When thinking about substance use and the path to sobriety, many people assume that a person in recovery is attending a 12-step program. Alcoholics Anonymous promoted the 12-step program to overcome addiction with extra guidance, making the method easily accessible to people all over the country.

For those actively struggling with addiction who want to start their path to recovery, the 12-step program is usually available at many treatment centers. Still, not all people wish to focus on a higher power.

For this reason, many alternative programs have been created to provide the feeling of community, structure, and guidance during the recovery process.

If you are looking for something similar to the 12-step program because you aren’t sure if it’s the right fit for you, consider looking into the following alternative programs to see if they fit your focus.

What Is a Standard 12-Step Program?

The guidelines for the standard 12-step program, created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, emphasize the presence of God.

Even still, many non-Christians have found that the program is extremely helpful in their recovery. It should be noted that a 12-step program is not a treatment method but rather a mutual support group.

The steps of this program direct you to overcome some part of your addiction, in being able to progress through your recovery with good intentions. The 12-step program provides you with structure, support, and accountability, making it harder to fall off. There are people within these groups who help create a sense of belonging and community.

Recovery can be a lonely journey, but the purpose of these programs is to help each other through it.

What Are Some Alternative Programs To Try?

For those that are not Christian, you may not want to join a 12-step program, but you still want that kind of structure and support it gives.

There are plenty of alternative programs that have developed due to these same hesitations you may be feeling. Even the simplest of language changes can impact how you respond to a program.

You should feel confident in the program you attend because you want to give yourself the best shot at seeing results.

We want to define our own focus many times, and having options makes this a lot easier. One study found that people who participated in alternative programs were more satisfied than those who participated in 12-step programs.

Having the ability to pick what’s best for you will lead to better outcomes. If you aren’t committed to the 12-step methods focus, you might want to consider some of the following alternative programs for recovery.

1. Women for Sobriety

Founded for women by women, Women for Sobriety works to empower and support women seeking help during their recovery.

Finding others you can relate to based on shared experiences and understandings of the world can help your recovery. This group is not affiliated with any other group, so they stand on their own principles and philosophies on recovery.

If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Women for Sobriety can help you gain a better sense of awareness around addiction while supporting your needs throughout recovery. They are an abstinence-based recovery program that understands the specific needs of women.

Rather than focus on spiritual enlightenment, Women for Sobriety focuses on encouragement, group involvement, healthy living, rationalization, growing, and learning how to cope. While it might not feel like it at times, your recovery journey leads you to happier times, and staying motivated to reach that final step is a lot easier with an army of supportive women behind you.

2. SMART Recovery

With self-empowerment in mind, SMART Recovery was an approach to addiction recovery that blossomed.

The goal is to teach people how to use their skills to overcome addiction and provide support as they allow people to create their own recovery plan. This is your life, and SMART believes that you are capable of choosing the path that’s best for you. While still providing support, of course!

SMART Recovery stands for self-management and recovery training. The goal is to move away from negative thinking and substance use and instead regard yourself positively to make changes.

This program helps alter how you see yourself and your substance use, helping you gain accountability while also facing some previously poor choices.

3. Moderation Management

Not everyone who is looking for help is looking to be completely abstinent.

Some people seeking help might find that they simply need to learn better management skills and thus may not require as much assistance as someone struggling intensely with alcoholism.

Setting boundaries with yourself and alcohol can help you stay out of any danger. Moderation management is geared towards individuals who don’t have a severe issue but could benefit from learning moderation tactics.

They encourage a step-by-step approach to learn how to modify behavior and stay safe and aware when using substances. The first thing they suggest is to try out a 30-day abstinence period to experience the positives of sobriety.

That way, you can decide if you still want to use alcohol or drugs, and you’ll be able to create a plan around your usage. Because of these methods, this program may not be for everyone, but it’s worth a try for others.

4. Secular Organization for Sobriety

The Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS) was started by James Christopher, a man who needed the support that the 12-step program gave, without the overarching influence of a “higher power.”

He created SOS to respond to this feeling of exclusion so that others like him wouldn’t be upset by the religious connotations. It might be hard for some people to feel connected to the meaning and purpose behind the 12-step program, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to suffer.

This program doesn’t have a specific structure that members are encouraged to use, but rather SOS promotes self-reliance, self-control, and self-empowerment. It does promote abstinence with the end goal of having its members quit using completely.

Members believe that if you make sobriety your number one priority, you can stay sober for the rest of your life.

5. Refuge Recovery

Maybe a Christian organization like the 12-step program isn’t for you, but a program influenced by Buddhism is.

Refuge Recovery bases its core values and methods on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived 2500 years ago and practiced meditation, compassion, and critical thinking. Refuge Recovery does not ask that you practice Buddhism, only that you trust the process and work to recover from your addiction.

People who enter this program learn about how substances prolong their suffering and work to find ways to accept that suffering is a part of life. You can heal your suffering by learning healthy ways to cope with it.

Refuge Recovery encourages daily meditation for inner peace and group meetings for a sense of community.

6. LifeRing Secular Recovery

Similar to the Secular Organization for Sobriety, LifeRing Secular Recovery does not focus on a “higher power” being the one in charge of your addiction recovery path. All kinds of religious and non-religious people can join in LifeRing Secular Recovery.

The key difference between LifeRing and a 12-step program is that faith and religion are not at the forefront of the program, and you are not expected to share that part of your life with the other members.

LifeRing focuses on group talk as a therapeutic activity that helps us check in with ourselves. This helps us stay in the present and focus on what the future will look like.

These meetings are not necessarily the space to talk about your history with drugs but rather what you are planning on doing to be successful in the immediate future.

Getting Help with Soba Recovery

Both alternative programs and 12-step programs are very helpful in the path to recovery. If you are seeking this kind of support, understanding your own needs and expectations can be helpful when it comes to choosing the right approach.

If you are actively struggling with addiction and could benefit from personalized treatment, Soba Recovery Centers is here to help.

Receiving inpatient treatment is essential for those with severe substance use issues to get better. Having around-the-clock supervision can make the withdrawal process easier and help keep you focused on recovery.

We want to see you healthy and confident, so starting with us before moving on to one of these methods can help to put you in a great place. Call today, and don’t wait for another second more to get the help you deserve!


Help With Addiction and Substance Use Disorders | American Psychiatric Association

SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery | SAMHSA

Comparison Of 12-Step Groups To Mutual Help Alternatives For AUD In A Large, National Study: Differences In Membership Characteristics And Group Participation, Cohesion, And Satisfaction | Journal Of Substance Abuse Treatment

Women for Sobriety

SMART Recovery

Moderation Management

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Refuge Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery

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