NOTE: Quotes are presented word for word apart from minor editing for readability and clarity. Identifying details have been removed. Square brackets show text that has been added, e.g. ‘I want to maintain [my current level of drug use]’. Ellipses within square brackets […] show where text has been removed, e.g. ‘Counselling was good but […] I would have liked more information about other treatment options’.
Taking part in self-help programs is one of the ways people interviewed for this website talk about changing their patterns of consumption. Self-help programs include Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART). NA and AA are 12-step abstinence-based groups that meet regularly to help members give up alcohol and other drugs and remain abstinent. Sometimes called ‘fellowships’, these groups are made up of people who identify as having an alcohol and other drug addiction, dependence or problem. Although the format of meetings varies, they often include testimonials in which people share their experiences. They may also include readings that illustrate the 12 steps of change on which the programs are based. These programs are generally perceived to be religious because references to a ‘higher power’ are interpreted as relating to God (although some participants and literature note that the ‘higher power’ can refer to a range of phenomena). By contrast, SMART Recovery is an explicitly secular support group that uses strategies from cognitive behaviour therapy (a type of psychotherapy aimed at changing unwanted patterns of behaviour) and self-help tools to encourage self-directed change. Groups meet face to face or online and are guided by trained peers and facilitators. In addition to 12-step programs and SMART Recovery, there are a range of other self-help programs for those concerned about their alcohol and other drug use. Some are focussed on the needs of minority groups or those with mental health issues. Whatever their particular focus, self-help programs all use support from people with similar experiences (‘peer support’) to promote change.