Quitting a drug or drinking habit is tough no matter the circumstances. Many people who seek recovery turn to 12 step programs, like AA or NA, for support. These programs offer fellowship, mentors, and guidelines for staying sober through spiritual principles. Most people in recovery have been to a meeting or two at some point in their journey. There are alternatives to 12 step programs, however, that may be worth exploring for some.

Why Seek Alternatives to 12 Step Programs?

For many people, 12 step programs work. The nature of these groups is anonymous, so it’s hard to get statistics on how effective they are. But the personal experiences of 12 step members show that for many, these groups offer a way out of addiction. Some people, however, don’t feel that they “click” with the message of 12 step fellowships. Others may benefit greatly from these groups but may still want additional support. For some who are early in their journey, researching different methods for recovery may be appealing. For all of these people, and even for those who are just interested in addiction recovery, exploring alternatives to 12 step programs may be helpful.

One of the keys to success in 12 step programs is the willingness of the person involved in them. These groups do not preach or attempt to persuade people to join them. It’s a very personal choice, and some may not feel it’s the right one for them. Fortunately, there are multiple alternatives to 12 step programs available.

Alternatives to 12 Step Programs

Some of the alternatives to 12 step programs focus on similar topics, such as spirituality, while others are totally secular. Finding the fellowship that works best for you is the key, and it’s ok to explore your options. The following alternatives to 12 step programs are available in many regions of the country:

1. Refuge Recovery- this program is based on spiritual principles, much like 12 step programs. Many of its elements have a Buddhist focus. It features the “eight-fold path to recovery”, a series of steps members take to stay sober.

2. SMART Recovery- this is a secular program that isn’t based on spirituality. It includes meetings in which members support one another and used therapeutic methods, like CBT, to challenge negative behavior patterns.

3. Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)- these groups are similar to SMART recovery because they are also not spiritual in nature. These groups offer support and group discussion. They focus on replacing destructive patterns with rational thought and actions.

4. Celebrate Recovery- these groups are similar to 12 step groups because they focus on spirituality. Celebrate Recovery is focused on a Christian-based spirituality. It offers group meetings for support, religious/spiritual guidelines similar to the 12 steps, and fellowship with worship.

There are many other alternatives to 12 step programs out there. They can be found pretty easily by exploring local churches and community groups or doing some online research.

The Importance of Support

Whether you recover through the 12 steps or focus on alternatives to 12 step programs, having a support group is essential. There are a few reasons that many recovery methods involve group meetings. The benefits of group fellowship include:

  • having people to talk to who understand the trials and joys of addiction and recovery
  • accountability from other like-minded people
  • a positive outlet for emotions
  • opportunities for service, which can boost self-esteem and help support a positive lifestyle
  • mentors who can assist in early recovery
  • combating loneliness and isolation, which can result in relapse

Support is necessary for any recovering addict or alcoholic to be successful. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, scientific research shows that drug abuse treatment can help change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors towards drug abuse, avoid relapse, and successfully remove themselves from a life of substance abuse.

Addiction can destroy friendships, romances, and even family ties. When someone decides to get clean and sober, they need encouragement, love, and support. Having a group of friends who can relate to addiction and recovery issues can help support someone during the crucial moments of early recovery. This support can be found in 12 step groups or in alternatives to 12 step programs. Recovery is personal, and every individual responds differently to different methods. The most important part is that we find our tribe, stick with them, and reach out for help when we need it.

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