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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

09-24-19 | By

Is a Non 12-Step Program SMART For Me?

12-step programs and abstinence based treatment for substance abuse has been in the majority for years – in treatment centers, in communities, in “the rooms,” and anywhere that may be recovery related. These type of programs have a strong support system of members who the program has worked for and continues to work for 5, 10, 20+ years. These abstinence based approaches in either Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous have provided community and constant support systems through meetings and sponsors for over 40 years for people “in recovery” of all ages. Many people have found success and support through these programs. But… there is not a “one size fits all” approach.

Non 12-Step

There are quite a few options out there for non 12-step approaches to substance use. There are programs that focus on harm reduction, self-empowering, meditation and Eastern values approaches. There are programs completely on-line, in facilities and through support groups. In today’s day and age if you need resources are widely available at your finger tips, whether that be online, through text, or in person, and it can be safe to say anyone looking can find support groups in every city. – 12-step or not. And if you live somewhere there is not, there’s always an online community of support waiting to help. 

Below is a list of three options to look at for Non 12 step approaches to substance use:

SMART Recovery

This is considered a self-empowering recovery program. The main focus is to help explore and resolve the underlying issues and related problems. SMART Recovery stands for “Self-Management and Recovery training,” and typically those who run these groups must be trained in the ways of SMART Recovery. The direction is to simultaneously work on underlying issues as well as substance abuse issues. This could be done in an individual therapy, group therapy, support group or more formal treatment. 

Refuge Recovery

Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist based recovery program. The focus involved in these groups are on compassion and wisdom enabling people to be more mindful of the mental and emotional process associated with their addiction. The foundation of this program sees addiction as a suffering state- that one needs to have compassion towards self for. They have peer led meetings available internationally. Meetings can involve reading an excerpt out of the “Refuge book” to meditating or sharing on a specific topic.

Moderation Management

This type of program focuses not on abstinence, but on moderating the substance use behavior. The idea is to change the risky and harmful problematic behaviors around drinking through promotion of healthy and responsible lifestyle choices. Another term used for this can be known as harm reduction.

In a non 12 step, self-empowering program, the focus typically becomes less on “surrender” and more on “acceptance.” Though, not all these programs see addiction as a disease, nor as something that needs to be refrained from. Some of these program focus on underlying issues that you may be using substances to cope from. The support group of substance abuse could also serve as your support group for issues with your family or origin, your struggle with self-worth or managing divorce or other life changing events. Connecting with other people through struggle can help you to feel less alone.

Other Resources

In addition to non 12-step programs , individual therapy can be a great support to get to the deeper forces driving your addiction or substance use. Family systems work, the role of family dynamics, trauma, attachment issues can all be deeper issues to explore in regards to why you started coping with substances in the first place. Individual therapy, coupled with group work and support meetings can help address the emotional piece of struggling and can help foster tools needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Unless you chose a therapist with a specific orientation to substance use, most therapists will meet you where you are at. This means that if you are trying to manage a harm reduction approach or wanting to be abstinent, they will work with you where you are.

While there are many options to take, it is your job to find the path that works best for you and your recovery. If you have not been successful using 12-step options, it could be beneficial to take a look at what some other options are. We are all specific, unique human beings and our experiences are just that – unique. There is not a one size fits all answer. 


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