Growing Roots and The Importance of Home Groups
By Janet Worthy
Alcohol Rehab Centers:
People new in addiction recovery
don’t always embrace a
Twelve Step program
with open arms, clearly evident in the
following words from a newcomer sharing thoughts about attending her first Twelve Step meeting that would later become
her designated home group.
To say I hated it would be an understatement! I thought the whole twelve step movement was a cult—that the people
in that smoke-filled meeting room had their claws sharpened, ready to snatch me into their secret religious society
the second I let down my guard! I thought to myself, “I’ll never come back here again.”
It was a few months and a relapse later when this woman found herself in yet another
drug and alcohol rehab center and,
later, back in that very same meeting room. Her attitude still left something to be desired, but now she was desperate
enough to at least get herself to the meeting. Slogans like “Take the body and the mind will follow” and “Your best
thinking got you right here” seemed clichéd and simpleminded to her; she had this to say about them:
I heard those slogans enough times that something finally began to sink into my hard-as-a-rock head. And Lo and Behold!
That smoke-filled room eventually became a
cornerstone of my recovery.
Most drug and alcohol rehab centers encourage their patients to go to Twelve Step meetings, find a home group, and
choose a sponsor to guide them through the steps. All of us working at
St. Louis Valley Hope believe strongly in the
power of Twelve Step Recovery. We can’t help but notice that our patients who participate in Twelve Step Programs
have a much higher rate of success staying clean and sober.
For those new to substance abuse treatment
and recovery, it is in these rooms holding 12-Step Recovery meetings that
we can start to build trust in others and confidence in ourselves. In seeing and listening to the same people sharing
their stories, we begin to understand who some of these people are—where they came from and how they got to the place
where they are today--and to marvel at their honesty, courage, and generosity of spirit. Inside these rooms is where
we begin to take baby steps and learn to walk our own journey in recovery. It is where we begin sharing our own
stories and building enough trust to let fall the masks we have been wearing in our using lives. It is where we begin
to discover who we really are and how we want to live our own lives.
A home group will provide us with some much-needed accountability. Once we show up at a meeting often enough, the
regulars begin to notice the times we don’t show up. Some may not be shy about asking us where we’ve been, either.
Some of us may be bothered by their attention, but many of us begin to feel like maybe these 12 Step regulars really
care about us. Even the irascible old-timer, gruffly telling a newcomer who has missed a meeting or two, “Thought
maybe you’d graduated,” sends a message--he has noticed our absence--he cares whether or not we show up. We begin,
slowly but surely, to feel a sense of belonging.
Seeing the old-timers show up regularly after ten, fifteen, even thirty or forty-plus years of being clean and
sober. . .well, it makes the slogan “Keep Coming Back” a reality as well as an inspiration. Often the old-timers
will sit in the same chair, meeting after meeting, and we will begin to notice when one of these chairs is empty.
We may miss the familiarity of just having them there. We may miss their generosity and wisdom. Now and then, they
won’t make it back. Through a home group, we learn how fragile recovery is and how important it is to keep working a
recovery program. We watch our home groups go through the seasons of life—not only the grief and the sorrow but also
the joy and the celebration of living life on life’s terms.
As our days in recovery grow, so do we. We begin to feel a sense of responsibility to the group—for attending regularly,
for answering the call for service work (making coffee, serving as birthday chairperson, becoming group treasurer or
representative to a larger body). Our home group is where we learn the basics of recovery—honesty, open-mindedness
and willingness. It is where we meet others who care enough to help us celebrate our recovery milestones. It is where
our recovery grows the roots we need to unfurl new leaves on our very own tree of life.
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