A Guide to 12 Step Alternatives for Recovering Individuals

A Guide to 12 Step Alternatives

In many treatment facilities, 12 step programs are used to help addicts and alcoholics recover from addiction. While these programs can be helpful for many people, unfortunately, they are often treated as the only solution to active addiction, and there are no 12 step alternatives offered or even explained to clients. At Wellness Retreat Recovery, however, we believe in giving our patients access to every available resource that may help them on their journey in sobriety. That’s why we offer 12 step alternatives as well as optional participation in 12 step programs during treatment.

Why Do People Choose 12 Step Alternatives?

12 step programs are based on the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, which was started in Akron, Ohio in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Other examples of 12 step programs that were started based on the principles and method of Alcoholics Anonymous include Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Co-Dependents Anonymous. These programs are spiritual in nature and stress the importance of acceptance of and connection with a Higher Power of the individual’s choosing. In these recovery groups, addicts and alcoholics generally attend meetings with other recovering people and get a sponsor who helps them to work the 12 steps. The 12 steps are a method of recovery that involve practices such as taking an inventory of one’s faults and resentments, working to let go of character defects, and prayer and meditation in order to connect spiritually to a Higher Power. The first step in these programs is to admit powerlessness over substances and unmanageability as a result of using or drinking. For some people, this method is effective in treating addiction, and these 12 step members are often able to achieve multi-year sobriety by using these steps. However, for some people, these methods are ineffective and can sometimes be frustrating. 12 step alternatives are often necessary for individuals who don’t connect to 12 step fellowships or find a solution to their addiction within them.

Common 12 Step Alternatives

Fortunately, there are a few different 12 steps alternatives available to people for whom the 12 step model did not work. They include:

  • SMART Recovery

This support group is based on the philosophy that self-empowerment can help individuals overcome addiction. Contrary to 12 step programs who emphasize acceptance of powerlessness in order to channel a Higher Power, SMART Recovery advocates empowerment and choice for addicts and alcoholics who desire sobriety. The program is based on four points, which include “building and maintaining motivation; coping with urges; managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and living a balanced life” (SMARTRecovery.org.) SMART Recovery has meetings run by a trained facilitator and offers face-to-face support groups as well as online meetings. Similarly to the writing assignments given to individuals by their sponsors in 12 step programs, SMART Recovery groups do offer homework assignments, but they are different in approach and content that 12 step work.

  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)

For many addicts and alcoholics, their main gripe with 12 step recovery fellowships is that those programs are spiritual in nature, requiring a connection to a Higher Power such as God in order to be worked thoroughly. For these individuals, the Secular Organizations for Sobriety was developed. S.O.S. programs are non-spiritual and non-religious in nature. Like 12 step fellowships, these groups stress the importance of confidentiality and abstinence from alcohol and drugs. Typical S.O.S. meetings are focused on group discussion, and stress the importance of rational thought and taking responsibility for choices. S.O.S. meetings are generally face to face and occur throughout the country (SOSsobriety.org.)

  • LifeRing Secular Recovery

Like S.O.S., LifeRing is a non-profit organization that does not focus on spirituality or finding a Higher Power but rather is based on secular methods like self-control. LifeRing promotes the core philosophy that every addicted individual is made up of an Addict Self and a Sober Self, and the program is geared towards reducing the influence of the former and building up the latter. This is done through face-to-face and online meetings, where peer support and discussion is emphasized (LifeRing.org.)

  • Refuge Recovery

This program is based on a Buddhist philosophy and path to sobriety. This non-profit organization emphasizes the principles of knowledge and empathy. The program’s core points are based on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and include practices to increases mindfulness, kindness, forgiveness, and compassion. Refuge Recovery groups promote an Eight-fold Path to Recovery which includes “understanding, intention, communication and community, action, service, effort, mindfulness and meditation, and concentration” (RefugeRecovery.org.) Meetings are conducted in-person or by phone.

There are several other 12 step alternatives available to recovering individuals who don’t find that AA, NA, or similar programs have helped them in overcoming their alcoholism or addiction. Many of these methods use peer support and group discussion methods to form fellowships of like-minded people who can help one another to make better choices and to remain abstinent from the mind- and mood-altering substances.

How We’re Different

At Wellness Retreat Recovery, we understand that every addict and alcoholic is an individual human being with their own life experiences, motivations, and story. For this reason, we never advocate a one-size-fits-all model of recovery. Unlike the majority of treatment facilities, who require 12 step meeting attendance and don’t offer any other options, we offer our clients 12 step alternatives if they are interested. We strive to keep our program dynamic and to cater to the needs of each of our individual clients so that they have the best chance of achieving and maintaining sobriety. Because of this philosophy, we never require our clients to participate in or attend meetings for 12 step programs. We do offer access to 12 step programs for patients who are interested, but we also work to make 12 step alternatives available so that our patients can choose the support group that best meets their needs. If you’re tired of the same old thing and you’re ready for new, innovative,  effective treatment, call Wellness Retreat Recovery today at 1-888-738-0692.