Most people know someone who managed to break free from the vicious cycle of addiction by regularly attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or similar groups using the same 12-step basis such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA). In fact, when many people think of addiction recovery, they immediately think of AA or NA. Learn more about non 12 step recovery programs below.
What you might not realize is that group support meetings already existed long before 12-step groups like AA were around. AA was first established in 1935 and focuses strongly on spirituality, prayer, and giving yourself over to a 'higher power' to achieve recovery, but there are records proving the existence of support groups among native Americans more than a century prior.
In an era where fewer people are willing to live their lives as dictated by religious views, it's not surprising that only around 25% of people who attend one AA meeting return to more meetings. The other 75% simply don't feel that praying to a higher power for the strength to become sober is a worthwhile form of 'treatment' for their particular issue. They also don't appreciate the thought that a temporary relapse is seen as a failure to 'work the steps' properly, rather than being acknowledged as a part of a chronic condition that needs better management.
When those people leave 12-step programs, they often aren't told that there are a number of alternative support groups available. Many alternatives to AA focus on very different philosophies to help recovering people achieve the results they want, including working to improve self-image and self-esteem, and teach recovering people healthy ways to bring about self-directed change.
If you've found that 12 step programs haven't worked for you in the past, it could be beneficial to consider attending some of the non 12 step recovery programs available. Some of the more prominent alternatives to AA include:
SMART Recovery is a popular alternative to AA with meetings held all around the world. SMART Recovery uses a cognitive-behavioral approach designed to help members recognize their own unique triggers and high risk situations for substance use, and then respond to those triggers with positive, productive methods.
SMART Recovery is recognized by a number of professional organizations as being a valuable resource in the addiction recovery process.
Aside from holding in-person meetings, SMART Recovery also offers online support forums and chat groups that can provide motivation at times when physical meetings aren't available. The SMART 4-point program also offers members a range of recovery tools and resources that can help maintain motivation to stay clean and sober.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) was created by James Christopher, who was uncomfortable with the 12-step idea of handing his life over to a 'higher power'. His discomfort led him to create SOS, which has grown to become one of the more popular non 12 step recovery programs.
SOS focuses on self-reliance and personal responsibility that are distinct and separate from any extraneous religious beliefs.
'Women for Sobriety' is a group specifically created to acknowledge that women struggling with addiction often need a different approach to recovery than men. The founder of the group is a female with a doctorate in sociology who had a serious drinking problem that she eventually overcame by learning to modify her thoughts.
The basis behind Women for Sobriety is that many women begin drinking as a form of self-medication or a way to avoid dealing with emotional issues. Groups focus on building women's self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, with a strong emphasis on finding positive, healthy ways to address self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.
Many of the non 12 step recovery programs aren't always intended to be a stand-alone alternative to AA. Instead, most of them encourage recovering people to attend traditional group meetings as well as non 12 step rehab groups.
Research indicates that recovering people tend to respond more positively when they are offered choices. Having access to a range of different group meetings and support options could be the key to living a healthy, sober lifestyle.
If you feel that attending a non 12-step alternative to AA would benefit your journey to recovery, take the time to find the right treatment program near you. There are plenty of alternative group support meetings available that provide all the resources, tools and support you need to stay clean and sober over the long term.