For those in early recovery from a substance use disorder having a robust support network is essential. Many find participating in a recovery-oriented fellowship an essential part of this support system. These fellowships or support programs are aimed to help the individual in recovery acquire the tools needed to navigate a triggering world and, a community to seek support from. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), is the most well-known of these programs, but it is, by no means, the only one. Whether it be AA, a different program, or a combination of them all, finding the right program for you is the most essential part. Here is an overview of some of the different fellowships currently available to those in recovery:
Alcoholics anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson, a former stock broker who struggled with alcoholism, and Dr. Bob Smith, an Ohio based proctologist who was plagued by bouts of alcoholism throughout his career. During a period of sobriety, Bill Wilson sensed he was in danger of drinking during a business trip to Akron, and set out to find an alcoholic to help in an effort to curb his cravings. He was connected with Dr. Bob, who was in the middle of a drinking binge, through a religious group, and the two met up and spent hours frankly discussing their struggles. Both felt a sense of relief, and set out to help others, leading to the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous.
While it only had a handful of members when it started, today there are over a hundred thousand meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous world wide, and the number of people active in AA is even higher. Meetings vary widely in structure, and essentially serve as a free forum for people who struggle with alcohol and/ or substance abuse to connect with others like them to form support networks, and share their experiences with substance abuse and recovery.
Refuge Recovery is a fairly new, Buddhist oriented recovery program and fellowship developed by author Noah Levine. The program is based on what they refer to as “The Four Truths of Refuge Recovery”, which are:
1. Addiction Creates Suffering
2. The cause of addiction is repetitive craving
3. Recovery is possible.
4. The path to recovery is available.
Similar to AA, refuge recovery involves regular meetings, a mentorship relationship, and a program of action to take. The program and meetings both involve mindfulness and the heart practice methods of Buddhist meditation, but no prior experience with Buddhism or meditation is necessary to attend.
SMART Recovery is a recovery fellowship for people having issues related to substance abuse, teaching common sense self-help procedures to help people abstain. SMART recovery uses an evidence-based therapy called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy to form the structure of the program and help people recover. SMART believes that by managing the beliefs and emotions that lead you to use, you can empower yourself to recover. SMART emphasizes four key areas of Awareness and Change, which are:
1. Enhancing Motivation
2. Refusing to act on urges to use
3. Managing life’s problems in a sensible and effective way without substances
4. Developing a positive, balanced, and healthy lifestyle.
SMART meetings, which are held regularly, are self supported, straightforward, and organized. SMART recovery is a well established fellowship, with meetings available in most regions.
Narcotics Anonymous started as an offshoot of the Alcoholics anonymous program in the early 1950’s. At the time, Alcoholics Anonymous was not very accepting of people who had substance abuse issues other than drug use, and NA was formed to provide a safe space where those seeking recovery could discuss their drug use openly. Continuing this tradition, Narcotics anonymous is open to all those struggling with substance abuse, regardless of the particular drug(s) that they used.
Narcotics anonymous provides a recovery process and peer support network which are linked together. NA Emphasizes the value of members helping one another. Like AA, NA is a 12 step program. NA has a strong worldwide presence, with 67,000 weekly meetings in 139 countries.