First developed in the 1930s, the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has become the backbone of America’s approach to treating substance abuse disorder. Historically, if you wanted to engage in a community-based recovery program with free, accessible meetings, there have been very few options outside of AA (or NA, SA, FAA, GA, etc.).
So what do you do if AA isn’t for you?
Maybe you aren’t comfortable with the emphasis on a “higher power” greater than ourselves leading us to sobriety.
Maybe you’ve worked the steps in earnest, but you don’t feel differently about yourself, the world around you, or your drug-of-choice.
Maybe the ritualistic meetings leave you feeling unsettled and uncomfortable—or even bored.
If AA or similar traditional recovery programs aren’t working for you, you’re not necessarily “doing it” wrong, you could just be doing the wrong “it”.
There are options, the myriad of which is growing every day.
Here’s a few that we’ve vetted:
· Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery
Like AA, SMART recovery is built around an in-person meeting model. But while AA presents a 12-step structure, SMART recovery has a four-point program with six steps of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, termination. When compared to AA, the style of meetings in SMART recovery are more free-flowing, there is no formal sponsorship, and the “higher power” or spiritual aspect of recovery is left up to the individual to incorporate if they want. There is also a heavier emphasis placed on psychotherapy and science-based results.
à This is for you if you’re more of a cerebral, science-based thinker.
Moderation Management is a program 20 years in the making aimed at reducing your alcohol intake using the principle of “the power of one” and other incremental changes in behaviors. MM offers both in-person and online meetings, places the responsibility of recovery of the individual, and offers members the option to moderate drinking or to choose to abstain based on educational information and the experiences shared at self-help groups. This program is recommended for alcoholics only.
à This is for you if you haven’t decided that abstinence is the right choice for you.
· Holistic Therapy
You won’t find a single meeting house for this recovery option, but you may find several. Research shows that those suffering from substance abuse disorders have benefitted from modalities including dance/movement therapy, Tai Chi, art therapy, leisure and recreational, spiritual growth and development, cultural awareness and appreciation, vocational services, psychiatric care, and by simply focusing on one’s physical health. Though there isn’t the structure and accountability of a traditional recovery program, science shows that improving self-awareness and self-esteem through intentional holistic remedies can increase chances of recovery.
à This is for you if you are disciplined enough to create your own program and stick to it.
Look, no recovery program is going to be universally effective. That’s too high a calling for any therapeutic response.
The answer for you could be a blend of more than one approach—in fact, research shows that an individualized recovery plan involving more than one method is most effective in long-term sobriety.
If traditional recovery communities aren’t working for you, it’s time to pivot. Your sobriety is worth it. You’re worth it.