The Birth of a Homegrown Support Group

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Andy had been to thousands of AA meetings. He’d go to 90 in 90 to prove his commitment to sobriety, only to find himself on a bar stool with a cheap beer and a shot of whiskey a few days later. An atheist from youth, he just couldn’t grasp the “God thing.”

So he decided to start his own group.

Years later, it’s still thriving – a little enclave of people gathered together to support each other. Here’s what they do, why they do it, and how they built it.

A Break From Tradition

Andy started the group as an alternative to the 12 Steps, but one that’s based on sobriety, not moderation.

“We alternate homes where we have weekly meetings, and we share responsibility for facilitation. We seek not to set up any hierarchy on who has been sober longest, but we recognize that, even with long-term sobriety, we all have difficulties that we need to talk about in the group. Whether it’s money issues, taking care of aging parents, or love – a frequently discussed topic – the group’s a safe place to share.”

“We made the decision to make this a closed recovery group. The intimacy of the sharing involved is high, and we decided we didn’t want people to drop in and drop out. Building trust with a group takes time and we felt that we needed to commit to each other’s wellness and happiness in a more solid form than is possible when people barely stay long enough to get to know each other.”

An Up Close and Personal Support Group

“Our format is simple. Someone reads the preamble, which outlines our commitment to sobriety, our resolve to be a leaderless group and for all participants to take part in leadership equally, and our commitment to confidentiality. Then we take turns sharing in-depth how our week went, what we’re working on this week, and any challenges we’re facing. The small group format (we have five members) allows for much more detailed sharing than a crowded meeting. After the shares, we’re open to feedback and crosstalk is allowed.”

Some might find a meeting of this sort too intimate. However, I find it gives me a level of support that’s missing in larger, drop-in groups and keeps me accountable to my goals.

If you’ve found yourself struggling with larger support groups, try to finding a smaller one – or maybe starting one yourself!

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