A woman's brain recovers more quickly from alcoholism after abstaining from drinking than a man's does, according to a new study from the Boston University School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare. And while the report also suggests that men have a stronger recovery of white brain matter over time, overall the findings reinforce the idea that recovery from alcohol addiction can be a distinctly different experience for each individual.

Support Groups Provide Personalized Treatment

To help cope with these specific challenges, many people find that addiction support groups provide a comprehensive and effective approach to battling alcoholism. Individuals find the personalized treatment they need, while gaining a deeper understanding of how addiction affects each person differently.

There are a wide variety of addiction support groups, also known as mutual support or self-help groups, allowing individuals seeking help to find an organization best suited to his or her needs. An important component of recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs), mutual support groups are nonprofessional gatherings, comprised of members who share the same problem and voluntarily support each other during the recovery process.

12-Step Mutual Support Groups

Most 12-Step Groups maintain a strong focus on abstinence, and ask participants to work through a series of 12 developmental steps for addiction recovery. Some groups provide a spiritual or religious foundation to help members face addiction, while others chose to offer a non-spiritual approach.

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  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Regarded as the most widespread and foremost 12-Step mutual support group, Alcoholics Anonymous aims to help members achieve and maintain sobriety. In addition to attending local support groups, ranging in size from a few members to gatherings in the hundreds, participants are also paired with fellow members or sponsors, who help each other through the 12-steps or guiding principles of recovery. While the AA program is considered to have a strong spiritual foundation, the program is not considered a religious organization.

Non-Step Mutual Support Groups

A number of secular mutual support groups exist that utilize a communal setting for recovery, but don't ask participants to complete a structured set of steps. Two examples include:

  • SMART Recovery: Considered the most prominent non-step program, SMART Recovery offers participants self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups for alcohol abuse. The SMART approach utilizes principles founded in Motivational and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and emphasizes four areas in the process of recovery: Building Motivation, Coping with Urges, Problem Solving and Lifestyle Balance.

Addiction support groups offer social, emotional and informational support to participants. And unlike many professional treatment programs, individuals can attend meetings or contact group members when they are at a higher risk of relapse, such as evenings, weekends and holidays.

For many people, battling alcohol addiction can be a lifelong challenge, yet research indicates that by finding an appropriate support program and seeking continuing care, extended treatment models can prove extremely effective.