Are Support Groups Really That Good?

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For those of you regular readers (Mom and my wife), I am sure you are expecting a cynical attack on support groups.  However that isn’t my goal today.  In fact this isn’t going to be in my standard narrative at all.  So enjoy a raw one.

Of late I have been attending a support group.  I went to the first one reluctantly.  I wasn’t in desperate need of help, in fact I thought I was just going there as a little support and to get a bit of education.  I have now been attending for 7 or so weeks.  In that time I have certainly learned a lot.

I haven’t changed my outlook.  I still don’t believe in god and never will.  I don’t need that imaginary friend to help me through the program.  The first day I walked through the doors into a small boardroom.  Tables set up in a large rectangle and green chairs around the table.  In the one corner near the door was bunch of read material.  On the large rectangle was a whole bunch of standing cards with slogans.  Behind the table directly across from the door, two white banners with steps and traditions on them.  I had stepped into my first Al-Anon meeting.  And as I browsed through the steps and traditions, I was also certain it would be my last.  The constant beat down of god was down right annoying.  Can’t I get some support without some imaginary asshole guiding the path.

Turns out by the end of that first hour, I would have changed my tune slightly.  God wasn’t a requirement for the support.  I think a lot of people use god in these programs to absolve the addict in their life of some of the guilt.  It works and helps people feel like there is someway the can come out ok on the other side.  I think a lot of people enter that room way more hopeless than I was that day.  So I don’t need god.

What I do need is the shared experience, the group advice and the stories that help others get through their issues.  Of course I won’t be sharing specifics but that group has had a very positive impact on me.  I don’t deal with my alcoholics every day, in fact I don’t have to deal with them often, but they have a way of damaging lives of people I care about and me.  So I listened for guidance on how to support my loved ones.

Then something strange happened and I realized that I was allowed to feel the things I felt too.  And by listening I was quickly learning there was a good way to deal with alcoholism when it impacted my life.  Not the way a guy like me normally would but a way that was controlled and patient.

So today I sat in that room and listened to one person after another discussing their experiences with the group and I felt happy to be there for the first time.  Been a tough week here but listening to that group allowed me to draw parallels to the people I know.  It also allowed me to bleed off some of the stress I felt at home.  For one hour a week I don’t have to just be a support for others but I can let a little bit out about how I feel that week.  I am very lucky to be a little bit removed from the alcoholics that are in my life, but I certainly needed a more constructive way to deal with the issues and the way it has affected me.  I sat there today and realized I had become a better support because I was able to channel the shared experience and learn a lot about dealing with issues.

This group that is teaching me to deal with alcoholics is also teaching me how to be a more patient and productive person at work.  I like the positive impact of the group.  Funny thing is I would have been the asshole doubting the usefulness of group sessions like this.  I am glad I went.  I won’t be going forever, in fact I doubt I will be there every week for much longer, but I know there is a place for me to hang out and share my experience, without judgement, whenever I have a week like the past one.

If you are having problems with substance abusers in your life, find a group.  There is literally tons of them all around.  Don’t worry about the god shit, you can ignore it.  But you might find that sitting there for 3 or 4 weeks gives you a more productive perspective.  You will also find you might meet some people who make you feel better and less alone!

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