Over the years and I mean once I had admitted to myself that I had a drinking problem, I tried so many ways to stop drinking. I saw doctors, went to counselling and group meetings and tried medication. I didn’t really fit in with the groups and counselling to be honest, and by chance, I think because of a book I read, I stumbled across a website hosting an online support group for others.
I joined it, but I was nervous. I didn’t think anyone I knew would be in the group, because that would mean they were like me, and that wasn’t likely was it? How many secret alcoholics could there be in my circle? So I joined with a secret name. I still thought somehow, someone would know. That they would find me out and tell everyone my secret. It’s strange that I thought all these people were interested in my problem, but then of course, that was my insecurity talking, not reality.
I tried a few groups, to be honest, there are so many out there that you are sure to find a group that suits your needs. Some of them are women only, some are more moderated, it really depends what you want from a group and who you want to talk to. I was online recently and was asked to complete a survey about the reasons I used online support groups which really made me think. Obviously I’m quite open here on my blog, I’ve found it really helpful to work through and address my worries and issues, but I wasn’t always like that. In fact, I was the complete opposite.
Like I said though, it got me thinking and I realised that there are a lot of benefits to online groups, and they probably did help a lot more in the long run for me, rather than the face to face ones. Just to be clear, I’m not saying meeting people isn’t a good thing, I think there is a time and place for that too, it’s just that everyone is different and therefore approaches to recovery need to reflect that.
For me, what worked was that no one knows you - they only know what you tell them. Likewise, they may be more honest with you because you don’t know them. The anonymity allows for more honesty in a strange way, so you can create your own story and it frees you from any shame. It doesn’t matter where you live and you don’t have to go out. This is always a bonus when you’re on lockdown! There’s no schedule to attend, and in the same way, there is often someone there when you want to talk, even if they are on the other side of the world.
Obviously recently many traditional meetings haven’t been able to run as normal recently due to the coronavirus lockdown. This means a lot of people are unable to be in regular contact with their normal support networks. While it might not be the same, meeting online at least provides some form of support, camaraderie and understanding for those isolated at home.
Another thing I liked was the changing of roles. What I mean is that in the early days, I was the one struggling and unsure, asking for advice. As time went on, I became more and more able to give advice as well as receive it. There is something really nice about being able to give something back. Even if it is only your time.
Nowadays, I am part of many different groups. I still find connecting with other people useful for keeping me on the straight and narrow. I’ve been interviewed for Living Sober and have written for Soberistas. It’s good to share. Sharing helps us to acknowledge our difficulties as well as our strengths. It helps us to keep connected with other people who have had similar experiences and realise that we are not alone. It helps us to remember that we are part of something bigger, and our community doesn’t always have to be local to mean something to us.
I once read that the opposite of addiction is connection. I think it’s true. The more connected we are, the less we need our addictions. I hope that it’s true for you too.
Thank you for reading. Take care.