My name is Graham and I created the group in June 2017. Initially, Brett joined as support. Brett and I were members of the Midland GROW group from 2013 until then. We became the organiser and recorder there for nearly 3 years.
Originally the group was called Minds 101, but changed to STRIVE in July 2018 to better reflect the nature of the group, make it easier to remember and avoid any embarrassment when mentioning it in public.
My introduction to therapy was via forced rehab by the RAAF in 1986 for my drinking. That led to becoming a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. After only a short time, I found I also needed to be treated for depression. It was not until my time in GROW that I finally realised my core problem was anxiety and had been all my life.
I know now why I drank the way I did, always felt like I was inferior to everyone else and a whole host of other problems that chronic anxiety causes. I spent a lot of years searching for answers, both through counselling and my own research through self-help books. So you could say I have earned my stripes as a peer group member!
You may be wondering why I started the group and didn’t simply stay in AA or GROW. It comes down to moving forward as you grow in recovery. You tend to reach a plateau and if you don’t move on to bigger and challenging things, then you start to stagnate and risk actually going backwards.
I also found conflict between the way GROW operates compared to AA. In AA, you never tell anybody what to do. In GROW, you are expected to and almost forced to by the fieldworkers, which made me very uncomfortable. Nearly 30 years of on-again, off-again membership in AA had taught me that attraction works better than promotion. You tell your story in the hope it helps someone else. It is not my place to tell someone else how to run their life.
So I saw a need for a mental health peer support group that worked like AA, but used similar material to GROW. It needed to be self-supporting, not allied with any outside organisation, not continually needing to justify its member numbers to obtain funding and most importantly – not answerable to anyone outside the group for any reason.
The end result was a group that used CBT and ACT techniques. We have published text books to work from and videos made by a professional counsellor for public use. Combined with my learned experience in both recovery and running groups, the formula seems about right.
While we have a lot of information to use as reference material, we don’t cross the line into becoming therapists. The group’s aim is to present tools that can be used for recovery and to show how they are used. It is entirely up to the individual whether or not any of those suit them. Nobody is ever forced to do or comply with anything. We have no rules and no authority over any other member.
At all times, members are treated with respect and made to feel valuable. We never talk down to people or use coercive tactics. Whatever is said in the room, stays in the room. We are not answerable to anyone outside the room. We don’t use a 12-step program or any religious techniques. Some people might call it anarchy, I prefer to call it freedom.