Recovery Support Groups: 12-Step and Non-12-Step Alternatives

12-Step Support Groups and Non-12-Step Alternatives: Understanding Your Support Group Options

Completing an addiction treatment program does not mean that your recovery journey is over. While finishing an inpatient or outpatient program is a huge accomplishment, you must continue to seek forms of support. One of the best ways to do so is to attend an addiction recovery support group.

Support groups can provide you with the structure, accountability, support, and camaraderie that is essential to maintaining sobriety. Regular participation in these groups can provide structure and accountability by helping you create a daily routine. Support groups also offer interaction with like-minded people, allowing you to feel connected rather than isolated.

There are many different types of recovery support groups for you to choose from. While some support groups are more popular than others, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to addiction recovery. You can attend several meetings hosted by different groups to test the waters before deciding which one is right for you.

12-Step Support Groups

12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the most popular form of recovery groups. These programs operate under the belief that you are powerless over your substance of choice and that finding a higher power is the key to recovery. Because of this, they are most suitable for people who are spiritual or religious.

12-step support groups use 12 steps to help their participants overcome addiction and the turmoil it has caused in their life. The 12 steps of AA or NA are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.

When you participate in a 12-step program, you will find a sponsor to help guide you through the steps. Attending meetings is a vital aspect of the program, as they will provide you with education on addiction, stories of recovery, and support from others in the program.

12-Step recovery groups

NA and AA aren’t the only 12-step support groups out there offering guidance to people in recovery. Other 12-step programs include:

  • Heroin Anonymous (HA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Dual Recovery Anonymous
  • Nicotine Anonymous
  • All Addictions Anonymous
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Methadone Anonymous
  • Pills Anonymous

There are also 12-step programs dedicated to supporting other types of addictions that don’t involve substances, such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), Workaholics Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous (OA).

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is another 12-Step program, but it is different from other 12-Step programs because it is Christ-centered. Other 12-Step programs like AA and NA are spiritual, but not affiliated with any specific religion.

Alternatives to 12-Step Programs

While 12-step programs are the most popular support groups in the recovery community, some people do not like the spiritual aspect that is central to AA and NA. Thankfully, there are alternatives for you to consider if you share the same sentiments.

Some of the most common 12-step alternative addiction recovery support groups include:

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a secular alternative to 12-step programs like AA and NA. Rather than admitting powerlessness and turning to a higher power, SMART Recovery views addiction as a dysfunctional habit that you can gain control over. This approach to substance abuse recovery incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based techniques for behavioral changes.

SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It is based on a 4-point model which includes:

  • Building and maintaining the motivation to change
  • Coping with urges to use drugs and alcohol
  • Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an effective way without turning to substances
  • Living a balanced, positive, and healthy lifestyle

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S) was created as a recovery program for alcohol, drug, or food addiction for individuals who are not religious. This program believes that you can stay sober based on personal integrity, values, and beliefs. The SOS motto is “sobriety priority”, as they believe that anyone can stay sober if they make sobriety their number one priority in life.

SOS encourages you to:

  • Acknowledge you are an alcoholic or addict
  • Do whatever is needed to make sobriety a priority every day
  • Share your stories and support with confidence to other people in the program
  • Refrain from using drugs or alcohol no matter what difficulties you face, remembering that life is uncertain but can be extremely worthwhile
  • Know that each person is responsible for their own life and sobriety

Refuge Recovery

Refuge recovery utilizes Buddhist philosophies to help you deal with urges and other difficulties associated with addiction recovery. Much of the teachings in Refuge Recovery are based on the Buddhist idea that the root cause of people’s suffering is the desire to push away pain while seeking to fill an unquenchable thirst for pleasure. In other words, this program teaches you to understand how substance abuse has kept you stuck in a cycle of suffering.

Refuge Recovery uses mindfulness and other Buddhist practices to teach you to have compassion for yourself and the pain you’ve experienced. Additionally, you will learn healthy coping mechanisms to deal with difficult emotions and urges to use drugs and alcohol.

Women for Sobriety (WFS)

A sociologist named Jean Kirkpatrick created Women for Sobriety (WFS) in 1976 for women who suffer from substance use disorders. This program views alcohol and drug abuse as a symptom of the common problems women face in our society. In other words, this program operates under the idea that things like low self-esteem, trauma, depression, shame, guilt, and gender inequality are the causes of addiction in women.

WFS encourages its participants to work on the underlying causes and damaging patterns of thinking that have led to their substance abuse issues. This allows women to learn how to take care of their core needs healthily, rather than relying on drugs or alcohol to cope.

support groups in addiction recovery

Benefits of Addiction Recovery Support Groups

Transitioning out of rehab and back into everyday life can be challenging. One of the best ways to obtain ongoing support after rehab is to participate in a support group. Support groups provide you with companionship, encouragement, and understanding from people who know what you are going through.

Although addiction is isolating, recovery can be lonely, too. If all of your friends are still using drugs or alcohol, you may not have any sober friends to spend time with or turn to during challenging times. Support groups provide you with a safe space to make new friends who may become an important part of your journey.

Other benefits of support groups in recovery include:

  • Learn from the experiences of others
  • Get advice
  • Get guidance on your recovery
  • Get help making decisions
  • Learn about healthy coping skills
  • Being held accountable for your recovery
  • Reduce your risk for relapse

Find Help Today

Addiction is a complex disease that, although treatable, is never really cured. Detox can help you stop using drugs, and treatment can help you identify and overcome the root causes of your addiction, but if you stop working on your recovery after rehab your old behaviors may come back, resulting in a relapse.

The best way to stay on track and remain sober is to immerse yourself in an addiction recovery support group.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or interested in learning how our California addiction treatment center can help you with your sobriety, please contact us today.


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