No matter how prepared you might be, you never really feel ready to walk into a group session for the first time. Whether it's formal treatment—either inpatient or outpatient—or a community support group like AA, NA or SMART Recovery, being the newest in the group can be a challenge.
It's normal to feel anxious. You're about to walk into a group of people you don't know and are going to talk about one of the most vulnerable, often private, areas of your life. This is a big deal, and it's important to remember that it's common to feel this way. As you prepare to start your treatment, here are three things for you to remember for your first session.
1. Take a risk.
Remember that going into a group session is taking a risk, and one you should be proud of. Addiction is often secretive and secluded, so embrace the empowerment of joining a group of people with similar experiences as well talking about your experience. If you're nervous to take the risk of vulnerability, try thinking about this moment as merely the first page to a new chapter. Know that the risk will bring the reward of a healthier recovery and a strong support network to keep you healthy and focused in this new chapter of your life.
2. Speak up.
Some groups may have talkative group members, but the first night of therapy can be nerve-wracking for everyone. Try powering through the awkward and uncomfortable first night, and be one of the first people to answer the counselor's question. Start by sharing your experience or give your feedback on a topic. In group therapy, there is no right or wrong answer. It's all about getting better, so participation is important. This is your journey of recovery—speak up and be vocal about it. It will not only help you, but it will help your group members feel more comfortable to do the same.
3. Remember to breathe.
Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. Your first group session can feel scary, and that's normal. Try to remove any expectations you have on your performance, on your anecdotes, and on the things you share in group. Above all else, remember to breathe. Whether you practice regular meditation or just need to sit in your car in the parking lot for a couple minutes before you go inside, get centered, take a breath, and embrace the moment. Be fully present, try to relax, and know that the nerves of the first night will pass.
In recovery, it's a common phrase to take things "one day at a time." When you're preparing to go to your first group session, sometimes it's even more helpful to take it "one moment at a time."
Be confident in your decision to get help, and know that others are probably feeling similar nerves. Stay committed to your recovery and doing the next right thing to stay sober. Group dynamics will ebb and flow and some conversations will be easier than others.
But for now—take a risk, speak up and breathe.
You're on your way to recovery and that is a beautiful thing. Walk into your first group therapy knowing the importance of the experience, and look forward to the day when it feels less awkward and more comfortable. In time, you'll be glad you powered through the anxiety of the first night and you'll look forward to the benefits this type of therapy can bring your recovery.