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Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous


Alcoholics Anonymous has helped many people break away from alcohol addiction. It not only provides the individual with a support network, but it also gives them a programme for living. There is no doubt that this fellowship does help some people, but it is also clear that it is does not work for everyone. Luckily, there are other options available for people who do not wish to follow this path.

Reasons Not to Choose Alcoholics Anonymous

There are many reasons for why you may not wish to use AA, such as:

  • you may have tried this program in the past and you do not believe that it will work for you
  • you may be put off by the spiritual emphasis of this programme and the requirement to believe in a higher power
  • it may be the case that you do not wish to use any type of recovery group because you are convinced that you will achieve better results without this support
  • you may be interested in a more modern and scientific approach to addiction recovery
  • you may have special needs so you do not feel that a 12-step group will be suitable.

Do You Need a Support Group?

Even if you do feel sure that Alcoholics Anonymous is not the right choice for you, this does not mean that you have to completely disregard the idea of some type of support group. There are a number of different groups to choose from and there is likely to be one to suit you. Here are a few good reasons why you might want to choose some type of support group.

  • It can be difficult to face recovery alone – a support group can offer you encouragement and you will not feel as if you are the only one dealing with these challenges.
  • It will allow you to build a sober social network and meet friends who share common goals.
  • It means that you will have people to turn to if you feel close to relapse.
  • One of the great benefits of this type a support group is it means that you can learn from the experience of other people. This is important because learning purely by trial and error can be risky.
  • It provides a venue where people can share knowledge.
  • It can be nice for people in recovery to feel like they belong to something.

Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous

A number of alternatives support groups to Alcoholics Anonymous exist, including those listed below.

SMART Recovery

Self-management and recovery training (SMART) is a secular approach to addiction recovery. The emphasis is in helping members make use of the latest scientific resources to help them overcome their addiction problems. Members can attend meetings where they can get support and encouragement from other people dealing with addiction problems – these meetings are free to attend. There are far less SMART Recovery meetings than there are Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but those people who live in remote locations can join online SMART meetings. There is also a sister group called SMART Family & Friends for those individuals who are dealing with a person caught up in addiction.

The SMART Program is based on four principles:

  • learning to cope with urges
  • increasing and maintaining motivation to end addiction
  • learning how to balance momentary and enduring satisfactions
  • learning how to manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Members of this group will usually avoid calling themselves alcoholics or addicts.

Secular Organisation for Sobriety – Save Our Seles

The Secular Organisation for Sobriety (SOS) is similar to AA but it does not use spiritual ideas such as the higher power. Members are given a good deal of freedom in regards to how they work their program, but there are guidelines that people can use, such as:

  • the person admits that they are an alcoholic in order to escape denial
  • the individual accepts that they can never use alcohol again
  • the individual does whatever it takes to stay sober for the rest of their life
  • the person commits to not drinking no matter what is happening in their life – both the good and the bad
  • the members of SOS share their thoughts and ideas with each other with the understanding that these conversations will be kept confidential
  • the number one priority for the members in SOS is to stay sober – each member is responsible for their own sobriety

There are SOS meetings available in most large cities. Some members will attend SOS as well as other types of fellowship. It is also possible to find help online.

Outpatient Support Groups

Many rehabs will offer outpatient support groups for ex-clients or those individuals going through an outpatient rehab program. The setup for these meetings will be very similar to what people will experience in rehab. There will usually be a therapist present, but this person is just there to support the group. There may be a topic selected beforehand but a lot of the time it will be up to the group to decide on what they want to talk about.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety is a support group that if focused on the needs of women. It uses a secular approach and it was created by Jean Kirkpatrick after she decided that AA did not offer a suitable programme for female members. It shares many similarities to SMART Recovery, but there is a strong emphasis on using affirmations. This program was created through trial and error and the experiences of the early members.

Recovery Alternatives Not Involving Support Groups

There are also recovery options that do away with the need for support groups completely. Some of these are listed below.

Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery (RR) and SMART Recovery were once closely aligned, but they split over disagreements in regards to the need of support groups. The creator of RR, Jack Trimpey, concluded that these groups are not only unnecessary, but they can also be harmful to the individual. Rational Recovery is based on the idea that alcohol abuse is a voluntary behaviour and not a disease. The individual can use the tools of RR to help them break away from addiction forever.

Therapy Sessions

Some people will choose to go to therapy sessions rather than attend recovery meetings – although there is no reason why individuals cannot use both. The nice thing about therapy is that the individual will be able to get more personalised attention, and they can work with the therapist to deal with their issues and build a fulfilling life away from addiction problems.

Self-Directed Addiction Recovery

Some people will decide to go it alone in recovery. The person may have spent some time in rehab and attended recovery meetings but they now feel that they are ready to go it alone. Self-directed addiction recovery means that the individual takes on full responsibility for their own recovery and they will not be benefiting from the support of a group of fellow abstainers. This is not an approach that works for everyone so if the individual is unable to continue doing the things that keep them sober, they could soon end up back in the midst of addiction.

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