Finding Support Groups Other Than A.A.

Recovery support groups provide tangible benefits, but are 12-step groups and A.A. the only way? No! There are many other paths to recovery! Learn more about alternatives to A.A. here.

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Addiction Recovery = Options!

Rehabs and treatment programs offer a wide range of options and alternatives, evidence-based services, and mutual support groups. The need for such a variety in treatment options comes from the fact that not all people, just like not all addictions, are the same. So, why should the tradition of attending one specific type of support group still dominate in the recovery community?

There are many support group options that may be fit for those who don’t feel that A.A. was cut out for them. What are these options? Can you find such support groups near your living area? Sure! Continue reading as we provide answers, and join us in the end by posting your feedback and questions.

I feel that A.A. is not for me

At a point in your recovery process, it is likely that you will be asked or required to “work the 12 Steps”. Although this method has dominated the addiction recovery process since its establishment, for many it is not comfortable or adequate. Some people have different views, needs, and do not agree with the 12 Step program. Such feelings can be a problem and block your ability to derive support from your group.

If you are searching for alternatives, you can find assistance with your alcoholism recovery from other support groups which operate based on a different model than the traditional 12-step program. In fact, some alternatives have been endorsed by the National Institutes of Health as evidence-based practice of addiction recovery “best practice”. So, there is not a one-size-fits-all structure when it comes to support groups.

A.A. is not the only way

Researchers report that only about 25-35% of people who initially started attending 12 Step meetings went on to become active participants. In some cases, people tend to attend meetings for the first several months of recovery, drop out, and then come back later when they feel the need. However, for a good portion of recovering addicts or alcohol…12 Step meetings are simply not the answer.

These people need to know that there are successful alternative support groups, with different philosophies that might be appealing.

Because of the reach of the 12-step approach, the alternative support groups have struggled through the past few decades to gain a significant following. But, it really comes down to choice and to satisfying the needs of people in recovery that A.A. does not cater to.

Finding alternatives to A.A. support groups

Generally, successful support groups have several things in common, such as members whose lives were transformed with the help of the group’s main methods. Good groups also work on creating social connections for recovering addicts or alcoholics who are looking to become a part of a community again. A good support group should also focus on enhancing the self-esteem of attendees. Objective understanding of the science behind daily medications and needs of each participant for prescribed maintenance treatment also helps.

What are some support groups that satisfy these criteria? Here are a few:

1. SMART Recovery – SMART stands for Self Management and Recovery Training. This program focuses on empowering participants to abstain from alcohol and encourages them to create a more positive lifestyle. It gives you the chance to learn the needed recovery tools, within a supportive and friendly community setting. SMART Recovery understands addiction as a physical and mental disorder, and condones the use of medical and psychological treatment.

The main 4 focal points of SMART Recovery include:

  • Growing and Sustaining Motivation
  • Coping with Temptations and Urges
  • Management of Thinking, Feeling and Acting Patterns
  • Sustaining a Balanced Way of Living

Although SMART Recovery is an abstinence-based program, it still welcomes individuals who are ambivalent about quitting. In addition, SMART Recovery has a youth program and a Family & Friends program. It’s important to know that SMART Recovery’s methods are scientific, and that the program has been endorsed by a number of national organizations.

2. Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) – SOS was founded by James Christopher, a serious problem drinker who tried A.A. but felt uncomfortable about turning one’s life over to a “higher power”. In founding SOS, he used his beliefs about the positive results of focusing of self-reliance and personal responsibility.

SOS has no structured program, but there are some suggested guidelines. The accent is put on “Sobriety” and abstaining from all substance consumption is a priority. They promote honest, clear and direct communication, while providing absolute anonymity to guard attendees from stigma and embarrassment in the outside world.

3. LifeRing Secular Recovery – Is also called LSR and derived from SOS support groups that had different opinions about the organization’s structure. LSR is based on the following three fundamental principles:

  • Sobriety
  • Secularity
  • Self-Help

LSR meetings are friendly, confidential and non-judgemental gatherings, with a positive and relaxed atmosphere. The program is strict about practising sobriety as a priority and promotes no drinking or using drugs, no matter what. LifeRing’s methods also rely on the encouragement of human efforts rather than placing the faith in a divine intervention. For them the key to recovery lies within each individual’s efforts and motivation, which is a part of their Self-Help principle.

4. Women for Sobriety (WFS) – Is the first and only self-help approach to recovery that takes women’s special problems into account. WFS is designed to boost women’s self-value and self-confidence. The philosophy of this program contrasts A.A.’s focus on humility, modesty and selflessness. Instead, WFS works from a point of empowerment, and the main efforts are to substitute the negative thoughts with positive, self-affirming ones. The program uses 13 statements to aid those participating in the program. These statements (or affirmations) include:

  • I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.
  • Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
  • Happiness is a habit I will develop.
  • Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to.
  • I am what I think.
  • Life can be ordinary or it can be great.
  • Love can change the course of my world.
  • The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth.
  • The past is gone forever.
  • All love given returns.
  • Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.
  • I am a competent woman and have much to give life.
  • I am responsible for myself and my actions.

5. Moderation Management (MM) – The program offers 7 Moderation Management Steps of Change, through which it teaches participants techniques for behavioral change, and offers peer support. The goals are to help excessive drinkers decrease their drinking to a moderate level or to gradually decrease alcohol intake to total abstinence. Moderation management provides a variety of methods that lead to behavioral changes, guidelines for responsible drinking as well as tools to measure progress. Here is an outline of the MM steps:

  • Keep a diary of your drinking.
  • Learn what moderate drinking means, and some of the practices and attitudes that go with moderate drinking.
  • Consider whether moderation or abstinence is a better objective for you. Use self-test to help you decide.
  • Make a list of all problems drinking has caused in your life, also list the benefits you expect from moderation.
  • Stay away from alcohol in a period of 30 days to experience the positive aspects of non-drinking.
  • If you want to start drinking again at the end of those 30 days, you can. But, do it cautiously, while being mindful about the limits and your personal rules. Continue to keep a diary.
  • If you have slips, observe what went wrong. Maintain a high degree of attention to your drinking and change your personal drinking guidelines if necessary.

Non-A.A. support groups in your area

To find a recovery support group in your area, other than A.A., you can ask your doctor for referral or search through the following directories online:

Support groups other than A.A. questions

Support is available for people seeking options beyond the 12 steps. If you feel that the traditional support group treatment model does not fit your needs and beliefs, you are NOT out of options. For any further questions about finding and accessing the right support group for you, feel free to post in the section below. We try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: SMART Recovery: Self Management for Addiction Recovery
LifeRing: The “3-S” Philosophy
Women for Sobriety: WFS “New Life” Acceptance Program
Moderation Management: Guide to Moderation Management Steps of Change
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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