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Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous

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anonymous anonymous
I don’t like AA meetings. I know there are a few alternatives like rational recovery etc. Can you recommend which of the alternatives to AA is the best one? I have a problem accepting the whole drinking as a disease concept and that I am powerless over my own choices.

Anna Deeds Says...

Anna Deeds A. Deeds

Thank you for your question.  I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with the concept that addiction is a disease.  It does not seem like a "physical" disease. Addiction does have a lot in common with other diseases though.  Science is beginning to discover genes associated with addiction and it has predictable signs and symptoms like other diseases.

However, you need to find a recovery program that you are comfortable with.  If you don't like the program, you aren't likely to participate enough to get the help you need.  Here are some alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous:

  • SMART Recovery - A self-empowering addiction recovery support group based on scientific research.  They follow a 4 point system of building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors and living a balanced life.  They have meeting in the community and online.
  • Rational Recovery - A self-guided form of recovery based on education and learning to control addictive thinking.  It does not have support groups and is available through the Rational Recovery website.
  • Moderation Management - A program of behavioral change and support group for moderation or abstinence.  It differs from other programs in that it does not advocate an abstinence only approach. 
  • Life Ring -  A peer support group based on abstinence.  It follows the principle that each addict has an "addict self" and a "sober self."  Peers support each other by reinforcing the "sober self."
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety - A non-religious alternative to 12-Step recovery. 

I cannot tell you which of these alternatives is the best for you.  You need to choose a recovery program that is a good fit for you.  What I can do is tell you what I think a good recovery program should include and point out the advantages and disadvantages of these programs. 

Personally, I believe in a program of complete abstinence.  Alcoholics Anonymous advocates complete abstinence because they believe we are powerless over alcohol, not our choices as you had mentioned. They believe that any use of alcohol or drugs cannot be controlled and will lead to an unmanageable life.  I have seen many people relapse when they tried to manage their addiction.  However, nothing is black and white in addiction.  It is possible for some people decrease their drinking.  I think this approach may only work with someone who is a problem drinker and not an alcoholic.  A problem drinker is someone who may be early in their addiction and may not have experienced the severe consequences of long-term abuse of alcohol.  You can choose to remain abstinent through any of the alternatives listed but Moderation Management also gives you the option to cut back drinking. 

In addition to abstinence, I think a good recovery program needs to include support.  A disadvantage of many of these programs is that they are not as widely available as Alcoholics Anonymous.  Many have meetings only in larger cities or online.  Rational Recovery does not include any meetings or support.  Support seems to help those struggling with addiction to make the changes in their life that will sustain sobriety. 

Many of the programs listed include making the changes to thinking and behavior that I believe are necessary for long term treatment of addiction.  It is easier to make these changes when you have support to reinforce change.  Change is necessary for addiction treatment because alcohol is a symptom of a bigger problem.  Part of the problem is not knowing how to cope with life's problems.  Several of the alternatives address learning coping skills. 

SMART Recovery addresses making changes, learning coping skills as well as maintaining motivation and living a balanced life.  I also liked that it is based on research.  Rational Recovery addresses addictive thoughts but does not include support.  Moderation Management address behavioral changes but is not based on complete abstinence.  Life Ring is based on abstinence and includes peer support.  It also addresses changes in thinking.  Secular Organizations for Sobriety is based on abstinence, includes support and addresses change. 

While I think each of these programs have advantages and disadvantages, some may be a better fit than others.  Only you can make that decision.  Hopefully this will help you make the best decision.  I think that it is wonderful that you are reaching out for help and looking for the best program.  I hope you find your path to recovery and a better life.  

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Page last updated Jul 22, 2016

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