Alternatives to Twelve Step Meetings

Twelve-step meetings are the most popular support group and fellowship in addiction recovery, but did you know it’s not the only way to get sober?

Each year, countless individuals become addicted to alcohol or drugs for at least one of several reasons. Some of these include on-the-job stress, insecurity, broken relationships, unhealthy self-esteem, and anxiety. In a strange twist of fate, substance abuse eventually creates these same problems – guilt, shame, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and even death.

The Reasons for Getting SoberSober Support  in Addiction Recovery

According to the Nation Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 15 million American adults suffered from an alcohol addiction problem in 2016. The problem is so pervasive that the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimated that one in every 12 American adults has an issue with alcohol dependence or misuse.

The burden of substance use disorders is heavy on not only the abuser but also on family, friends and work colleagues. Luckily, those that are addicted often seek help before it’s too late and are assisted to get back to a life of sobriety.

There are multiple support groups and self-help programs available for the treatment of substance abuse. Over the years, twelve-step based meetings have gained wide popularity for their effectiveness in keeping addicts clean and sober. In fact, some people often equate it to the process of recovery itself. Not surprisingly, most standard addiction treatment centers in the United States often have 12 step meetings incorporated into their recovery programs. But what exactly is the 12 step program and why is it unsuitable for everyone?

First, we have to recognize that addiction problems and the recovery process are different for everyone. What may be suitable for one person may be ineffective or objectionable to another. Your path to recovery does not have to depend on attending 12 step meetings. Let’s go over why twelve-step meetings are so popular, and what are the most viable alternatives for addicts and alcoholics.

12 Step Meetings: What You Should Know

The Twelve Steps are a peer recovery mutual support group popularly recommended for recovery from substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors. The concept of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which are 12 step meetings, is based on a spiritual dimension to recovery. Both NA and AA are non-profit organizations dedicated to assisting people worldwide to break free from substance abuse through a series of regular meetings, closely-monitored steps, and mutual support groups.

Alcoholics Anonymous is reported to have over 2 million members worldwide, made up of about 100,000 mutual support groups. The 12 step approach encourages members to believe in a Higher Power while undergoing recovery.

One downside of this approach is that it may not be ideal for everyone. Perhaps, the concept of spirituality is foreign to you. Or, you simply do not believe in the principle of helplessness or submitting yourself to a higher authority. Additionally, AA prescribes total abstinence from drugs and alcohol for their members. This may be impractical for some people.  Another drawback of the 12 step program is the lack of emphasis on physical recovery. It fails to address concerns such as unpleasant withdrawal symptoms during the detox phases.

It is true that you may have your own preference or style. Or you simply do not buy the idea of submitting yourself to a higher power or authority. If that is the case, you are not limited by choice. There are in fact a number of alternatives to twelve-step meetings. Some may be popular in your area, while others may not have gained any traction. It’s always best do to your own research or contact an addiction professional that will assist you in the process.

Some Common Alternatives to Twelve Step Meetings

A recent research study indicated that the original 12 step program, also known as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), is not the only option available for people searching for an addiction recovery support group. Here are some recovery alternatives to the 12 step program:

SMART Recovery: This stands for Smart Management and Recovery Training. This is a not-for-profit organization with an emphasis on empowering the individual. It is one of the most common alternatives to twelve-step meetings.

It was established to challenge the ideals of the AA approach which is based on submitting yourself to a higher power or being helpless on the path to recovery. With SMART Recovery, you are taught to take personal responsibility for controlling your urges. You also get mutual support through your peers and a series of meetings.

So, if you are looking for a scientific approach to your addiction recovery journey, you may want to take a closer look at the SMART Recovery model.

Women for Sobriety (WFS): This is a non-profit organization that provides support for women seeking sobriety. It is strictly dedicated to women. Regular meetings are held for each group and members are free to share their success stories which may, in turn, serve to inspire other women.

Moderation Management (MM): This program is designed for people who believe that alcohol has impacted their lives negatively. However, they do not consider themselves full-fledged alcoholics. In MM, participants are trained to moderate their urges as opposed to AA which prescribes total abstinence from alcohol and drugs.

LifeRing: This program provides a secular approach to healing from substance use disorders. Members are encouraged to chart their own path to recovery. Membership is free, and an emphasis is laid on self-reliance and positivity. Members are also encouraged to share ideas on workable solutions during regular meetings and group sessions.

Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS): This is a non-profit organization which encourages abstinence from drugs and alcohol among their members. SOS promotes group accountability and promotes sharing of ideas during meetings. Success stories are also celebrated in order to encourage worthwhile milestones achieved. The program is science-based and made up of a network of autonomous groups. Membership is also free.

Getting Help With Addiction

If you or a loved one are searching for help with addiction through a mutual support group, you are not necessarily restricted to attending twelve-step meetings. Now, you have been shown a number of viable alternatives that can provide all necessary guidance and support to overcome your alcohol or drug addiction. Hopefully, one or more of these will fit your circumstances, style or taste. If you’re searching for a structured level of care, we recommend learning more about our partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment programs.