Five 12-Step Groups You've Never Heard Of
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Five 12-Step Groups You’ve Never Heard Of


This post was originally published on July 9, 2014.

In the wide, wondrous world of 12-step programs, anyone and everyone can find their unique quirks—and darkest issues—represented. It’s like a rainbow smorgasbord of insta-spirituality and self-help goodness. But 12-step isn’t limited to kicking drugs, alcohol, shopping and the like—oh, no. The program world gets far more specific and obscure than that. Here, we bring you five 12-step offerings that we’re betting you might not have heard of. Hey, whatever you need to help you get through life, man. No judgments here!

1. Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous

Cleptomaniacs And Shoplifters Anonymous (CASA) is a secular, independent, weekly self-help group that sounds reminiscent of AA and its ilk, but is actually a whole separate deal. It was founded in Detroit, Michigan in September 1992 by Terrence Shulman, a recovering ‘lifter who “felt such a group could help himself, others and the community as a whole.” The program now exists at the Shulman Center, which claims a 90 percent rate of patients completing the program.

2. Depression Anonymous

Depression Anonymous was founded in 2003 by Marilyn Patterson, a certified counselor and English teacher, to help depression sufferers deal with some of the difficult, unique issues that commonly arise in their lives. Some of those problems are similar to ones commonly found in AA, but many are different and thus need to be addressed in a separate group. Patterson also wrote an accompanying text called Reach to Recovery: Depression Anonymous that the group uses as a manual of sorts. It’s unclear where or when the meetings currently take place; they used to happen in Houston.

3. Recovering Couples Anonymous

RCA is a 12-step based program for recovering couples of various types, with various addictions. They share experience, strength and hope to work toward solving “our common problems and help other recovering couples restore their relationships.” As its website says, the sole requirement for membership is a “desire to remain committed to each other and to develop new intimacy.” Sounds a bit vague, yes? But hey, if it helps addicted couples build and sustain healthy relationships, we’re all for it.

4. Underearners Anonymous

Probably the best established of all of these, Underearners Anonymous is based on the belief that “underearning is a kind of mental disorder, rather like the alcoholic’s self-destructive compulsion to drink to excess.” UA members sometimes call themselves “time drunks” because they have a tendency to waste their time on dumb, meaningless things instead of working toward solid goals. The fellowship also adopts lots of elements of AA, including the 12 steps, regular meetings, sponsorship and literature. Members can also keep written records of how they spend their time, “possession consciousness” (the disposal of “what no longer serves us”) and dodging “debting” (unsecured borrowing). They also have “action meetings” where members counsel each other about earning issues.

5. Online Gamers Anonymous

Titter at this if you want but Online Gamers Anonymous (OLGA) , a 12-step program for video game addiction, was founded by a woman named Elizabeth (Liz) Woolley in 2002 after her son committed suicide while logged into the game EverQuest. The program offers message boards, Internet meetings and other tools. OLGA is a volunteer run organization and fields approximately 500 Internet and phone inquiries per day. Makes you think twice about that time you spend Candy Crush-ing, doesn’t it?

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.