Addiction doesn’t only stem from dependence on substances like drugs and alcohol. People can become addicted to certain practices and ways of life — shopping, hoarding, gambling, overeating, sex, and work, just to name a few. Anonymous programs are proven to help recovering individuals stay accountable for their actions and keep on the path to sobriety.
There are also several types of recovery programs outside of the “Anonymous” realm, such as SMART Recovery and motivational interviewing. We’ll explain anonymous programs and their benefits while also showing examples of alternative recovery programs. No matter what your situation, Coastal Detox can help you find the right way to get and stay clean.
What are Anonymous Programs?
Anonymous programs are mutual aid programs that help people to achieve sobriety. They revolve around the Twelve Steps, which are guidelines for people who wish to recover from addiction. Of these Anonymous programs, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the most well known.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was the first Anonymous program, founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, who were both recovering from alcoholism. The two created the group around the idea of a “higher power” and accepting that they were powerless to control their alcoholism. Together with other members, they wrote “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Recovered from Alcoholism,” which later became known as the “Big Book.”
Anonymous groups aren’t part of any particular organization or religious sect. To become a member, you only need a desire to quit your substance or lifestyle of choice. In Anonymous programs, members are encouraged to remain just that — anonymous. What happens in Anonymous meetings doesn’t go outside of the meeting place, and meetings are kept confidential.
Anonymous meetings are typically “open” or “closed.” Open meetings allow nonaddicts to attend as observers, and closed meetings are strictly for those who wish to recover from substance abuse. Sobriety can be furthered by consistently attending Anonymous meetings and by becoming a volunteer or sponsor.
The Twelve Steps
The Twelve Steps are guidelines for people who wish to recover from an addiction or dependence. Even though they’re focused on spiritual principles such as a “higher power,” the Twelve Steps have worked for many nonreligious people. God is present in all of the steps, but each statement allows flexibility for different religions and spiritual beliefs.
The Twelve-Step model focuses on three main ideas:
- Acceptance: Addiction has taken over your life and you have become powerless to stop it.
- Surrender: You’re giving control to a higher power and accepting support from fellow people in recovery and treatment professionals.
- Participation: You’ll regularly attend 12-Step meetings and follow the ideas of the program.
The Twelve Steps have been modified for each Anonymous group, but they follow the same basic principles.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or another substance/way of life) — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (addicts), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Why Should I Join an Anonymous Program?
Anonymous programs have been helping people recover from addiction for more than 70 years. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), about 10% of people who join an anonymous/12-Step program see long-term success in recovery. However, members also drop out at a 40% rate during their first year. The key to success in an Anonymous/12-Step program is sticking with it even when it’s stressful and difficult.
Although there isn’t much objective data that shows whether Anonymous programs are effective, the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous states that there’s a 50% success rate with 25% of members staying sober after some relapses.
The Benefit of Having a Sponsor
In a 12-step program, a sponsor is a fellow user or struggling individual who is your mentor in recovery. Sponsors are usually senior members of an Anonymous group who have been clean for at least one year. They’ll help you navigate your respective Anonymous group, keep you accountable for your actions, and answer any questions you have. Your sponsor is someone in which you can confide and someone you can trust. Whenever you encounter a physical or emotional trigger that could put you in danger of relapsing, you can call your sponsor.
Sponsors should be people with whom you don’t share a close personal or romantic relationship, and they’re not therapists, either. A sponsor-sponsee relationship should be objective and strictly revolve around addiction and the Twelve Steps. When you talk with your sponsor, try to keep as much personal information out of your conversations as possible.
Types of Recovery Programs
There are more than 30 types of Anonymous programs, while there are also numerous other kinds of recovery programs. Here are a few examples of both categories.
12-Step Recovery Groups
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
As mentioned previously, AA is the primary Anonymous group in which the Twelve Steps originated. The purpose of AA is for alcoholics to help each other in recovery and keep each other accountable. As of 2016, there are more than 2 million members of AA around the world.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
NA is for individuals who have become dependent on drugs other than alcohol. Founded in 1953, NA is the second-most well-known Anonymous group after AA. There are more than 70,000 NA meetings in 144 countries as of May 2018.
Workaholics Anonymous is for people who compulsively work and have admitted that this has become a problem in their lives. This type of work can include paid work, volunteering, fitness or housework.
People who have compulsively gambled to the point that it’s ruined their familial and romantic relationships can join Gamblers Anonymous. GA teaches members how to deal with serious legal and financial problems.
Non-Twelve-Step Recovery Groups
Maybe an Anonymous program isn’t for you. In this case, there are plenty of effective recovery groups, like SMART Recovery, that don’t focus on the Twelve Steps. These include:
SMART (Self-Management And Recovery Training) Recovery aims to help people recover from addiction through a science-based program Like Anonymous programs, SMART Recovery meetings are based on mutual support, but instead of following the Twelve Steps, SMART Recovery follows a 4-Point Program:
- Building and maintaining the motivation to change
- Coping with urges to use
- Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors
- Living a balanced, positive and healthy life
SMART Recovery doesn’t use terms like “alcoholic” or “addict.” It focuses on learning coping skills that will work for you long-term. It teaches you how to accept yourself and lessen your negative emotions. Instead of dwelling on past addictive behaviors, SMART Recovery volunteers focus on the causes of self-destructive behaviors and events happening right now.
Motivational interviewing involves a non-confrontational style to engage patients in treatment and address their motivation to quit substances. Strategies used include rolling with resistance, identifying the pros and cons of both getting treatment and continued addiction, and reflection.
Women for Sobriety
Women for Sobriety is a nonprofit that’s dedicated to helping females who are in recovery to find a “New Life” without harmful substances. The New Life program is centered around 13 “Acceptance Statements” that promote spiritual and emotional growth. These Acceptance Statements include:
- “I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.”
- “Negative thoughts destroy only myself.”
- “Happiness is a habit I am developing.”
- “Problems bother me only to the degree I permit.”
Women for Sobriety aims to give women a sense of personal empowerment to conquer their addiction. The program uses cognitive thinking, group involvement, positive reinforcement, and body healing to promote behavioral changes.
LGBTQ+ recovery groups provide a safe and secure environment for people who are homosexual, bisexual, questioning, or transgender and trying to quit drugs and alcohol. LGBTQ+ people face many difficult challenges that can drive them to self-medicate, such as discrimination, bullying, hate crimes, and rejection from family and friends. They also tend to deal with co-occurring disorders and emotions like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Studies show that, compared with only 9% of the general population, about 20-30% of LGBTQ+ individuals abuse substances. By meeting with like-minded people facing the same addiction struggles, people who identify as LGBTQ+ can feel comfortable opening up and getting the help they need.
Which Type of Recovery Program is Right for Me?
The best recovery program for you is the one that best fits your lifestyle and situation. Some people might find 12-Step programs to be beneficial for their social and collaborative aspects, while others might feel that the Twelve Steps don’t focus on the physical part of recovery, like withdrawal and detox.
Since Anonymous programs don’t center on an empowerment model, women may not prefer these groups and could gravitate toward a program like SMART Recovery. Being around others in meetings might also trigger mental health symptoms.
There is no right or wrong recovery program. What matters is that you choose one that will be most beneficial to you on your journey to sobriety.
Explore Anonymous and Non-Anonymous Programs Today
Our trained professionals at Coastal Detox can lead you toward an Anonymous or non-Anonymous recovery program that will best fit your needs. Contact us today to learn about the next steps after detox and begin your new life, drug-free.