Chances are that if you’ve gone to treatment or are just trying to get sober, you’ve been introduced to the 12-step model of recovery, attended meetings and might’ve even gotten a sponsor and tried working some steps. While these fellowships can offer support and recovery for many people, there are some individuals who have difficulty finding a place for themselves in such fellowships for various reasons. If someone finds that a 12-step program does not work for him or her, there are alternative non 12-step fellowship programs that focus less on spirituality and a higher power, and more on fellowship and making good decisions with the aid of support.
Some of these organizations are
- LifeRing Secular Recovery
- Pagans in Recovery
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety
- SMART Recovery
- Women for Sobriety, Inc. are five organizations in which members belong to non 12-step rehabilitation centers. Although they do not follow the same template as AA, the groups share many similarities with 12-step programs.
LifeRing Secular Recovery
LifeRing Secular Recovery focused more on taking personal responsibility in order to maintain sobriety. The principles upon which LifeRing is built are sobriety, secularity, and self-help. Members do not have sponsors, but people with time are encouraged to give advice to newcomers. People in LifeRing run their own recovery programs, something strongly discouraged by AA.
The openness of the format gives members the option of incorporating different ideas as to what can help them get sober. Members are also encouraged to give advice to one another at meetings. LifeRing views relapses as experiences that can be learned from, and believes its members should not be ashamed of them.
This organization also incorporates a comprehensive online community base into their program where members are able to attend meetings, read blogs, interact on forums and can even have what they call an “E-Pal.” An “E-Pal” is someone who they correspond personally with either by mail or email.
Pagans in Recovery
Pagans in Recovery is a modified 12-step program. It is for those who cannot incorporate AA’s value of a higher power into their own belief systems. It eliminates the religious undertones of AA. The organization has published a book containing a description of the 12-steps from a pagan perspective. Each step is broken down into practical application and also is coupled with a ritual to be performed in order to increase spiritual connectedness with the value of each step.
The twelve steps are reworded to remove any references to God due to the word’s association with Christianity. However, members still have sponsors, make amends to those they have hurt, do a moral inventory, and perform service. Another appealing component of the program is that it’s not considered inappropriate to talk about issues other than alcohol. For example, a gambling or sex addict can relate their struggles with their addiction to that of a heroin addict.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), or Save Our Selves, are recovery groups that offer help with addiction to alcohol, drugs and compulsive eating. Formed in 1985, the program does not view spirituality or surrendering to a higher power as necessary to obtaining and maintaining sobriety. SOS views alcohol similarly to AA in that members understand they cannot moderate substance use. The program consists of seven guidelines:
- acknowledging you are an addict
- accepting you cannot drink or use no matter what
- doing whatever it takes to continue sobriety
- not drinking because times are hard
- sharing your thoughts and feelings in confidence at meetings
- making sobriety the number one priority in your life.
- attend meetings
SMART Recovery is a organization that promotes recovery from various addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, eating and other behaviors. They focus on obtaining and maintaining sobriety through their 4 point program, which is designed to facilitate growth and empowerment. The 4 point program involves:
- building and maintaining motivations
- coping with urges
- managing thought, feelings and behaviors
- living a balanced life
The program indicates that they base their modalities on scientific knowledge and follow evidence based practices. Some of the tools that they teach their members to employ are taken from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) developed by Albert Ellis. It is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on identifying and changing irrational beliefs in order to change unwanted behavior.
Along with in-person meetings, SMART Recovery also has an online recovery community where members are able to attend meetings, access forums and get involved with other members around the world.
SMART Recovery is well-established and in-depth program. There is more information and resources about SMART Recovery listed throughout the site.
Women for Sobriety, Inc.
Women for Sobriety, Inc. (WFS) is another secular group that aims at helping women achieve long term sobriety. The focus of this program is on improving self-esteem as opposed to admitting powerlessness and stressing humility. WFS encourages meditation and spirituality, but does not require faith in a higher power. Members of the program attempt to increase self-esteem by minimizing negative thinking and learning to be optimistic.
Personal growth is obtained by accepting one’s addiction, removing negativity, changing attitudes, changing priorities, and improving relationships. This organization utilizes the “New Life” program they developed which incorporates thirteen statements of positivity which members are supposed to say to themselves each morning as affirmations.
Because membership in some of these groups is sparse relative to AA or NA, there is little information on their success rates. One thing that all of the non 12-step fellowships have in common with 12-step fellowships is the focus on developing and utilizing a support system in order to maintain sobriety. Getting and staying sober is easier when you have people around you who are doing the same thing and can help support you through your struggles. However, if you try AA or NA and find it next to impossible to work the program due to its rigidity or religious undertones, one of these non 12-step fellowships may work for you. These other fellowships can also be helpful to attend in conjunction with AA meetings just to obtain an alternative point of view.