely on the safety in numbers you find in the 12-step rooms of recovery. Here, you're not alone. Here you are accepted for who you are, whatever your station in life, how young or old or rich or poor. There are no judgments, no recriminations, no calling you out for your past misdeeds. After all, who among us hasn't gone through our own missteps and misdeeds? We're all in this together. That's why it's often said that you never recover alone.

Maybe at some point in your future life in sobriety you will scale back your attendance and participation in 12-step meetings. But that time is surely not now. For the present, keep your focus squarely on working the Twelve Steps and doing the best you can for your recovery today. We do, indeed, live recovery one day at a time. And 12-step groups can definitely help keep us on the right path.

Posted on March 14th, 2012
Posted in Articles

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