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How to Find Good Support Groups for Alcoholics

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Private rehab clinics and professional counsellors can do a lot to help people struggling with drinking problems overcome those problems. But practically speaking, they cannot perpetually treat patients for the rest of their lives. At some point, those in recovery need to get on with their lives and learn to live without both alcohol and medical treatment. Group support is very helpful in this endeavour.

Support groups for alcoholics provide an environment in which those in recovery can relate with others going through the same things. The idea of group support is one of strength in numbers. If you have 10 or 15 people all working to stay sober, they can help one another by providing accountability, encouragement, and other kinds of support.

We work with private rehab clinics throughout the UK, which include group support as part of their official treatment programmes. Most of them also offer aftercare services that include participation in a local support group. If you are struggling with alcohol yourself, we urge you to take advantage of any opportunity you have to participate in one of these groups.

Finding a Support Group in Your Area

The UK offers quite a few different support groups for alcoholics. We will get to a list in just a moment, but first we should discuss how you can find a group in your area. The fastest and easiest way is to contact us on our 24-hour helpline. Not only will we provide you with support group information, but we can also offer you a comprehensive assessment of your drinking problem. Should our assessment determine you need professional treatment in addition to support group participation, we can connect you with one of the clinics we work with.

Other ways of finding good support groups for alcoholics include:

  • talking with your GP
  • contacting one of the many alcohol charities in the UK
  • doing an online search for alcohol support groups
  • utilising government resources for alcohol misuse.

There are a couple of important websites you might find helpful in your search:

  • NHS Choices – The NHS Choices website provides a lot of helpful information and advice about drinking problems. It includes a relatively comprehensive database of alcohol support groups and treatment options throughout the NHS service area.
  • ADFAM – This charitable organisation specialises in providing advice and help oriented to the entire family. Like NHS Choices, their website includes a list of local alcohol support groups that incorporate both the alcoholic and his or her family.
  • Alcohol Focus Scotland – People with drinking problems in Scotland can visit this website to find helpful information. It includes a list of local support groups.
  • COAP – COAP is an online community designed to support young people who are concerned about friends or family members who might have drinking problems. They also offer information about local support groups from time to time.

It is important for you to understand that there are many different approaches to helping alcoholics and alcohol abusers overcome their problems. Likewise, various support groups may have different ways of doing things. Whether you go online to search for a local support group or call an organisation like ours for help, you may have to investigate more than one group to find one suitable for you. Once you do find one that works for yourself or a loved one, taking advantage of what the group offers could mean the difference between overcoming a drinking problem and continuing to drink.

Support Group Options in the UK

Support groups for alcoholics vary in their approach to providing support. Perhaps the most common among these groups is Alcoholics Anonymous, a worldwide organisation founded by two recovering alcoholics in the 1930s. Founders Bill Wilson and Bob Smith were both familiar with a similar support group known as the Oxford Group but believed it did not adequately address individual responsibility in alcohol recovery. They founded alcoholics anonymous to answer that need.

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Alcoholics Anonymous quickly grew across the US with the establishment of the group's 12 steps to recovery and 12 traditions. By the late 1940s and early 50s, other organisations specialising in a variety of addictions were asking permission to use the Alcoholics Anonymous model for their groups. Today, Alcoholics Anonymous remains the single largest addiction support group organisation in the world.

Other support group options in the UK include:

  • Al-Anon – Despite the similarity of their names, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Al-Anon are two separate organisations. The latter is similar to the former inasmuch as they have adopted the AA 12-step philosophy of recovery. They are different in that Al-Anon focuses on treating entire families rather than just individual drinkers. Alateen is a sub-group of Al-Anon.
  • NACOA – The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics is a support group focused on the children of alcohol-dependent parents and others who might be concerned about their welfare. This is an online group only; they do not offer in-person fellowship or meetings.
  • SMART Recovery – The SMART Recovery model is similar to organisations like AA in that it offers group support. What makes it different is how alcoholism is viewed. Rather than being treated as a disease or behavioural issue, the SMART philosophy sees alcohol abuse as a problem that can be overcome through self-empowerment and self-directed change.
  • SOS – Secular Organisations for Sobriety combines the group support philosophy of AA with the self-directed principles of SMART. They offer a secular approach to alcohol recovery that eschews the spiritual aspects of AA support.

There is no shortage of local support groups for alcoholics in the UK. Regardless of your preference or need, there is a support group that can help you overcome the alcohol problems that plague you. In closing this guide, we want to offer a reminder about drinking problems you should not ignore: support group participation may not be enough if you are already a full-blown alcoholic.

Alcoholism is clinically defined as an addiction to alcohol. And as with any other addiction, alcoholism affects both the mind and body. Group support is helpful in that it addresses some of the mental and psychological aspects of alcohol addiction. But it cannot address those things adequately by itself. Furthermore, group support in no way addresses the physical components of alcoholism.

Physically withdrawing from alcohol use is a dangerous thing. Withdrawal symptoms that seem minor at the start can quickly escalate into something known as delirium tremens, a dangerous physical condition that can result in serious injury or death.

We are big supporters of support groups for alcoholics. But if you have a serious drinking problem, you may need professional treatment at a private clinic or NHS hospital. Please do not hesitate to contact us to learn more. We can help you figure out if group support is enough or if you need professional, medical treatment.

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