Finding a Support Group
For many of us, finding a support group has been the single most important step we have taken in our recovery. Isolation is one of the most powerful and damaging effects of addiction and abuse. Participating in a support group can begin to reduce that isolation. It doesn't happen all at once - most of us have learned how to stay isolated even when we are in groups! But it can happen. And it can be a powerful way to experience God's love and attentiveness to us.
The National Association for Christian Recovery is a network of individuals - not a network of support groups. There are no "NACR Groups". We do, however, want to assist you in finding a support group that will help you in your recovery and we hope that the material provided here will give you a good start.
A few words of wisdom about committing to participation in a support group:
- Try to postpone reaching any conclusions about whether or not a particular group will be helpful until you have attended several meetings of the group. Some people suggest that it takes attending 6-8 times before you can really know whether it's a good fit. Initial reactions are just too complex to be your only guide about this.
- The dynamics of support groups are usually quite different from the dynamics of other kinds of groups (like discussion groups or Bible study groups), so don't assume you already know the social norms. Plan on it taking some time for you to figure out what is appropriate. It's okay for this to take time!
- There is nothing magical about the support group process - it is a tool, but we have to use the tool. There are things a support cannot do:
- It cannot do your recovery for you. Only you can do your recovery. But a good support group can a) offer a safe evironment to try out the new skills you are learning,
- allow you to learn from the experience, strength and hope of others and
- support you as you take the next step in your recovery.
- Take what works and leave the rest. There will be probably be stuff that is unhelpful in any group. Expect that. It does not mean that group participation is a bad idea for you. Focus on what works. You can take the next step in your own recovery even in less than optimal circumstances.
- If there are no written group guidelines which establish confidentiality as an requirement for all group participants, ask questions. You have a right to know the 'rules of the game'.
- Keep coming back! We all have times when it just doesn't seem like it's helping. Learn to distrust the inner voice that says "I can't change" or "I'm not getting it right" or "my problems are so different from everyone elses" or "I'm not getting better fast enough". It can be hard work sometimes - but you are worth it! You are a precious, lovable, fallable child of God, a unique and irreplaceable treasure! You are worth all the hard work.
The best referrals to groups will come from someone you know who is already a member of a group. If you do not know of any church-based ministries, however, don't hesitate to start by phoning the larger congregations in your community. Remember that a church which you would not consider attending regularly may nevertheless have a support group ministry which is well suited to your needs.
We encourage you not to dismiss lightly the possibility of finding a secular support group that will be helpful to you. Until recently, of course, finding an explicitly Christian support group was not really a possibility because so few existed. Most Christians in recovery today began their recovery journey in a 'secular' support group - and most still find that participation in 'secular' support groups is essential to maintaining their sobriety!
In many places it will still be impossible to find an appropriate support group that is distinctively Christian in character. You will, however, find Christians in almost any recovery group. In some situations, participation in a secular group may mean tolerating some constraints on what can be said about your faith as part of the group process - try to remember that these constraints serve an important purpose for many people and that you can always supplement your secular group experience with other kinds of Christian fellowship in support of your recovery. It is also true that many Christians who struggle with spiritual abuse issues may find it helpful to begin their recovery in a setting which is completely free of religious connections - getting help in a secular setting does not mean that your recovery is any less Christian!
Another way to find a support group that fits your situation is to call one of the "Self-help Centers" which have formed in many states. Many have a computerized database of different kinds of groups. Often these Clearinghouses are a function of county Mental Health Associations - call your county government offices if there is no listing here.