An Inside Look Into an ATC Recovery Support Group
Written by Mike Hench,
in Section Healthy Lifestyles
At ATC we hold a weekly co-ed recovery support group that meets on Tuesday afternoons at our clubhouse. Not all members of the group have a primary substance use disorder or are necessarily substance dependent. The qualification to be in the group is simply a desire to be sober while at ATC and wanting a supportive group of peers to help enable this. The group is not 12-step based (although principles of AA/NA are discussed in the group) but is more of a psychoeducational process group.
Often we discuss such topics as triggers, relapse symptoms, cross addiction or process addictions, relapse prevention techniques and most importantly attempt to build a positive and supportive peer culture based on attraction.
At times clients are challenged and asked to be held accountable by myself or their peers. We face current issues within the program that our clients may be facing in the moment. The intention with this is on accountability and solutions, not on punishment or shame and we try to demystify the shame around relapse but rather build a desire for sobriety through support and positive reinforcement.
We have a board in our group room that lists each client’s names and sobriety dates. We celebrate 90 days, 6 months and 1 year sobriety dates and clients are offered incentives in gift cards and ATC “swag” to acknowledge these dates. (This is no way takes away from clients who wish to participate in our 12 step based community groups in St. George in the way sobriety dates are celebrated in those group rooms).
The group participated recently in an experiential exercise where we created a substance abuse sculpture. Group members started in a horizontal line standing shoulder to shoulder with one another. They were asked a series of 20 questions involving their drugs and alcohol use history. Each question that could be answered in the affirmative required them taking one step forward. This created a continuum of substance use severity among group members.
We then processed each group member’s feelings about where they ended up on this continuum. One member that was on the most severe end of the continuum shared how differently he feels being in that position now versus when he was actively using and saw it more as a sign of social status and pride. The group was then asked to repeat this exercise a second time but respond to the questions over the past 30 days only.
Each member of the group ended up much further down the continuum and we discussed how this is reflective of progress being made in their respective recovery. Even the most severe group member was able to see in a tangible way how he far he’s come over the past 6 months.