Other 12-Step Alternatives

Twelve-step groups aren’t for everyone. You may feel uncomfortable with the spiritual emphasis, for example, and prefer a more secular approach. Or you may not agree with some of the philosophies, such as defining addiction as a lifelong disease.

Support groups that aren’t based on the 12-step model typically don’t recommend that people in recovery find a sponsor or that they keep attending meetings and/or working various steps for a lifetime to maintain sobriety. Some don’t require abstinence from your drug/behavior of choice, but feature a more moderate approach, often referred as “harm reduction therapy.” Here’s a look at three of the most reputable alternatives:

  • Moderation Management
    Moderation Management (MM) and ModerateDrinking.com are complementary online interventions – including online and face-to-face mutual support meetings, a listserv, an online forum and behavioral guides – to help “problem drinkers” reduce the number of days on which they drink, their peak alcohol use on days they drink and their alcohol-related problems. The program is based on growing research that some problem drinkers can cut back without cutting out drinking all together. Other features of the MM Website includes a calendar participants can use to input and monitor their drinking. Every MM participant starts the program by making a 30-day commitment to either total alcohol abstinence or a moderation target. After that period, the goal isn’t abstinence but self-monitoring. Members can continue drinking as long as they stick to moderate amounts; this is defined by MM as nine drinks per week for women and 14 for men. The program consists of nine steps, which include exercises like “write down your life priorities” and “take a look at how much, how often and under what circumstances you had been drinking.”
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Our Selves
    Secular Organizations for Sobriety, or “SOS” as it’s referred to by its members, was founded in in 1985 by James Christopher, a son of an alcoholic, and a sober alcoholic himself since 1978, for individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction as well as compulsive eating. SOS is an abstinence-based self-help group that considers recovery from addiction an individual responsibility separate from spirituality. Meetings typically begin with a reading of the SOS Guidelines for Sobriety (which include statements like “Sobriety is our Priority, and we are each responsible for our lives and our sobriety”) and introductions, followed by an open discussion of a topic deemed appropriate by the members. However, because each of the approximately 500 SOS groups is autonomous, the meeting format may differ from group to group. SOS also has online support groups, such as the SOS International E-Support Group and the SOS Women E-Support Group.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery
    Originally part of SOS, LifeRing Secular Recovery (LRS) was formed more than a decade ago as a separate organization for people who want to stop using alcohol and drugs. LifeRing is based on three principles: sobriety, secularity and self-help. LifeRing is an abstinence-based support group that encourages participants to use group meet­ings to facilitate their personal recovery plan. Instead of a “higher power,” LifeRing says the power to get and stay sober lies inside of each person (the “sober self”). While formats vary, LifeRing meetings are relatively unstructured; each person reports on the highlights and heartaches of that week as well as personal plans for the following week. Unlike at AA or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, “cross-talk,” or directly addressing the comments of others, is encouraged. Meetings close with a round of applause to one another for staying clean and sober. In addition to in-person meetings throughout the U.S., Canada and several other countries, LifeRing has a chat room, e-mail lists and an online forum that provide additional support to its me

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