Facing up to alcohol addiction issues can be one of the hardest situations to deal with. Alcohol forms such a key part of our social and cultural lives that it can be difficult to acknowledge and come to terms with an alcohol related addiction issue. But help is available and it doesn’t always have to come from an alcohol rehab clinic or detox programme.
Self help groups for alcohol addiction can provide valuable support for individuals from a group perspective, In a self help group, the focus is on sharing experiences with a view to gaining support from the group itself by owning one’s own experiences and addiction to alcohol with a view to achieving long term abstinence and stopping drinking for good.
What are alcohol self help groups
There are several self help groups dealing with alcohol addiction but probably the most well known and familiar to most of us, is Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. Founded in 1935 and not to be confused with the roadside rescue organisation of the same name, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has 2 million people worldwide involved in what they describe as a ‘fellowship’, who call themselves members of this established and very successful self help group. These are people who once drank to excess, who have finally acknowledged that they could not handle alcohol being part of their lives and now live a new way of life without it.
Self help with alcohol addiction
The relative success of the AA self help with alcohol addiction programme is linked to the fact that an alcoholic who no longer drinks is the best person to reach out and help another person who is unable to exercise this kind of control over their drinking. In its simplest form, the AA programme operates when a recovered alcoholic passes along or shares their story about his or her own drinking issues, inviting the new person to do the same as part of an informal fellowship.
At the heart of this approach to personal recovery is the Twelve-Step programme which is similar to a set of rules or commandments as established by the original members of the Alcoholics Anonymous Society. Newcomers to the meetings are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety straight away, if they feel unwilling or unable to do so. As part of self help for alcohol abuse, they will be asked to maintain an open mind, to attend regular meetings where recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read AA information and literature describing and interpreting the AA programme. Current members will emphasise to newer members of the group that it is only be determining their own alcoholic issues that they will be able to begin their journey towards sobriety.
Liam’s alcohol self help journey
Liam, 42 from Sheffield, had been drinking steadily since the age of 14 but was more of a weekend drinker than what he would describe as an alcoholic.
“I’d always liked a drink and a weekend wasn’t complete without a full on session down the pub. To be honest, I thought that’s what everyone did. It was normal to me.”
But two years ago Liam was made redundant. He lost his job as a manager overseeing a large warehouse. He not only lost his job but also his regular drinking partners too. Being at home everyday was making him depressed and he quickly turned to drinking to get himself through the day. “I was never one to drink alone. That was always my motto but after I lost my job – well, nothing seemed worth it anymore. I wasn’t getting any interviews for anything else. I thought I may as well just stay in, close the curtains and work my way through a bottle of whiskey.”
Liam was persuaded to attend his local AA meeting by his brother. He had joined the group and followed the twelve-step programme himself so he knew it worked for him. “I was mad with Kev at first. I told him straight that there was no way I was going to an AA meeting to share my stories. I mean what was the point? But he kept on at me and so one day I just ran out of excuses and went along. It wasn’t what I expected at all. Everyone was really friendly and supportive, plus it felt good to just talk and also listen. I’ve been sober for six months now and yes it is tough but I know that every day I don’t drink, is a day I can call a success. I’ve even managed to get an interview for a managerial post in Leeds so fingers crossed I get it. I know some people might think these self help groups are a waste of time but there’s a really strong motivation when you go to stop drinking. Plus I’ve made a whole new set of friends!”
Useful contacts for alcohol addiction
If you, or a loved one, are dealing with alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse issues, then Port of Call are here to help. With access to a wide network of treatment centres and programmes, including a number of private and residential rehab facilities throughout the UK, Port of Call can help you to find the appropriate treatment. Take the first step towards your recovery today by speaking to one of our advisers free on 0800 002 9010
Here is a list of useful Alcohol self-help groups:
In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous, there are a number of other websites and support groups available to get advice and support if you or a loved one is trying to deal with an alcohol addiction issue.
Al-Anon Family Groups offer support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they are still drinking or not. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and can be attended by 12- to 17-year-olds who are affected by another person’s drinking, usually a parent.
Alcohol Concern is the national agency on alcohol misuse for England and Wales. They provide general information about alcohol, and can help put you in touch with your nearest alcohol advice centre.
Drinkaware is an independent charity working to reduce alcohol misuse and harm in the UK to help people make better choices about drinking.
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned with their welfare. Call 0800 002 9010 for the Nacoa helpline.
UK SMART recovery help people recover from addictive behaviour so they can go on to lead meaningful and satisfying lives. Their approach is secular and science based using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods. UK SMART run a network of self help meetings and also partner with care professionals.
Disclaimer: Names and some details have been changed to protect the identity of our case study participants.