12 Step Alternatives & Different Recovery Programs
It seems that when people talk about 12 step alternatives or non 12 step programs of recovery, they are sometimes met with resistance. Especially in the treatment industry, twelve-step recovery is treated as a necessity for a healthy sober life. Although there are hundreds of thousands of meetings and millions of members, it’s important to know that there are alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar groups. We’re not claiming one is good or one is bad; we just want to make sure people know that there are options.
Twelve-step recovery is the most well-known recovery program out there. With over 200 different twelve-step fellowships according to Wikipedia and an estimated membership of just under two million in Alcoholics Anonymous alone (according to AA’s Estimated Membership data), twelve-step groups can be found in cities across the world. Many people find the program to be useful in their lives, but there are some who find that this method of recovery isn’t for them.
Non 12 Step Programs
Here are a few alternatives to 12 step programs that we have found useful. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, and there are people who find recovery via other methods! At many treatment centers, especially holistic facilities, individuals are being encouraged to investigate some different programs to see what fits with their needs.
Celebrate Recovery is not a true alternative to 12 step recovery as they use literature from Alcoholics Anonymous. Regardless, we thought we’d include it here because it’s a popular program that many find useful. Celebrate Recovery is a Christian recovery organization that focuses on recovery from addiction and other compulsive behaviors such as sex addiction, anxiety disorders, codependency, debt, gambling, and eating disorders. Founded in 1990 on the desire for a more Christian-based program than 12 step, Celebrate today meets across the world.
Celebrate Recovery utilizes twelve step literature, official literature created by Celebrate, and of course the Bible. Ideal for those that have faith in the Christian tradition, Celebrate Recovery offers a community and program based on Christ’s teachings. Unlike traditional AA or NA meetings, Celebrate Recovery meetings are open to all those struggling with any compulsive behavior. Meeting formats are pretty similar to twelve step meeting formats, but they often begin with a group meal.
Find Celebrate Recovery meetings at www.Locator.CRgroups.info.
SMART Recovery has grown in popularity in recent years, largely due to its emphasis on evidence-based practices. SMART meetings are often touted as one of the non 12 step programs that doesn’t require abstinence. Unlike traditional recovery groups, SMART follows more of a harm-reduction model. That is, a member may be ready to quit using heroin but not yet ready to quit drinking. This member is still welcome to join meetings and participate in discussion.
SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training, and was founded in 1992 by a volunteer board of directors. SMART Recovery encourages evolving of the program as scientific understanding progresses. Utilizing a model of different stages of change, the program aims to meet people where they are as individuals. Unlike twelve-step groups, people can actually “graduate” from SMART Recovery as they remain abstinent and acting with healthy habits.
You can find SMART Recovery meetings at www.SMARTrecovery.org/local/.
Refuge Recovery is a relatively new program, launching in 2014 from recovery groups in Southern California. Formed as a “Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction,” Refuge Recovery utilizes the principles offered in the Buddha’s teachings to help individuals recover. The program has many similarities to twelve-step groups, but also has a few important differences. Many people investigate Refuge Recovery as a part of their 11th step practice, or as one of the 12 step alternatives that works well for atheists in recovery.
Like the 4th step inventory process of twelve-step programs, Refuge Recovery has an inventory guide in the book. There’s also a recommendation to make amends, an emphasis on community, and a dynamic of sponsor/sponsee. The program was founded by individuals with extensive experience with twelve-step and it draws heavily on some aspects of it.
Meeting formats are familiar to those that come from their anonymous counterparts. There are meetings with speakers and open sharing meetings. Generally, meetings start with a guided meditation and some readings. There are some meetings that read the book, while others just open the meeting for sharing. In general, the groups are relatively similar in format to 12 step meetings.
The main difference between Refuge Recovery and programs like Alcoholics Anonymous lies in the reliance on a higher power. As the Buddhist tradition is a non-theistic one, Refuge Recovery requires no commitment to “turning your life over” to a higher power. In fact, Refuge Recovery encourages individuals to rely on themselves and their practices of mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom. In the suggested meeting format, there is a line that reads:
This is an approach to recovery that understands “All beings have the power and potential to free themselves from suffering.”
You can find Refuge Recovery meetings at www.RefugeRecovery.org/meetings-in/.
Again, these are just a few alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs. There are many other alternative recovery programs, recovery methods involving therapy and one-on-one work, and ways that people recover individually. The purpose of sharing this post isn’t to discourage you from attending twelve-step groups or to say that any of these programs are better than another. Rather, our intention is simply to offer the knowledge that there are alternatives to 12 step program that you may find useful in your recovery.
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