Why a Support Group is Not Always Necessary to Escape Addiction

There is a lot of debate about the necessity of a recovery group for those trying to escape addition. For some people a recovery support group is a must; I used to think the same way as well. The reality is though, that plenty of people do recover without the need for any support group; although some people do benefit from belonging to one. The following is just my opinion and is not meant to offend anyone.

My Experiences with Support Groups

During my twenties I managed to give up the booze for two years with the help of AA. The support group helped me but I became a bit of a zealot – I could never handle anything in moderation. I remember during that time bumping into this man who was already a few years sober but didn’t belong to any support group. I was only a few months off the booze but my reaction was to judge this guy badly – how could he really be sober if he wasn’t in the 12 Step Programme? In fact this man was just one of a number of people that I judged unfairly because of doing things a different way. I was arrogant and ignorant. I was not alone though; there were plenty of other people who believed that a recovery support group is vital to staying sober.

Despite my feelings of smugness about doing things the right way my own recovery was on shaky ground. I ended up drinking again even though I attended a recovery support group every day for almost two years. I am not blaming AA for this; it was my decision after all. My point is that belonging to a recovery support group is no guarantee of anything. In fact, I would go so far as to say that some people do very well without them. In my own case sobriety feels stronger now and more enjoyable than it ever did when I attended meetings every day. I have now almost doubled the time sober by doing it alone – so for me the idea of a group being necessary has been completely disproved.

There is More Than One Way to Lead a Good Life in Recovery

I am not trying to be disrespectful to any members of AA or any other support group here. I believe there is plenty of room for all methods of recovery. I would like to suggest though, that while it is understandable that we believe our own recovery method to be the best one for us it does not necessarily mean that it is the best one for everyone else. I would never dissuade somebody from joining a recovery support group, but I also wouldn’t try and talk them out of going it alone. If it works it works and that is all that should matter at the end of the day. There is no one size fits all and to pretend otherwise is a bit ignorant. I am comfortable in my recovery and don’t feel that I’m missing out on anything by not belonging to a recovery support group. It is possible to make it alone and for some of us it is preferable.

Anyway this is just my view on the subject and I’d be interested in what other people think.

If this post wasn’t too much of a strain you might also be interested in –
Why All the Hatred for Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book May Have Something for Those of Us Who Are Not Members

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8 thoughts on “Why a Support Group is Not Always Necessary to Escape Addiction

  1. I have always hated groups… no matter what they are! Exercise, cooperative learning in class, and now recovery. I don’t know what it is about them- they just make me uncomfortable.
    What is of huge benefit to me is that I have a non-drinking spouse, and all of his friends are non-drinkers as well. I think about groups every now and again but I just cringe at the idea. I’m not particularly anti-social, and most people I meet seem to like me. I guess that’s just my genetic makeup.
    If one thing about a group appeals to me is the idea that I have others to be accountable too. I pride myself on doing what I say I am going to do and I hate to let people down. To me, that is where the internet and blogging comes in.
    I’m with you though- whatever it takes for someone to get and stay sober is what is right for them.

    1. Hi Drew, you are right about groups not being for everyone. The important thing is that people should not be made to feel bad because they choose to do things differently. The main thing is that people get sober and have a good recovery. I agree that blogging is a great addition that can help people live a better life.

  2. Great thoughts Paul. Like you, I do not necessarily think that there is one model to achieve/maintain sobriety. What is best is what works for the person. I have struggled for years with drinking, sobriety, relapse, drinking, etc. I have come to the conclusion that the social aspect of recovery is an important component…for me. My problem has always been that I would drink myself out of society, if that makes sense. My responsibilities and obligations to those I care for, and who care for me, ultimately is what brings me back to sobriety.

    But that is certainly not the same with the group model of recovery support. I don’t think that the AA model is by any means THE only way to achieve and maintain sobriety, though of course it does work for so many people. In fact, I know for some people AA has actually led to some negative experiences.

    Take it easy.

    1. Hi Tan, I agree with you completely – AA could be the wrong choice for some people. The problem is that in some parts of the world this seems to be the only option; there are people who will try to make you feel bad about not choosing it. In fact I’ve even had 12 steppers tell me that I may need to go back drinking until I’m ready for AA. I suppose these people meant well at the time but it was the most unhelpful thing they could say – it was also totally wrong. AA is just one of many solutions – I don’t believe that it is the best option for everyone, but it probably is the best option for some people.

  3. Hi Paul,
    Support groups smack as being very American. Before we know where we are, we’re all hugging each other and crying our eyes out chanting silly mantras.

    I have no doubt that support groups do have a place and can be very helpful for certain persons experiencing problems. I myself have never experienced alcohol addiction. I must admit I’ve had my moments. By this I believe that I was borderline. What has always pulled me back from the brink is myself. I know that I can’t function normally half cut.

    This means that I can’t work well, I can’t study well and I can’t organize myself or deal with people. It affects most aspects of my life.

    What keeps me going is thinking of all the good and positive aspects of life that I’ll miss out on if I dive into a bottle, this alone is enough to keep me off booze.

    Being alcohol or very nearly alcohol free makes me feel better in myself, I feel healthier and more in touch with the world. Booze is a time & life waster if aloud to get out of control.

    Remember the old saying… Alcohol is a good servant but a lousy master.

    1. Hi Mark, we could probably all do with a hug now and again :-)I agree with you that there are a lot of people who will enjoy life more if they give up the booze – it doesn’t mean that they are alcoholics. I think there are also those of us who do more serious problems with alcohol and the need to give up is critical – whether this be with or without a support group. As I say, I personally don’t feel the need for something like AA, but if it was a choice between drinking and the 12 steps I’d have no hesitation about joining such a group.

  4. In fact I’ve even had 12 steppers tell me that I may need to go back drinking until I’m ready for AA.

    Paul –

    Sadly, I find that absolutely very believable. There are simply some AA “fanatics” out there who have really taken that entire model way over the top. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that if anything they are actually doing harm to the reputation of AA by doing or saying such things. In fact, I know that in some areas there are actually support groups specifically for ex-AA participants who for whatever reason found AA to be destructive, hurtful, etc.

    By the way, one thing I was wondering while hearing your interview on the Bangkok Podcast…. What suggestions do you have for expats in Thailand to fill their time with positive, non-drinking-related activities? I kind of wished that the hosts had asked you that during the interview but they never really did. The reason I ask is because – as you obviously know – drinking is such a huge aspect of the social environment there, and very much an acceptable and almost expected form of behavior, particularly for expats/travelers.

    I know that when I lived in Thailand years ago, being an expat basically almost always meant being a heavy drinker. It was just a matter of degree. Whenever I return to Thailand, my expat friends always seem to have gotten to be bigger and bigger drinkers over the years.

    Anyway, it might make for a good podcast topic to consider.

    1. Hi Tan, it is a good topic and thanks for suggesting it. I posted something similar some time ago but it is something I would like to revisit. Watch this space and I may do a podcast about it as well. I agree with you that those who go a bit overboard about AA can do more harm than good – an ex-addict who thinks they can save the world can do a lot of damage 🙂

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