Hate 12-Step? Here Are 5 Non-12 Step Alternatives
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Hate 12-Step? Here Are 5 Non-12 Step Alternatives


This post was originally published on May 16, 2014.

If you have a problem with drinking or drugs but aren’t into the 12-step thing for one of any number of reasons, don’t fret! There are alternatives, many of which plenty of addicts find super-helpful. Here are a few of your choices.

1) SMART Recovery

Self Management and Recovery Training (aka SMART Recovery) uses a four-point system to help participants handle their  drinking and using cravings while staying sober, healthy and happy. These four points address keeping motivated, dealing with urges, managing behavior and thoughts and living life in a healthy and balanced way. SMART is based on scientific research in addiction treatment; there is no spiritual element or “God talk.”

2) Moderation Management

Moderation Management (MM) is a behavioral change program and support group for people who think they might have a problem with drinking, but aren’t necessarily ready to give it up entirely or for good. What they do want is to make a change in the manner and frequency of their drinking episodes, so each person comes up with a personal goal (“No more than 2 drinks a week at a social function”) and gets support from other members to help stick with their bottom lines. MM’s website says it “promotes early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking is a more easily achievable goal.” If you think you have enough of a handle on your drinking to be able to drink occasionally in a moderate fashion—or if you want support about staying abstinent from alcohol, which lots of members also try, you should look into Moderation Management meetings. The caveat, of course, is that moderation isn’t going to work for true alcoholics.

3) Lifering Secular Recovery

Lifering is an abstinence-based program (non-profit and secular) that has no religious or spiritual affiliation. It runs itself similarly to Alcoholic Anonymous in that there are meetings all over the place and members are encouraged to support each other, share and talk about their struggles with the disease. They just talk about their struggles without referring to God, thanks very much. Makes sense to me! Another difference is that Lifering members view relapse as a setback but not a failure; the program encourages an experimental approach to staying abstinent. This is a good option if you’re not feeling the God thing, but like the structure and social support of 12-Step.

4) Women For Sobriety

Women For Sobriety [WFS] has been in existence since 1976 and, like AA, it holds meetings across the world. Similar to AA/NA, WFS is based on a series of principles—but in this case they’re called the Thirteen Statements of Acceptance. (An example statement: “I am responsible for myself and for my actions.”) Members need not accept “powerlessness” or believe in a Higher Power for help in managing their lives. Instead, they’re encouraged to take control of their alcoholism and to accept full responsibility for their actions.

5) Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery has a loud, old-school website, but seems to have a number of happy “customers,” so it’s worth mentioning. The program is entirely self-run—there are no meetings, no fellowshipping, no 13-stepping. Instead you follow a course called AVRT (Addictive Voice Recognition Technique) which promises that addicts can “fully recover in a short a time as they like, without regard to age of onset.” Hmmm. Sounds a little too good to be true, no? Well, they thought you’d say that! “That objection, of course, is an example of the Addictive Voice, because it supports continued addiction. The definition of the Addictive Voice is, any thinking that supports or suggests the possible future use of alcohol and other drugs.” Huh. Sounds interesting. But whatever works for you works for me.

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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 CNN.com. 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.