For this assignment, I attended two open self-help group meetings; Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Self-help groups offer emotional, social, and practical supports for members; this can be achieved by sharing experiences or concerns. The Self-help groups I attended are specially made up of peers with similar addiction stories. The groups were typically peer-led and informal.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), was founded in 1935, with the stated purpose of enabling its members to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
The 12 steps provide a guide for recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction, and several other addiction-like behaviors.
Narcotics Anonymous is a worldwide organization that brings together members of the community who are either in recovery for various use of narcotics addiction or who wish to be in recovery from this devastating condition.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
The first self-help group I observed was the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting, the meeting was held at Thugwood Marshall Christ Church, located at 1812 12th Street Northwest of Washington, District of Columbia.
Usually, their meetings are held between 6:00 Pm and 7:00 Pm, but the one I attended lasted a bit longer due to the delay in a raffle draw for members, the meeting ended at 7:30 Pm (30 minutes more than the usual time).
The reasons for selecting this group was based on two folds. Firstly, to satisfy the course requirement. The second reason was as a result of my personal history of narcotic addiction; I had the conviction that at Narcotic Anonymous meetings, I will meet people who have been cleaned for different periods.
They will help an individual quest to get clean and remain sober for life. Also, members will be respected and encouraged to listen or share drug addiction experiences.
By observation, the participants of the group ranged between the late 40s to probably 70s; the group had a mix between males and females. Though we can not be judgmental as social workers, I am convinced that group members fall between lower- and middle-class status.
Group content refers to the specific tasks, situations, or conditions addressed by the group as a whole, in Narcotic Anonymous meeting, members were provided with the structure of the group, the 12-step process, how it works and the road to recovery, introduction of members, prayer and memorization of statements and pledges. Participants were asked to share their testimonies of recovery, raffle draw, and adjourning the meetings.
Both content and process co-occur and are equally important. The Narcotic Anonymous members were incredibly supportive of each other; this provides a structure that was heavily relied on faith and prayers.
One of the most impressing things that stood out in the meeting was that the environment was respectful, quiet, and non-judgmental; this instills confidence in members to share their testimonies. I was impressed with the honesty or willingness by members to share their experiences. I am convinced that a problem shared might be problem solved or pave the way for a solution.
One of the weakness observed that is related to the recovery process is poverty and environmental factors. When sharing their testimonies, almost all attributed the environment and poverty to addiction; the sad thing is that they are still living in this same environment and poor state might serve as a risk factor for relapse.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
The second self-group meeting I observed was Alcoholics Anonymous. The meeting was held at Dupont Circle Club building on 1623 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest of Washington, District of Columbia. The meeting started at noon and ended by 1 pm.
The group was selected based on personal experiences; recovery is a complicated process for addicts, although individual situations vary. Attending a meeting where people shares their recovery routes or experiences was a new situation for me, considering what I went through as a teenage addict.
The alcohol anonymous meeting had more participants (27) compared to the narcotics anonymous meeting that I attended. By observation, participants age ranged between the late 30s’ to the 70’s. Their socioeconomic status is also believed to be upper middle class or lower-middle-class, I arrived at this conclusion based on observation and points I picked during their testimonies.
Group content is what is discussed during group proceedings; in the early stages of alcohol anonymous group meeting, the Chairperson asked members to read the pledge, the promise, the 12 steps process and then opened the floor for discussion. Members present added their thoughts and experiences concerning their alcoholism and recovery route.
There can be no process without content, process refers to the interaction between group members, in the alcoholic anonymous meeting, group interactions was slow, calm and respectful even though it was little bit tense at the beginning , new members were not given a warm welcome when entering the room compared to the Narcotic Anonymous meeting that I attended. As the meeting progresses, there was ease among members; they started interacting with each member.
Alcohol Anonymous meeting is about learning to accept who you are and coming to understand that sometimes you are powerless over something, whether that something is cocaine or heroin or alcohol. It’s about reminding ourselves that it is entirely human to feel weak, that it is not the end of the world if we have a relapse, as long as we wake up the next morning and start over.
I was impressed with sharing of their experiences, the courage that they have had in their recovery process and the cohesion of members; members do check on each other for motivational reasons so that they can stay sober.
Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous meetings I attended; it was clear to me that there was not a major difference between the two support groups. One group tailored to alcoholics, with the other is tailored to addicts even though that distinction is not necessarily sharp since NA meetings tend to treat alcohol as a drug.
One of the similarities I noticed in the group content and process is that the meetings provide a safe space for sharing both struggles and triumphs with addiction even though meetings were not meant to replace other addiction treatment measures completely.
The second similarity is that both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous group relies on a twelve-step program for moving through its meetings; this serves as a building block for meeting contents and process.
The primary concern or implication for referring clients to the Alcoholic and Narcotic Anonymous meeting is; both the emphasis on spirituality. Both groups maintain that there is a “Power greater than ourselves” this can be understood as a non-theistic power; this rings hollow for some recovery seekers, whilst others might think of the opposite.
Also, since the groups are not professional by design, control, and measures are minimal, and there is no way to monitor that every group or their members adhere consistently to all of its principles. This can be a significant concern for referring individuals or clients.