No matter where you are in your recovery, you have no doubt heard about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step based sober support groups. For well over seven decades, AA and other 12-step based groups have been the benchmark for addiction recovery in the United States.
Peer recovery groups such as AA have helped millions of addicts finding lifelong recovery and the 12-Step philosophy is a staple of countless drug treatment programs and rehab facilities. However, many who are seeking freedom from their addiction will not attend AA meetings.
Why Do People Turn Away From AA?
There are several reasons why AA may not be the best fit. For some, they may not like being labelled an addict or alcoholic. Others may reject the strong spiritual foundation on which 12-step groups where created. And there are others who may reject the premise of powerlessness in their addiction.
In reality, recovery from substance abuse isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. While the AA philosophy has dominated the recovery landscape and the way we may look at getting sober as a whole, there has been a growing movement spearheaded by recovery groups that are providing an alternative to AA and the 12-Step approach.
SMART Recovery is a non-profit, nationwide organization which offers free support groups to individuals who desire to gain independence from substance abuse and other forms of addictive behavior. Participants in SMART Recovery learn the tools needed for addiction recovery and are based on four guiding priniciples:
- Building and Maintaining Motivation
- Coping with Urges
- Manage Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
- Living a Balanced Life
SMART Recovery encourages members to support each other while also being self-reliant and learning ways to effectively make positive changes in their own lives. There are an increasing number of meetings that are being established worldwide and online meetings are also available.
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Another group which offers an alternative to AA is LifeRing. LifeRing is made up of recovering alcoholics and addicts from all walks of life who support each other by meeting face-to-face and discussing their struggles and successes in battling their addictions. LifeRing recognizes the dichotomy that exists in each addict.
The addict has two sides: the part that longs to be sober (Sober Self) and the part that still struggles with urges to use (Addict Self). The emphasis on peer interaction focuses on empowering a member’s “Sober Self and encourages not only personal growth but also personal empowerment. There are LifeRing meetings available to addicts nationwide, Canada and around the world.
Women For Sobriety
Women for Sobriety (WFS) is a group for women only who are struggling with alcoholism and addiction. This alternative to AA uses what they term as the New Life Program to help members in their recovery. The New Life program is based on Thirteen Affirmations, which are similar to the Twelve Steps in terms of addressing powerlessness in addiction as well as development of emotional and spiritual growth. The program and affirmations recognize the power of positive thinking, and they strive to change your thinking habits in order to change your behavior. You can contact Women for Sobriety through its website to find meetings in your area as well as participate in online discussions.
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There are also alternative groups to AA such as Moderation Management and Rational Recovery which employ a harm reduction philosophy. Harm reduction is a set of strategies intended to reduce the harm associated with substance abuse.
Through open dialogue and debate, participants are met “where they are at” in their addiction and can explore the risks they take when using substances and learn to employ strategies that minimize those risks. While abstinence is desirable, moderation of substance use is encouraged if it minimizes harm. This viewpoint has caused great controversy in traditional recovery circles.
Are these alternatives to AA a good fit for you and your goals in recovery? It is important to explore all addiction recovery programs and attend a few meetings until you find the group that best fits you needs.