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People new to recovery who maintain an active participation in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous are more likely than those who attend no such meetings to maintain their recovery. However, many people find the spiritual component of such programs – whereby you must surrender yourself to a higher power – to be uncomfortable or incompatible with personal beliefs.

For some people, programs like AA or NA just don’t resonate. Although research does support attendance at community AA or NA meetings in early recovery, it is very likely that what helps is the continued involvement in a community peer support organization which validates and encourages the recovery process - rather than the specifics of the 12 step program.

Because of this, if you find that the 12 steps just doesn’t work for you, for whatever reason, you should still seek out community support and maintain an active participation in any program that keeps you on the path of abstinence, moderation or harm reduction (whatever your goal).

And thankfully, because many people find 12 steps programs unacceptable for one reason or another, a great many alternative community support programs are also in operation in most urban centers.Find something that works with you – and stick with it!

Here is a quick listing with descriptions of some of the better known community recovery support alternatives to 12 steps programs.

  • SMART Recovery – A community support organization with free to attend meetings in 600 locations, SMART Recovery helps people achieve recovery through peer support and a program that helps people maintain motivation for recovery, cope with urges to use, solve problems without resorting to substance use and achieve balance in life. SMART Recovery encourages self reliance and self change, and is compatible with other evidence based treatments, including the use of prescribed medications.
  • Moderation Management (MM) – MM is an organization that supports behavioral change for people who are abusing alcohol, but who may not be alcoholics. MM, as the name implies, does not recommend abstinence as the only course of recovery from problem drinking, it also teaches moderate and responsible drinking techniques. MM meetings are free to attend.
  • LifeRing – Is a secular social support organization that connects people in communities who seek sobriety, with others who have a similar goal. Meetings are free to attend.
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) – Is a secular organization that teaches self empowerment over addiction. The organization stresses that although self change and empowerment are necessary and possible, support from others is also a big part of the recovery process – a need that’s fulfilled by free to attend community meetings. Abstinence based.
  • Recovery International – These community meetings teach a cognitive behavioral self-help system that’s designed to help you gain control over your thoughts and impulses. Recovery International is designed, ideally, as a system to complement other recovery resources, like a formal treatment program.  Meetings are also a source of encouragement, support and fellowship.
  • Women for Sobriety, Inc. – Is a nonprofit self-help and support organization that’s open to any woman who sincerely wants to stop drinking.  The philosophy of change is based on self reliance, positive thinking and an enthusiastic embrace of living life in the present – forgetting the trials of the past.

No group or philosophy is best for everyone – what’s most important is that you find an organization that meets your needs and matches your world view and that you get involved with a group in your community that offers you strong recovery support.

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Page last updated May 21, 2011

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External Links
SMART Recovery Organizes online and face-to-face recovery support groups around the world.
Moderation Management Secular support groups promoting early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking is a more easily achievable goal than abstinence.
LifeRing Secular peer-run addiction recovery groups for anyone with a desire to recover from alcohol and drug addiction or who are in a relationship with an addict or alcoholic.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) SOS is an anonymous network of local peer support groups. Their secular recovery method is an alternative to spiritual 12-Step programs.
Recovery International Organized local meetings, telephone- and online sessions that follow a system of cognitive-behavioral self-help techniques developed by Abraham Low.
Women for Sobriety Inc. A nonprofit organization teaching an alternative recovery method to the traditional 12-steps, for women seeking to overcome alcoholism and other addictions
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