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Mount Tamalpais © Peter Goetz

People like to get high. This is not good, nor is it bad but it is what is real now and has been true throughout history. Stating the obvious, what gets us high can also cause us a lot of pain. When we use alcohol, drugs or engage in behaviors to alter our moods, body sensations, perspectives and perceptions, we can get into trouble through mis-use, bad behavior, confused states of mind, relationship turmoil, the law or all of the above.

The American Academy of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as “…a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.” (2018)

There’s a lot in those 3 sentences. Note the now-standard definition of addiction as a compulsive engagement in behaviors that continue despite harmful consequences. Also note that treatment for addiction is generally as successful as that for other chronic diseases.

When people mis-use drugs or alcohol peer groups can offer invaluable support in helping people to come in from the storm, to get stable and to feel that they’re not alone, either in finding their way to moderated use or sobriety. It’s useful to hear other people’s stories. The impact of community in these groups can be powerful. It’s important that people find a good match for themselves with a group – or groups – that best fit their needs and goals. One size does not fit all.

In that spirit, I offer a description of some peer support groups, each with their own perspectives and approaches, for people dealing with drug or alcohol mis-use or addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and other 12-step oriented groups are the best known and most readily accessible peer-led support groups available to the community. They are based on the 12 steps of recovery from addiction as their foundation. In their words: “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” AA has been foundational for millions of self-described addicts in the building of a sober, sane, spiritual life.

SMART Recovery (Self Help Substance Abuse Addiction & Recovery)

SMART Recovery’s approach uses cognitive-behavioral strategies to help participants recognize those environmental and emotional factors that prompt alcohol and other drug use (as well as other compulsive behaviors) and how to respond to them in new, more productive ways.

For general information as well as links for finding local meetings and online resources:

Moderation Management (MM)

MM is a peer-led support group dedicated to helping people reduce the harm associated with alcohol abuse. Their focus is moderating use vs. cessation of use being the initial or only goal.

For general information as well as a directory of meetings:

Refuge Recovery

This is a Buddhist-oriented approach to recovery. From that perspective, addiction is a form of suffering. Any suffering being is offered refuge in the Buddha’s teachings.

Their approach to recovery is one that understands: “All individuals have the power and potential to free themselves from the suffering that is caused by addiction.”

For general information as well as locating local meetings:

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based, anonymous organization dedicated to providing a safe meeting space to experience a non-judgmental recovery conversation with peers. This is done through the lens of their philosophy of sobriety, secularity, and self-help.

Bridalveil Creek in flood, Yosemite ©Peter Goetz