Alcohol Support Groups & Aftercare Programs

Alcohol addiction, also called alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism, is a complex disorder that affects brain circuitry. The condition can alter a person’s thoughts, emotions, impulse control, and memory formation. 

educational programme

Common Types of Alcohol Support Groups

Alcohol addiction treatment can help control the emotional, physical, social, and behavioral aspects of a person's life affected by alcoholism.

There are various ways to treat alcohol addiction, including support groups. These groups come in different formats. These include:

  • A few people meeting in an alcohol rehab facility
  • A small group that gathers at a community center 
  • A vast organization with meetings all over the world

Support groups can consist of but are not limited to:

  • Only men or women 
  • Those of a particular religion
  • People of a certain age
  • Groups with a co-existing mental health disorder

Alcohol addiction support groups are usually free to join. Membership is often kept anonymous. 

Individuals may join a support group on their own accord or as part of an alcohol addiction treatment plan.

Meetings are usually offered in various settings, at different times, and in a variety of formats.

Below are some of the most popular alcohol support groups:

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous, otherwise known as AA, is one of the world's most popular recovery support groups. The organization welcomes anyone who battles alcohol addiction and wishes to remain sober.

AA coined the 12-step format that many other support groups follow. This method asks that its participants admit that alcohol controls their lives. It also asks for members to ‘give themselves to a higher power.’ 

The organization accepts members of all religions, genders, races, and ages.

Alcoholics Anonymous has over two million members in over 100,000 groups who meet in 181 countries.

Estimated Worldwide A.A. Individual and Group Membership, Alcoholics Anonymous, 2018

Twelve Step Support Groups

The 12-steps were designed by Alcoholics Anonymous to create structured guidelines for people to overcome alcohol addiction. The process gained success, leading to other addiction support groups following similar steps.

Although the 12-steps were designed on spiritual principles, many nonreligious individuals find the process effective. 

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a four-point program that helps alcohol addicts to build motivation and confidence. The program also allows members to manage cravings, emotions, and behaviors.

Participants learn how to live a happy and well-balanced life using the SMART recovery scheme. The program is nonspiritual and focuses on teaching individuals how to develop skills for positive lifestyle adjustments.

This program helps members to become self-reliant and uses research-based recovery methods to maintain sobriety. 

Members can join a local group for face-to-face meetings. Virtual support and online sessions are also available.

Women for Sobriety (WFS)

Women for Sobriety is a nonprofit support group that helps women battling addictions like alcohol abuse. The organization hosts a New Life Program that uses 13 acceptance statements. These help women alter self-destructive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to support a happy and healthy life without alcohol and drug addiction.

Members are asked to think about the 13 acceptance statements each morning and evening and how they apply to their lives. Coping skills and stress management are also part of the Women for Sobriety support group scheme.

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is a support group of people who share practical experiences and success stories of sobriety. LifeRing focuses on the positivity of the present day, transforming anger and despair into hope and progress to combat alcohol and substance abuse. The organization embraces the idea that every person heals differently, rather than applying the same steps to everyone.

Many LifeRing participants also join other types of meetings and programs as part of their recovery process.

Moderation Management (MM)

Moderation Management is a recovery program different from many alcohol abuse support groups. This is because it doesn’t expect complete abstinence. Instead, participants can drink alcohol in moderation.

Moderation Management works to combat problematic drinking and the negative behaviors and feelings that come with them through the Steps of Change treatment program. Members keep a drinking diary before committing to 30 days of abstinence from alcohol.

Afterward, participants can responsibly reintroduce alcohol use.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety is a nonprofit organization. In-person and online recovery support groups are offered to people experiencing substance use disorders who seek sobriety. 

Membership is free and anonymous for anyone who hopes to achieve or sustain sobriety through group meetings. The key aim is for members to support each other in their efforts.

The groups are secular and aren’t linked to any religion or spiritual group. Likewise, Secular Organizations for Sobriety groups aren’t governed or related to any external groups or organizations.

Celebrate Recovery (Christian)

Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program for Christian people in need of addiction recovery for various issues and addictions. It’s a biblical and balanced scheme that helps people overcome negative feelings, hang-ups, and habits. Addictions that Celebrate Recovery combat include alcohol abuse, drug use, sexual addiction, and food addiction.

Celebrate recovery also deals with eating disorders, love and relationship problems, anger, and more.

Mental Health Support Groups

Many people with alcohol addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder or dual diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Dealing with alcohol use disorder is even more difficult for people who are also battling mental health issues.

The best treatment for co-occurring alcohol addiction and mental health disorders is an integrated approach. This is when the alcohol abuse problem and the mental health issue are treated together. 

Support groups can help people suffering from both illnesses. Members can share struggles and success stories on battling their addictions and disorders.

motivational interviewes

Support Groups for Family Members

There are also support groups created specifically for family members whose loved one is experiencing alcohol addiction.

Al-Anon 

Al-Anon works as a support group and helpline for family members of people experiencing alcohol addiction. Addiction can lead to emotionally destructive behavior, and partners and children of alcohol addicts often experience the worst of these outbreaks.

Even if alcohol abusers don’t become emotionally or physically aggressive, watching a loved one suffer from substance abuse can be difficult. 

Al-Anon provides a supportive and understanding community for family members to discuss and share feelings about their experiences.

Benefits of Support Groups for Alcohol Recovery

Support groups give alcohol addicts encouragement and hope for achieving and sustaining recovery. Participants' shared experiences can help make substance abuse users take responsibility for their actions. This helps them develop coping strategies and methods of moving forward.

Spending time in a group of like-minded people with shared experiences creates a community that is beneficial for long-term recovery. They also offer a safe, secure, and non-judgmental environment that promotes healing and peer support.

Alcohol recovery groups come in many different formats, so people can select a treatment program that suits them best. 

Actively attending Alcoholics Anonymous makes a person twice as likely to maintain sobriety. 

Alcoholics Anonymous Effectiveness: Faith Meets Science, Journal of Addictive Diseases, 2009.

Resources

Kaskutas, Lee Ann. Alcoholics anonymous effectiveness: faith meets science, Journal of addictive diseases, 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2746426/

The Relevance of Twelve-Step Recovery in 21st Century Addiction Medicine, American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2015, https://www.asam.org/Quality-Science/publications/magazine/read/article/2015/02/13/the-relevance-of-twelve-step-recovery-in-21st-century-addiction-medicine

Information on Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/information-on-alcoholics-anonymous

SMART Recovery for individuals with addictions, Smart Recovery, https://www.smartrecovery.org/individuals/

About, Women for Sobriety, https://womenforsobriety.org/about/

About Us, Lifering Secular Recovery, https://www.lifering.org/about

About Moderation Management?, Moderation Management, https://moderation.org/about-mm-support-overview/ 

What we do, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, http://www.sossobriety.org/what-we-do

Getting started, Celebrate Recovery, https://www.celebraterecovery.com/?id=1:getting-started

What Is Al-Anon and Alateen?, Al-Anon, https://al-anon.org/newcomers/what-is-al-anon-and-alateen/

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Updated on: September 3, 2020
Author
Ellie Swain
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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