Addiction recovery is not a straightforward process. With the abundance of support groups, some individuals could feel drawn to alternatives to 12-Step programs, especially if they have experienced treatment before. 12-Step alternatives require research and community to determine what’s best suited for you.

Addiction is a relentless and complex disease. Addiction can be classified by uncontrolled cravings for a substance or behavior, despite multiple attempts to get better. Addiction is treatable through a combination of specific medications, counseling, support groups, and personal motivation.

What is AA?

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) was founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935. Originating as a community-based fellowship program, the 12-Step program was intended for sobriety from alcohol. The 12-Step program was used to govern AA meetings, although it has evolved to treat other disorders.

In a “closed meeting,” the only people who can attend are those with an alcohol use disorder. In an “open meeting,” your friends, family members, or spouse can be included in the meetings.

AA is a program based on the 12-Step model, organized around a set of guiding principles summarizing its core beliefs. The initial motivation for developing a formalized treatment program came from a shift in thinking that was taking place during early twentieth-century America.

People began to question long-held assumptions about poverty, crime, and other social problems. This questioning extended to addiction as well. Addiction has become recognized as a disease of the brain, driving compulsive behaviors.

The 12-Step program focuses on a spiritual awakening as a necessary component for overcoming addiction and includes admitting powerlessness over the addiction. 

The 12-Steps highlight believing a higher power can:

  • Give strength
  • Making amends to those people who have been hurt by one’s actions while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Seeking forgiveness
  • Examining past mistakes with transparency (without blaming others)
  • Learning how to live through purpose
  • Guiding others who suffer from a similar addiction
  • A commitment to a spiritual way of life

The 12-Steps have been found helpful for some people in the treatment of addictions. This is especially true when combined with other approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy. 

What Are the 12-Steps?

Within the 12-Step program, a person admits they are powerless over alcohol

  1. A recovering individual must understand that their life has become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. 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.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Finding AA Alternatives

Alcoholics Anonymous has become a staple in many communities for people looking for help overcoming their addictions since its creation nearly 100 years ago, but it’s not the only option out there. Finding AA alternatives can benefit you by providing a different type of group support system that meets your needs.

However, it has also been argued that a certain type of patient tends to do better because a successful outcome depends a great deal on a strong desire to stop drinking and a high level of self-efficacy already present before going through treatment. This would suggest that a higher power is not necessary for success – one can rely on his own strength alone.

What Can I Do Instead of AA?

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety can be classified as a non-religious alternative to AA. Women for Sobriety is designed for women with a substance use disorder. Similar to the 12-Step Program, Women for Sobriety employ guidelines based on Their New Life Programs — using 13 “acceptance statements” with six recovery levels. 

The goal of Women for Sobriety is to instill abstinence, open to all women (or identifying women) with a substance use disorder. Women for Sobriety is carried out through certified moderators or chat leaders. Women for Sobriety offer: Online support, in-person meetups, and phone volunteers for support.

Women for Sobriety is free and ongoing. At Women for Sobriety, a recovering individual will learn to identify and address problems that initiated their substance use. You can expect to uncover new ways of problem-solving and cognitive-behavioral strategies.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)

SOS can be described as a network of independent groups to help achieve or maintain sobriety. If you’re seeking secular AA alternatives, SOS could be beneficial. The primary goal of SOS is abstinence, strengthened by mutual support. SOS is open to other substance use disorders outside of alcohol. SOS groups are local, with groups based on Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety. Online groups are available, as well. 

SOS is free and ongoing. Through SOS, you can expect to learn how to achieve and maintain sobriety. A recovering individual should anticipate the education of addiction and rational decision-making. For example, the cycles of sobriety include: acknowledging, acceptance, and prioritizing sobriety.

LifeRing Secular Recovery

Life Ring is an alternative to 12 Step programs, with a highlight on supporting sobriety. They offer peer-to-peer support, through online meetings and other resources. The goal of LifeRing Secular Recovery is to maintain abstinence. 

A key benefit of LifeRing Secular Recovery is the variety of treatment approaches. LifeRing applies peer-to-peer local meetings towards members. Online meetings are available, along with forums and email groups. 

Through LifeRing Recovery, you’ll be given the tools to design your own program. You’ll be taught to support your “Sober Self” and weaken “The Addict Self.” Expect stories and advice from your peers.

Moderation Management

Moderation management would be best suited for those with alcohol dependence. Those with drinking problems would benefit from the focus on behavior change. The key goal of this approach is moderation. Moderation management emphasizes drinking guidelines and drinking monitoring exercises. Goal setting is key to developing self-management and coping strategies.

A recovering individual can expect peer meetings along with the 9-Step program, which is an alternative to 12 Step programs. Moderation management promotes early intervention and harm reduction. You can develop a sense of recognition, improving the confidence to move on to abstinence programs. Moderation management tackles treatment from a secular outlook.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. The goal of SMART recovery is to maintain abstinence. A recovering individual can expect to spend time at mutual support meetings through a secular, science-based approach. 

You can expect to learn copings skills coupled with cognitive behavioral skills. The motivation to change is a key highlight for consistency.SMART Recovery is free, although donations are encouraged. The length of the program is ongoing.

Why Are Support Groups Important for Recovery?

It’s your first day at Alcoholics Anonymous, and you begin to question if it will actually help you. Support groups have been a major staple of addiction recovery. Support groups are not there to provide one-sided magical answers. The real work of recovery requires you to develop a relationship with yourself and others.

What are the Benefits of a Support Group?

Alcoholics Anonymous was not the first group to assist recovering alcohol addicts, but it is now by far the most popular one. The Serenity Prayer is a chant that many people recite before a meeting starts at 12-step programs to signify a sense of inner wisdom and peace.

The members of a support group can help each other through difficult times, provide encouragement, offer advice, share coping skills and keep each other accountable. This type of group therapy allows people to develop strong bonds with others who are confronting similar problems or struggles in their lives. Crafting accountability towards your recovery goals can inspire motivation for consistency.

Many individuals have a desire to connect with a group of people who can relate to personal experiences and share a similar goal. Reducing isolation can be beneficial towards recovery. Part of the reason why 12-Step programs are so popular has a lot to do with this aspect and the fact that these groups provide a sense of friendship and community for those in recovery.

However, 12-Step programs focus on a “higher power” and also recommend that members abstain from drinking entirely. The concept of a higher power is described as an individual’s belief system or something greater than yourself, such as God, love, Mother Earth, etc. There’s no right or wrong way here; it’s simply a matter of what works best for you. Some individuals may not connect with these concepts.

The Risks of Relapse

If you’re struggling with a substance use disorder, one of the greatest challenges to individuals in recovery is a misstep that can turn into a full-blown relapse. This may be a momentary lapse or a full-blown return to an alcohol or drug habit. 

Unfortunately, this tends to occur with most addicts when they are feeling isolated and experiencing stress. 12-Step programs provide a sense of community which helps prevent these types of issues from occurring.

A relapse could be classified as an event and a process. When a person has a lapse, it is the initial use of a substance after a period of recovery.  A relapse is continued use after the initial lapse. The relapse process often begins long before the individual uses the substance. A relapse prevention plan is a comprehensive set of guidelines to manage your triggers and scenarios of use.

Early signs of relapse can include:

  • Thoughts or fantasies of use
  • Neglecting to reach out to your support system
  • Skipping support group meetings
  • Increased behaviors of substance use, such as poor eating/sleeping habits
  • Stopping medication used for recovery
  • Spending time with individuals who use substances
  • Lack of motivation for change
  • Boredom
  • Stress
  • Untreated mental health conditions

Life After Addiction Treatment

Life after addiction treatment requires your determination and commitment towards the uncomfortable realities of addiction. After treatment, it’s important to connect with yourself and how you’re feeling. Denial of your internal systems can lead you to cravings, and ultimately towards lapsing. A strong support system is a gateway towards consistency.

Most people find themselves tapping into their own personal resources at first–and later on, they hear about a few other options out there. Education can be a beneficial approach. Enrolling in courses, either online or in-person, could allow you to reintroduce knowledge into daily life. 

Hobbies and extracurricular activities could initiate a sense of authority outside of substances. Devoting time to volunteer work can get you out there and in a better place. And for some people, maybe a job will ease the process–finding a new passion or exploring a desire to achieve something significant.

Surrounding yourself with a sense of wellness might be one of the most empowering ways to prevent relapse. Exercise is a highly recommended tool for maintaining sobriety, by keeping the mind and body sharp. Instilling discipline and routine in your life after addiction treatment is crucial.

Recovery Awaits at Coastal Detox

AA Alternatives can provide you with the tools to channel your recovery. Addiction treatment should be tailored to your success. Discovering healthier coping skills and community can offer you a chance to grow. Coastal Detox embraces the adaptations necessary for maintaining sobriety. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, contact us today.