Social Support to Help Stop Drinking
Finding help from those around you.
As you begin to rebuild your life without alcohol, many people find it helpful to get support from those around them. Family members, friends, colleagues, and others around you may be willing and able to help you out as you need it while you figure out how to stay sober. And, by the way, it’s perfectly acceptable and helpful for you to tell those around you what kind of help you want from them, because they really might not know what you need.
This support can take many forms:
- By not offering you alcohol.
- By not drinking around you.
- By learning more about alcohol dependence use disorders.
- By providing support and caring to you, while at the same time being willing to be calmly and factually honest with you about your behavior and its day to day consequences.
- By being realistic about your ability to take on new demands while you’re initially trying to quit and stay sober.
- By being patient with you, and reminding you to be patient with yourself.
What about Mutual Support Groups – Do they really work?
Mutual support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART Recovery, are programs where each member of the group is both a helper as well as a recipient of help in service of achieving common group and individual goals (Gitterman, 2006). In terms of working toward quitting drinking, a mutual support group like AA or SMART Recovery can be very effective for many people in that they believe that everybody at the meeting potentially has strengths, opinions, perspectives, ideas, information, and experiences that can be drawn upon to help other members of the group. In addition, it has been shown that helping others actually “helps the helper,” which then encourages ongoing sobriety as people become more involved in the process.
There is no question that people who are trying to quit drinking, and who regularly attend and participate in mutual support groups are more likely to recover and less likely to relapse (Forcehimes & Tonigan, 2008). In fact, there are many people who only use AA, SMART Recovery, or some other mutual support group such as Moderation Management (MM) or Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) without any other help in maintaining sobriety. Some people require more professional treatment such as counseling and medications, and then use one of these groups as another source of support. Whatever the case, mutual aid groups are very effective and helpful tools for many who consider quitting drinking.
Trying out a Mutual Support Group
For those that are considering trying one of these groups, you might want to check on our resources page for information about how to find a meeting nearby you.
When you are first starting out, consider trying several different types of meetings and groups, as they can vary quite a bit and each one of them is unique in terms of its personality and population make-up. If you don't like the first one you go to, don't give up! Just keep looking, and eventually you'll find one that’s comfortable for you. Then, try to start showing up regularly. There is no expectation that you participate or talk at any of the meetings, though the more you do the more you’ll get back from the group.
Forcehimes, A., & Tonigan, S. (2008). Self-Efficacy as a Factor in Abstinence from Alcohol/Other Drug Abuse: A Meta Analysis. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 26(4), 480-489.
Gitterman, A. (2006). Building Mutual Support in Groups. Social Work With Groups, 28 (3 & 4), 91 - 106