Addiction support groups rely on structure and, often times, codes of honor or rules to help make participants feel welcomed and safe. Know what to expect so that you aren't intimidated out of getting the help you need, or make a mistake at your first meeting that prompts you never to go back.
Research the different levels of confidentiality that certain support groups practice. Most groups require absolute anonymity inside and outside of meetings. Do not talk about meetings or the people who attend outside of the meetings. These meetings are seen as safe havens for people working toward the same goal: to get sober and stay sober. Divulging any information would be a breach of trust.
Pretty much all groups frown upon cross-talk or private conversations while others are addressing the group. Breaking the cycle of addiction is nearly impossible to do on your own, so be supportive of those who are in the same situation by listening to what they have to say.
This courtesy extends to your cell phone. Simply put, turn your phone off and focus on the meeting. The vibe of a meeting can be shattered by an attendee texting; equally disruptive is the sound of a cell phone ringing or even vibrating. Outside interference needs to be limited during meetings for everyone to feel comfortable.
Be on time to meetings and try not to leave early. Breakthrough moments can happen at any time for any member of a support group, and what is being said could be profound or very hard for him to share. Don't interrupt the train of thought by coming and going as you please.
There are certain circumstances in which showing up late or leaving early is a better idea than skipping a meeting entirely, however. If work or other responsibilities interfere with meeting schedules, try to find locations that work best for you, but don't miss out on the help you may need because you must be five minutes late every day. Talk to the meeting chairperson to work out an understanding.
Most support groups do not require you to speak to the group unless you are ready and comfortable to do so. Just listening to other's stories and inspirations can help you with your own demons. Don't avoid going to meetings and getting support because you have public speaking fears - no one is going to make you do something you don't want to do.
The most important thing to know is that support groups generally don't have rules. Each location and group has its own rites and ways of doing things; the only way to learn the ropes is by going and seeing for yourself. Get the help and support you need, and don't be afraid to join a group. The people there are all in the same boat as you. They will show you the way to get better and you will succeed together.
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