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Alcohol Support Groups & Aftercare Programs

Alcohol addiction is a complex disorder that affects brain circuitry.

Also called alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, the condition can alter a person’s:

  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Impulse control
  • Memory formation 

These and other issues are why it's challenging to overcome alcohol addiction alone. For that reason, there are a variety of alcohol addiction support groups available.

Read on to learn more about how these support groups can support you or your loved one's addiction recovery.

Common Types of Alcohol Support Groups

There are various strategies and methods to treat and even cure alcohol addiction. This includes engaging in support groups.

Alcohol addiction support groups come in different formats, which may 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

There are support groups which focus on different groups of people, such as:

  • 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. 

People can join a support group on their own or as part of an alcohol addiction treatment plan.

Meetings are offered in various settings, times, and 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. Membership is open to the public.

AA practices the 12-step format that many other support groups follow. AA is based on many spiritual principles, one of which includes admitting that a Greater Power can restore you. Part of AA also involves admitting you do not have control over alcohol and that you should make amends with those you harmed with your alcoholism.

It also asks for members to ‘give themselves to a higher power.’ 

The group 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
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Twelve Step Support Groups

The 12-steps were designed by AA as structured guidelines for people to overcome alcohol addiction. The process gained success, leading to other addiction support groups adopting them.

Although the 12-steps were designed on spiritual principles, many nonreligious people also use them.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a four-point program. It helps alcohol addicts build motivation and confidence towards abstinence from alcohol. 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 method. The program is nonspiritual and focuses on teaching people how to live positive lifestyles.

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

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Women for Sobriety (WFS)

Women for Sobriety is a nonprofit support group that helps women manage addictions like alcohol abuse.

The group uses 13 acceptance statements. These statements help women alter self-destructive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to live without alcohol.

Members are asked to think about the statements each morning and evening and how they apply to their lives. Coping skills and stress management are also taught. WFS also implements self-empowerment through positive affirmations.

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LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is a support group of people who share practical experiences and sobriety success stories. Their three values are "Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Help."

LifeRing focuses on transforming despair into hope to combat alcohol abuse. Rather than applying the same steps to everyone, the group embraces the idea that every person heals differently.

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.

MM works to combat problematic drinking through the Steps of Change treatment program.

Members keep a drinking diary before committing to 30 days of abstinence from alcohol. Afterward, participants can reintroduce alcohol use.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety is a nonprofit. In-person and online recovery support groups are offered to people dealing with issues like alcohol abuse. Membership is free and anonymous.

The key aim is for members to support each other in their addiction recovery.

The groups are secular and aren’t linked to any religion or spiritual practice. Nor are they linked to any external groups or institutions.

Celebrate Recovery (Christian)

Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program for Christians in need of addiction recovery.

Addictions that Celebrate Recovery combat include:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug use
  • Sexual addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Depression

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

Dual Recovery Anonymous

Dual Recovery Anonymous is another 12-step support group. The group focuses on those who struggle with both alcohol abuse and mental health issues. This is known as a dual diagnosis.

Many people with alcohol addiction have co-occurring mental health issues such as:

These issues make overcoming alcohol use disorder even more difficult.

Besides emphasizing the 12 steps and relapse prevention, Dual Recovery Anonymous encourages members to seek mental health treatment.

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

Support Groups for Family Members

There are also support groups created for family members of someone experiencing alcohol addiction.

Al-Anon 

Al-Anon is a support group for people who have family members battling alcohol addiction.

Addiction can lead to destructive behavior. Partners and children of alcohol addicts often experience the worst of these outbreaks.

Even if they don’t become abusive, watching a loved one suffer from alcohol abuse can be difficult.

Al-Anon allows family members to discuss and share feelings about their experiences. AI-teen engages children, ages 12-17, of alcoholics who may also have a difficult time.

How Effective are Alcohol Addiction Groups?

Studies show mutual support groups for alcohol addiction lead to a variety of positive outcomes.

Treatment through such programs is linked to the reduced spread of STD's and increased maintenance of sobriety. Participants also exhibit increased feelings of life satisfaction.

Another study found those who took part in Alcoholics Anonymous were twice as likely to abstain from alcohol as non-participants.1

Benefits of Support Groups for Alcohol Recovery

Support groups give alcohol addicts hope and encouragement to achieve and sustain sobriety. Participants' shared experiences can help make addicted people take responsibility for their recovery.

This helps them develop coping strategies to further their addiction recovery.

Benefits can include:

  • Increased treatment engagement
  • Reduction in risky sexual behaviors
  • More self-reliance
  • Increased likelihood of maintaining sobriety
  • Better (re-)integration into society

Support groups come in 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.
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Updated on April 18, 2022
11 sources cited
  1. Kaskutas, Lee Ann. "Alcoholics anonymous effectiveness: faith meets science." Journal of addictive diseases, 2009.
  2. "The Relevance of Twelve-Step Recovery in 21st Century Addiction Medicine." American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2015.
  3. What Is A.A.?” Alcoholics Anonymous.
  4. "SMART Recovery for individuals with addictions." Smart Recovery.
  5. "About." Women for Sobriety.
  6. "About Us." Lifering Secular Recovery.
  7. "About Moderation Management?" Moderation Management.
  8. "Getting started." Celebrate Recovery.
  9. "What Is Al-Anon and Alateen?" Al-Anon.
  10. Tracy, Kathlene, and Samantha P Wallace. “Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction.” Substance abuse and rehabilitation vol. 7 143-154. 29 Sep. 2016
  11. Dual Recovery Anonymous World Network Inc. “Dual Recovery Anonymous - A 12 Step Fellowship.” Dual Recovery Anonymous - a 12 Step Fellowship.

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