There is something magical about peer support groups in recovery but beware of the pitfalls.
Walking in or logging onto your first support group can feel daunting and scary. But the benefits associated with them far outweigh the negatives. Support groups can be a great place for individuals in early recovery to explore and rebuild a better version of themselves. Some of the benefits include
• A sense of empowerment, taking charge of your recovery, building up your confidence and self-esteem
• Being able to open without feeling judged because you can guarantee someone else will be able to relate to whatever you say
• There is a lot of hope and optimism to be found in support groups as well as the opportunity to create some healthier
• Knowing you are not alone can go a long way to reduce feelings of isolation
People are usually stronger in numbers. You can create a support system and use it to help you get through difficult times. You might find that you can handle anything when this group has your back. But ultimately, your recovery is YOUR own responsibility. But despite the benefits there are some things to need to be mindful of
But be warned, there is no magic wand -We are all seeking solutions to our problems. The great part about recovery support groups is that there will no doubt be someone who has experienced similar challenges that you are facing. They might share how they handled the situation for themselves, or they might offer some advice, but ultimately, it’s down to you to decide what action you need to take.
Don’t get put off. There are different approaches and beliefs around recovery – Finding the right group for you is trial and error. There are a variety of different peer lead support groups, ranging from 12 steps Anonymous groups, SMART recovery, founded on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and there are also many independent support groups. AND you don’t have to stick to just one! click on the link for local groups in Sheffield
Also, just about the only good thing to come out of COVID is that there is a hell of a lot more support available online too. So even if there isn’t a local face to face group that suits you, you can widen your search. Ultimately it is your job to find which one fits and feels right for YOU and to stick with it whilst you need it.
Don’t measure your recovery against others –everyone will have varying recovery times under their belts, and sometimes it can be hard not to compare your recovery to someone else’s. Work out what success looks like for you and measure your recovery against your own goals – and remember that nobody has 100% ever perfected their recovery.
Beware of swapping one dependency for another – Support groups are a great source of support to help you on your journey going forward, but peer support groups shouldn’t be the only tool in your recovery toolkit. For example, have you accessed counselling from your treatment provider or considered broadening your wider recovery capital -there is more useful information here
Be cautious around getting involved in someone else’s recovery – Just because you share a common experience with someone doesn’t mean they are your best mates. Everyone comes to meetings with their own baggage and with their own recovery. And just like YOU, they are responsible for their own recovery too. Also, getting distracted by someone else’s recovery journey could increase the risk of you forgetting the main reason you went in the first place, which was to help yourself.
Relationships in early recovery – this is kinda linked to the above. If you are not already in a relationship when embarking on your recovery journey, my advice would be to stay single.
I know that early recovery can feel lonely, and it can be so tempting to jump right in, but any time spent on a relationship is time not spent on recovery. Everyone in recovery is working on rebuilding their identity, and self-esteem can easily become dependent on someone else to provide it. This is especially important in recovery, where a toxic relationship can spiral you into relapse. Before jumping straight in, make sure you understand what you’re getting into. A relationship requires attention and time. Are you able to commit that time, or will it get in the way of your recovery?
Confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. I can hear everyone screaming at that statement. But if I’m being brutally honest, I have seen it happen.
Breaking confidentiality or anonymity is a BIG NO NO. But unfortunately, despite the firm, strict ground rules, nobody can guarantee that what’s shared in the group will stay in the group. It can only take one person who doesn’t understand the concept of confidentially to break it. Often, I find that those who are talking/gossiping about someone else’s recovery are just deflecting from their own. Remember, the reason you are there, which is to figure out YOUR self, take what you need from the group, listen to people’s stories, learn from them and put into practice any lessons/ tips acquired.
Note of advice: If you do see or hear people talking about someone outside of the group, please inform the group facilitators straight away.
Final note – Embarking on the path of recovery requires us to do some work. It’s not always easy, but then remind yourself that nothing in life worth doing is easy. I mean, if it was, we’d all be doing it!
Working on undoing our habits, understanding our old limiting beliefs and values takes time. But rest assured that whilst you are letting go, you are also replacing those limiting beliefs and values with healthier ones AND increasing your personal resilience. The best part about personal resilience is that with a little insight and practice, anyone can bounce back from adversity and perhaps even become happier, smarter, stronger, and healthier than you were before.
The power of peer support
As I walked into the room
All I felt was impending doom
I was so nervous and unsure
But I was desperate for a cure
I felt awkward at first
Convinced I was cursed
I was scared that no one would care
But soon became aware
That these people really understood
And that they weren’t there to judge?
In their stories, I saw snippets of me
And the person I aspired to be
Listening to their highs and their lows
Finally gave me the courage to disclose
I shared some of my deepest fears
Many that had been bottled up for years
My words which once seemed absurd
We’re finally being listened to, but more importantly, heard
There were knowing nods and even some tears
Which helped alleviate my initial fears
As the burden, I’d been carrying was slowly released
I finally found some comfort and peace
Whilst working through my shame, I learned we are all the same
No longer alone, I felt immediately at home
I no longer felt the need to hide
Because I’d found my very own recovery tribe
I will never forget the day when I entered that room
I walked in a coward
And walked out feeling empowered
So, if you are sitting at home
Remember you are NOT alone
Now go pick up that phone
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Remember I don’t write for financial reward or gain, I just want to help share my lived experience with others in the hope that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email (NO SPAM) with the most up to date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.
Love Fordy xxx