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For my assessment, I attended three different substance abuse treatment groups in my local town of Port Huron, Michigan, in the county of St. Clair. The first meeting I attended is at the St. Martin Lutheran Church. The meeting is called the New Horizons Group Discussion and is held every Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. The Vision of Hope Group meets at the Grace Episcopal Church on Friday evenings where I attended at 7:30 p.m. The final meeting is called Narcotics Anonymous located at the United Methodist Church on Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. For the duration of these meetings I observed silently.
Description of the New Horizons Group Discussion
The New Horizons Group Discussion was held in the cafeteria area of the S. Martin Lutheran Church located on Chestnut Street in Port Huron. I attended this meeting on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 7pm. There were folding chairs set out in a circular pattern. On one wall there was a chalkboard with the name of a guest speaker written on it. A table at the entrance to the cafeteria held a stack of flyers with names and locations of other Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for the Port Huron area. In the back of the room was a table with coffee, cookies, and donuts. There were 12 people attending this meeting consisting of nine males and three females. The ages of the members ranged from the mid-twenties to approximately mid to late sixties.
Components of the New Horizons Group Discussion
This was an open group and I was welcomed to join them without any discrimination. They began the meeting by bowing their heads and reciting the serenity prayer. When the prayer was complete the guest speaker was introduced and took the podium. The guest speaker was an older gentleman who appeared to be in his late sixties. He told the group a little bit about himself and proceeded to tell his story of alcohol addiction to finding his path to recovery. He often used humor which seemed helpful in keeping a calm and relaxing atmosphere. In his story of addiction he talked about the first time he turned to alcohol and that it felt like a spiritual awakening. He felt that it changed his outlook on everything, until he realized his drinking was a necessity and not a choice. He spoke of unity within the AA group and the strength it brought to them. The guest speaker described that they were all a part of something instead of being separate. The Big Book was mentioned while he discussed the concept of getting rid of old ideas to bring clarity.
Feelings about the New Horizons Group Discussion
I felt comfortable at the New Horizons Group Discussion. The guest speaker was engaging and hearing his story was enlightening. It was easy to see why the meeting was helpful to those who attended. There was a sense of acceptance without judgement. The members knew each other so I felt that they had all likely been attending for some time. There was no lack of support between members which encouraged recovery. When the meeting had ended the members remained there talking amongst each other while enjoying coffee and snacks. I left feeling as though I had just attended a family gathering.
Thoughts about the New Horizons Group Discussion
According to a study from 2003, group discussions empower individuals and give a sense of community (Linda & Fisher, 2003). The guest speaker mentioned having felt a sense of unity within the group and within the community. This group felt very much like family members and, despite being new to the meeting and having no history of substance use, I was welcomed into the group as though I were family as well. There was always acknowledgement of social struggles that have been or need to be overcome. It was encouraged to know the twelve steps and let them guide each and every one of them throughout life.
Interaction with the New Horizons Group Discussion
I spent very little time interacting with others because I primarily wanted to observe. The little interaction that I did have was all very positive. I was initially concerned that the members would have some animosity towards me for fear they would think I was being judgmental of them but that was not at all the case. They welcomed me into their group and asked me if there was anything in particular that I would like to learn about. When I left they encouraged me to return if I would like to observe another meeting.
Self-Reflection of the New Horizons Group Discussion
The New Horizons Group Discussion was enjoyable to attend.I was grateful to them for allowing me into their circle and to observe them as they bared their souls to one another. The group had a very relaxed structure and I felt that if I was able to take comfort from that then it was certainly helpful to new incoming addicts. I got the sense that they were there for each other as much as they were there for themselves. No one wanted to let another down. This group was successful in encouraging each other and offering support and resources outside of the meetings as well as inside.
Description of the Vision of Hope Group
I attended the Vision of Hope Group on September 30, 2016 at 7:30pm. The group was held at the Grace Episcopal Church on 6th Street in Port Huron. This group was a little larger than the last one I had attended with 27 members in attendance. The majority of the members were male. This group had a large number of members over the age of thirty. The meeting was held in the congregation area of the church where the members sat in the pews facing the podium. Upon entering there was a table with refreshments and snacks. A smaller table on the left held brochures of the twelve steps. This meeting is held every Friday at 7:30pm and is an open meeting. The group lingered beforehand socializing amongst each other and welcoming people as they walked in.
Components of the Vision of Hope Group
The group all sat filling the first couple pews in the front and in close proximity of one another. They began by holding hands and reciting the serenity prayer. The group leader then took a moment to congratulate everyone for their arrival and thanked them for their attendance. She stressed the importance of attendance, and as a study in 2008 has shown, regular AA attendance is associated with improved effectiveness in sobriety (Gossop, 2008). The group leader then proceeded to read aloud the twelve steps, she spent a few minutes discussing the importance of acceptance of being powerless over alcohol is key to acknowledging the addiction. She continued to tell her story of addiction and road to recovery. When she finished her story she then opened the podium to others. One by one they took turns discussing their own journey and which of the twelve steps they are currently at. A few members opted to decline speaking which appeared to be ok with everyone. At the end of the meeting the group leader reminded everyone of outside sources available and offered her continued support.
Feelings about the Vision of Hope Group
The general feeling at the Vision of Hope Group meeting was that of acceptance. Everyone was friendly and outgoing. It could be felt from the moment I entered the building that I was entering a place of community. There was a lot of encouragement and support being given to one another. As an outsider, I was still treated with respect and they were all very generous to offer their time to answer any questions I might have. There was a lot of close interactions between them and I could see that some of them knew each other outside of the meeting. As stated in a recent study, individuals uniting around one common goal are stronger than individuals facing difficulties alone (Shealy & White, 2013).
Thoughts about the Vision of Hope Group
I enjoyed the Vision of Hope Group meeting. Allowing everyone the opportunity to discuss their own daily struggles was encouraging to others and yet it never felt like an obligation for anyone to discuss anything if they didn’t chose to. As an outsider, I appreciated hearing about the twelve steps from the perspective of the group. I really liked the amount of support that was offered to everyone from the group leader, but also between group members. I was able to see that although they all face similar struggles, they all came from very different backgrounds. It was clear to see that despite having overcome many obstacles they still face new challenges every day in regards to their addiction to alcohol.
Interaction with the Vision of Hope Group
The members of the Vision of Hope Group were all very open and honest about their struggles with alcohol. Despite being a new face in the crowd they continued to be open with me present. A few members approached me when the meeting ended and offered to give me further insight to addiction and recovery. I could see that some members have been attending longer than others by how comfortable they appeared to be. Overall, there was an obvious sense of community amongst this group.
Self-Reflection of the Vision of Hope Group
This group had a very relaxed feel to it. Many of the individuals had grown very close with one another and created a sense of family. Because of this, it was easy to feel at ease when joining this group. I felt that some of the members were also members of the church that this meeting was held in. The group, as a whole, encouraged me to recommend this meeting to anyone I knew in need of support.
Description of Narcotics Anonymous meeting
The Narcotics Anonymous meeting is held at the United Methodist Church on Church Street in Port Huron. I attended the meeting on Saturday, October 15th 2016 at 8pm. This meeting is held weekly and is an open group. The meeting was held in the basement of the church. There was a long rectangular table set up with chairs around it at one end of the room. At the opposite end of the room there was an attached kitchen with a counter separating the two rooms. On the counter there was a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cookies. On the main table where people sat, there were copies of the Narcotics Anonymous handbook. The group had around twenty five people in attendance. The ages of the group ranged between people in their twenties to people in their mid to late fifties. There was a white board with a circle drawn on it that had a diamond in the center. Below that were three simple words that read “Just for Today“.
Components of the Narcotics Anonymous meeting
At this meeting the group leader discussed the twelve steps of NA. The focus of the meeting that particular day was step six, “Group conscience is the spiritual means by which we invite a loving God to influence our decisions” (Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc, 1991). The group leader talked about addiction being more powerful than the individual and that it’s important to hand themselves over to a higher power. This was a very spiritually based meeting. As the members each took turns speaking it was clear to see that they were pained by the way addiction has taken over their lives. They talked about the comfort they gained from knowing they are not alone in their fight against addiction. Many spoke of stressful situations triggering cravings for drugs.
Feelings about the Narcotics Anonymous meeting
Attending this group meeting felt much different than the AA meetings I had attended. The members in this group appeared pained as they spoke of their addiction. I felt helpless hearing their stories and wished I could do something to ease their pain. They placed a lot of emphasis on goals and the need to strive for them in order to conquer addiction. Goals work best when broken down into manageable steps (Kim T. Mueser, 2003).
Thoughts about the Narcotics Anonymous meeting
This group was as supportive as the others I attended, but the feeling was more somber. My thoughts are that those addicted to substances other than alcohol may feel more hopeless in living a normal life. The connections between the members in this group were not as strong as I had seen in AA groups, perhaps due to the different struggles they all face. There was evidence, however, that they appreciated having a place they can talk about their addiction without judgement from others.
Interaction with Narcotics Anonymous meeting
Most of the people in attendance spoke to the group and told their story. Each person discussed their addiction and described how it has impacted their life. Some had shown further progress than others in their recovery. The group leader was understanding and yet objective. He was very good at keeping the momentum of the meeting going. When the meeting was finished some members remained and spoke to the group leader for additional support.
Self-Reflection of the Narcotics Anonymous meeting
This was a difficult meeting to attend. The sense of hope wasn’t as prominent within this group. There was a lot of encouragement from the group leader and from some of the members, but it lacked in additional outside resources for others to look into. I felt like there needed to be more motivation given, possibly hearing more success stories.
Having attended the three different meetings I can clearly see the benefit to support groups. There is an unlimited supply of support given to one another both inside the meetings and out. Everyone I met had a different background, different lifestyle, and different story to tell. Addiction isn’t prejudice. People of all ages and walks of life can come together and offer unity and family to help one another in their battle against addiction. I learned that there are different types of meetings and that with a little bit of time, an addict can find one that fits them and gives them the amount of support and encouragement they need.
Gossop, M. S. (2008). Attendance at Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, frequency of attendance and substance use outcomes after residential treatment for drug dependence: a 5-year follow-up study. Addiction, 119-125.
Kim T. Mueser, D. L. (2003). Integrated Treatment for Dual Disorders. New York: The Guilford Press.
Linda, F. K., & Fisher, M. (2003). Participation in community life by AA and NA members. Contemporary Drug Problems, 875-904.
Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (1991). Retrieved from Narcotics Anonymous: www.na.org
Shealy, S. A., & White, L. A. (2013). INTEGRAL EVOLUTIONARY RECOVERY: Revisioning the Twelve Steps through a Kosmocentric Lens. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 66-81.
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