Addiction: What to Expect From Recovery Groups

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on May 05, 2021

Tons of recovery groups are out there to help you meet or maintain your goals. Maybe you are just out of treatment for substance use and want to stay clean. Or you could just want to cut back on problem drinking. Either way, there’s probably a group that’s a good fit for you.

Plus, as more groups meet virtually online, you can decide where and how you prefer to gather. Here’s what you should consider before you choose a group and what you can expect when you go.

What Are the Potential Benefits? When you are trying to kick a harmful habit, attending a recovery group can pay off in practical and emotional ways. Some possible benefits include:

  • Sets a regular appointment on your calendar that doesn’t involve substance use.
  • Helps you feel less alone in your struggle with addiction.
  • Provides a way to share your feelings and challenges with people who understand.
  • Educates you about ways you can restart a social life without relying on substances.
  • Provides guidance on lifestyle changes that improve your chance of sobriety success.
  • Builds a circle of people who can assist you with recovery moving forward.
  • Enables you to gain confidence over time that you can and will stay clean.

In-Person or Online?

You may prefer to get support online. It might be difficult to get to an in-person meeting depending upon your schedule or access to transportation. Sometimes, talking to people online could feel more comfortable and a bit more private. There’s a couple ways to participate in recovery groups online.

Some organizations offer recovery groups that meet virtually through video conferencing software. These may feel a lot like meeting in person.

Social media platforms offer recovery support as well. In this case, you interact through posts and messages. But there are some drawbacks to this format that you should consider. They include:

  • If you are only talking by text, sometimes people may misunderstand what you’re trying to say.
  • People can sometimes be more blunt, and come across as rude, when messaging on a forum.
  • You may miss out on in-person connections and feel more isolated.

Also, be honest with yourself. Will you tell the truth about your personal recovery challenges if you do not have to meet face-to-face with other people in recovery? In a survey, people in recovery admitted that they were less likely to tell the truth online than at in-person meetings.

Recovery Approaches

Before attending a meeting, you can check out how they work. Find out if there is a moderator or facilitator who leads the meetings. Other questions you can ask include:

  • What is a typical meeting like?
  • Does the facilitator have training?
  • How is privacy protected?
  • Are there rules for group participation?

Approaches vary by group. These are some of the most common types of recovery groups:

12-step groups. You’ve probably already heard about these groups, which include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). This format pairs new members with a “sponsor.” That’s someone who has been clean or sober for longer, and who will help you through the difficult early days of sobriety. The goal of this approach is to completely stop the use of alcohol and drugs. Members celebrate the number of days since they last used these substances. The meetings may also include spiritual elements, such as talking about a higher power or saying the Serenity Prayer.

SMART Recovery. This approach, formally called Self-Management and Recovery Training, does not involve sponsors or spirituality. Rather, you rely on psychological techniques to figure out what habits lead you to fall back on drugs or alcohol. Trained facilitators lead the meetings. You will learn how to build the motivation to change your habits. You’ll also develop ways that don’t involve alcohol and drugs to cope with your thoughts and feelings.

Moderation Management. If you drink too much and want to cut back, this is one option. You should still be ready to ditch alcohol completely. The program suggests abstinence for the first 30 days, so you experience the benefits. Along with support groups, the program teaches you to figure out where you run into problems with alcohol. For example, they might suggest you keep a diary of your drinking habits.

Other options include Refuge Recovery, which features meditation and Buddhist teaching, and support groups for specific populations, such as Women for Sobriety.

Finding the Best Fit

You may attend several groups before finding the one that feels comfortable. You may prefer to hang back at first and mostly listen to other members. But in the long run, you may gain more by speaking up and sharing your own thoughts and personal challenges.

Over time, during chats over coffee or through a video screen, you will find others who know what it’s like to weather each day in recovery.

Show Sources


American Psychological Association: “Falling Off the Wagon With Facebook.”

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: “Working the Twelve Steps Together.” 

Mayo Clinic: “Support groups: Make Connections, get help.”

Moderation Management: “The MM Step-by-Step Approach.”

Partnership to End Addiction: “Recovery Support Groups for Addiction:  One Size Does Not Fit All.”

Refuge Recovery: “Welcome to Refuge Recovery.”

SMART Recovery: “About SMART Recovery.” 

Women for Sobriety: “Mission Statement.”

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