The importance of group therapy in addiction recovery

“Hello, may name is ______ and I’m an alcoholic drug addict.”

Many of us have been in situations where we have had to utter these words. Sitting in a lazily-formed circle, looking around the room for answers in other’s faces and body language. We saw tired faces, weary from life. We’ve seen faces that looked happier than others, sleepy faces, scarred faces, scared faces, tattooed faces. We’ve seen legs shake in anticipation of speaking, or hands clutching the Big Book as if its the only thing tying that person to the planet.

We’ve been in group therapy.

According to an article in Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41group therapy, or group, can be incredibly rewarding for individuals recovering from addiction. These groups can reduce isolation and allow members to watch the recovery of their peers. The group format also addresses common symptoms accompanying drug addiction, such as depression and shame.

Having someone say, “Hey man, I’ve been there too.” Or, “I feel the same exact way!” Can be an incredibly healing experience. Not only can you see that it is possible to make it through whatever you are dealing with, but that person can also give you advice from their own experience.

Humans are social creatures, we crave interpersonal relationships. In the throws of addiction, we may isolate ourselves from those who care about us and therefore cause ourselves more pain.

Although A Man in Recovery does not provide clinical group therapy, and someone seeking that should reach out to a treatment facility, we do offer support groups that are open to anyone.

At these groups we have parents, loved ones and addicts share experiences, in their respective groups, about what they are currently going through or struggling with. Through these groups, participants receive support or advice from a diverse group of individuals and see that they are not alone.

Groups such as this or 12-step programs are an important addition to an addicts recovery, however they cannot replace clinical group therapy. In fact, most treatment facilities make attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous or similar programs mandatory, according to Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41. These groups act as a supplement to the treatment process, and should be treated as such.

Sitting in a group of strangers can be terrifying. But, there is no better feeling than watching the transformation of that group from strangers, to friends and finally family.

 

For times, dates and locations of AMIRF support group meetings visit this page. 

 

References:

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64223/

 

We hug here: My first night at an opiate support group.

Carleigh Turner

Sitting in my car before walking into my first opiate support group meeting, I was shaking like a leaf.

I thought everyone in the room would feel that I did not deserve to be sitting next to them. That I had not lived my life hard enough.

I walked towards the church and was immediately introduced to “The Narcan Mom” who provides Narcan training to loved ones and addicts for free. She told me that her son had died from a heroin overdose.

“Oh my god I’m so sorry.”

Crawled up my throat, but I knew it was not enough. My apologies would not take away the grief and pain this woman has experienced.

Her warmth and welcoming nature made me feel ready to walk inside. So together, with her crate of Narcan supplies, we walked into the meeting.

People trickled into the room after finishing their cigarettes and as the meeting began, so did the body count.

Tim Ryan, founder and executive director of A Man in Recovery Foundation, from which this support group was started, is a symbol of hope to many of these individuals.

He shared with the group the names of those who had passed away and reminded everyone that the disease of addiction, is not something to mess around with.

I began to think about when someone I knew died from an overdose. I remembered walking into the funeral home with my teammates. We waited in that dreaded line so we could hug the individual’s parents and see her one last time. As I stood over my old teammate, I was filled with pure anger. She was a senior in high school, a beautiful soul, and it ended like this?

When I came home, I threw her card on the ground, and ran into my room.

I usually think people in caskets look peaceful. But, I  just could not shake the image of her swollen, lifeless face. I did not think she looked peaceful, I thought she looked horrible.

I used to feel that I was alone in this anger. But, after going to this meeting, I knew I was not the only one geared up for the war against heroin.

After introductions and a rundown of how the meeting would work, the loved ones and addicts split into separate groups. I chose to sit with the addicts because I desperately wanted to learn what they were dealing with.

There were individuals on suboxone and off suboxone. There were individuals with nine years of sobriety and some with seven days. The diversity and love in that room was palpable and Tim’s direct, no bullshit, approach was a welcomed wake up call for some individuals.

There were stories that broke my heart and stories that filled it with hope.

“We hug here.”

Was a popular phrase that night and made me feel even more at home.

I walked out of that meeting with a fervor I had not felt before. It was inspiring and humbling to watch these individuals walk through the hell that is addiction and rising above to the promise of recovery.

I cannot wait till next Thursday where I get to learn even more, and continue to join the fight against this deadly disease.