Alternatives to AA for Addiction Recovery Support
Alternatives to AA for Addiction Recovery Support
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease of the brain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.1 Professional help greatly increases the chances of overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction for the long-term. Participating in a support group is also a universal part of any quality treatment program.
The most popular and well-known addiction support group is Alcoholics Anonymous, more commonly known as AA, which has an estimated membership of 2.1 million members throughout the world, 1.3 million of them in the United States. AA has helped numerous people recover from an alcohol addiction, and its sister organization, Narcotics Anonymous, or NA, has helped numerous people recover from a drug addiction.
However, not everybody embraces the 12-step philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. For people in recovery who want to participate in a support group but don’t think AA or NA is right for them, alternative groups can provide support for long-term recovery from substance use.
Benefits of Support Groups in Recovery
There’s no doubt that participating in a support group in recovery, especially in the early weeks and months of sobriety, helps people remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol. According to an article published in the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, several studies show that engagement in a peer support group can predict successful long-term recovery.2 In some populations, peer support groups have been shown to significantly reduce relapse rates and keep people housed.
In addition to proving a high level of practical, emotional support, peer groups offer several key benefits for recovery:
Peers in a support group hold each other to a high level of accountability and personal responsibility. Excuses don’t fly, and members help each other stay honest with oneself and one another.
Early recovery can be an isolating time, and isolation is a major relapse trigger. Support groups provide opportunities to socialize and develop healthy relationships with others in recovery to ward off feelings of isolation and loneliness.
12-Step recovery groups provide new members with a sponsor who is active in the group, has worked the 12 Steps, and can provide a high level of support at any time. The sponsor becomes the key contact during a relapse or high-risk situation.
Peer support groups help members foster greater self-awareness as they examine problematic behavior and thought patterns and develop healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Peers help one another evaluate experiences and emotions honestly and accurately.
According to the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, support groups for mental health issues including addiction improve self-esteem, self-efficacy, social support, spiritual wellbeing and psychiatric symptoms.3
Why Some People Choose AA Alternatives
Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12-Step program. Participants work through the steps at their own pace, with support by their AA peers and sponsor. Central beliefs of AA include admitting powerlessness over an addiction and surrendering to a higher power. People who are atheist, agnostic, or non-religious may have trouble navigating these steps, along with those who don’t believe in powerlessness. AA’s one-size-fits-all approach to recovery is another reason why some people prefer not to engage with the program. 12-step programs tend to treat every addiction the same, regardless of substance, circumstance or cause.
There are many pathways to recovery, and AA alternatives take a variety of approaches to recovery and recovery support. Here are some of the alternatives to AA that may help you or someone you love recover from an addiction.
In-Person and Online Alternatives to AA
SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery is a 501(c)(3) non-profit recovery organization that focuses on self-empowerment using evidence-based methods including cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement principles. Its mission is to “help participants gain independence from any problematic addictive behavior.” Group meetings support individuals’ ability to control their own behavior, and while also providing tools for achieving a happy, healthy and productive life.
SMART Recovery is based on four points:
Building and maintaining motivation
Coping with urges
Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors
Living a balanced life
Support group meetings are focused on helping individuals develop the mindset, thinking patterns, skills, tools, and motivation needed to enjoy a life of sobriety. SMART Recovery support groups meet in person, facilitated by a SMART-trained volunteer. In some cases, volunteer facilitators are in recovery themselves. SMART Recovery encourages members successful in the program to enter training to become support group facilitators.
SMART Recovery offers a wide range of resources, including an informative blog, a support forum, online support meetings, and an online shop where you can purchase the handbook and other materials for a small fee.
LifeRing Secular Recovery
LifeRing Secular Recovery operates on the belief that each individual’s pathway to recovery is different, and its role is to support whatever pathway works for you. Many LifeRing participants also participate in treatment or other support groups, such as AA or SMART Recovery.
LifeRing’s philosophy is that you are the best person to design your own program for recovery. It espouses the “3-S” Philosophy:
Sobriety. The only requirement for basic membership in LifeRing is that you’re abstinent from alcohol and drugs. Their motto is, “We do not drink or use, no matter what.”
Secularity. LifeRing welcomes people of all faiths and supports recovery methods that rely on the effort of the individual rather on divine intervention.
Self-help. The main purpose of group meetings is to reinforce participants’ motivation to stay sober.
LifeRing believes that the key to sobriety is the individual’s own motivation and effort. LifeRing support group members help one other develop their own personal recovery plans by sharing information, resources, tips and advice as well as offering emotional support and understanding. LifeRing offers in-person meetings in many cities across the country.
They also have a strong online presence. Their Online Support consists of email groups and e-pals; an online forum; a chat room with a regularly scheduled virtual LifeRing support meetings; and YouTube videos that explain the LifeRing philosophy and help you start face-to-face meetings in your own town.
Web-Based Alternatives to AA
Soberocity bills itself as “a vibrant social network for the recovery and sober-living community.” Like other social networks, Soberocity is free, and members share stories, photos and videos, while making connections with others in recovery. The Soberocity community is a “celebration of sobriety and a tool for sharing and promoting recovery as a lifestyle.”
Soberocity is also an educational resource. Useful information and links keep members informed about the latest research in addiction and recovery and help them learn more about recovery and sober living. A blog features articles about all aspects of recovery and sober living. Curated local resources help users find local support group meetings, special events, and other resources in their geographical area.
This Naked Mind Group
This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness and Change Your Life is a book by Annie Grace, published in 2015. The book contains insights into alcohol use and abuse through storytelling and research into the psychological, neurological, cultural, social and industry factors that promote a culture of drinking. The theme of the book is how regaining control over alcohol is vital to personal happiness and fulfillment.
This Naked Mind Group is a members-only forum where people in all stages of recovery, including sober-curious, discuss the role of alcohol in their lives honestly and without judgment. The site includes a blog and a host of informational resources for people who want to drink less or quit drinking for good and regain control over their lives.
This Naked Mind Facebook page has over 5,000 members and adds another layer of support for people in recovery or for those who are thinking about changing their relationship with alcohol.
Hello Sunday Morning
Founded in 2010, Hello Sunday Morning touts itself as the largest online movement in the world for alcohol-related behavioral change. Based in Sydney, Australia, Hello Sunday Morning’s key offering is a program called Daybreak, which is a digital service that can be accessed online or through an app. Daybreak provides an anonymous, supportive environment where users create alcohol change goals and work with health professionals to achieve them. The Daybreak program is funded by the Australian government and is free to Australian residents. For people who live elsewhere, the program costs under $10 a month.
Hello Sunday Morning’s blog provides inspirational and informational articles, and its website offers helpful information and resources concerning alcohol, addiction, and recovery.
Hip Sobriety is an online recovery course written and taught by Holly Whitaker, a woman who found her own way to recovery and believes that sobriety is an inspiring, empowering and life-affirming choice. According to Whitaker, “Sobriety isn’t just about quitting alcohol and drugs. It’s about getting after your best life and having everything you ever dreamed of.”
The Hip Sobriety School and Group Coaching is an eight-week, paid virtual course for anyone who is currently in recovery or thinking about quitting drinking. The course includes a weekly teaching video; virtual face-to-face meetings once or twice weekly; a daily affirmation email; weekly and daily assignments; and participation opportunities.
This course focuses on helping:
Better understand addiction
Build your personal recovery plan
Develop the skills and tools needed for a sober life
Create new habits and rituals
Work through cravings and negative emotions
Use nutrition and lifestyle to promote successful recovery
Uncover your purpose and channel creativity
Course facilitators include certified mental health professionals; certified coaches; a certified nutrition consultant; a trauma and therapy expert; and trained teaching assistants.
Women-Led Alternatives to AA
Sober Mommies Support Group
Sober Mommies is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports women in recovery by offering encouragement, information and resources. Sober Mommies aims to empower women to ask for help, advocate for themselves, practice healthy coping skills, and become active participants in their community at home.
The Sober Mommies blog offers a huge variety of inspirational and informational articles written by women in recovery to help mothers along their recovery journey.
The Sober Mommies Facebook Page provides a safe, understanding and judgment-free platform where women balancing recovery and parenting can share encouragement, support and resources. The Facebook page, which has over 17,000 followers, offers daily inspiration, articles, and conversations about mothers in recovery.
The She Recovers Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing in-person opportunities for women in recovery to connect at a local level. She Recovers Together Meetup Groups are facilitated by local volunteers and are generally free, although a minimal donation may be requested for space rental fees. Yearly retreats provide opportunities for women in recovery to meet up in exotic locations for a weeklong, intensive recovery and support program.
She Recovers offers a number of programs:
She Recovers Sharing Circles, which are in-person meetings that take place in 20 cities (and counting) in the U.S. and Canada.
The She Recovers podcast, which explores the healing power of connection and intentional living.
The She Recovers facebook page provides additional resources along with the opportunity to communicate with other women in recovery.
Women for Sobriety
Women for Sobriety is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1975 to help women find happiness in recovery.
Women for Sobriety’s New Life Program is a booklet-directed recovery program based on 13 Acceptance Statements that promote spiritual and emotional growth. The program booklet is available for a nominal fee, and participants spend 15 minutes each morning reviewing the Acceptance Statements and considering each one in depth.
In addition to the New Life Program, Women for Sobriety provides a number of resources for recovery, including:
Online support group meetings, facilitated by certified moderators and chat leaders.
In-person meetings, available in many cities throughout the U.S. and Canada and held at least once a week for an hour to 90 minutes.
Phone volunteers for one-on-one support.
A thriving online community forum that offers a positive, supportive environment where participants share stories and resources.
An online chat room, accessible through the forum, to offer real-time support.
A facebook page, which is a great source of inspiration and support for women in recovery.
The Annual Weekend Conference, which is a yearly retreat-style event featuring workshops, presentations, and resources for participants.
LGBTQ+-Friendly Alternatives to AA
LGBTteetotaler is a secret Facebook group founded by Tracy Murphy, a graduate of the Hip Sobriety School. Tracy formed LGBTteetotaler as a place for queer and trans people to share their recovery stories, experiences and art in a safe, encouraging environment. This recovery community isn’t associated with any particular recovery method, and it stresses that it’s not a substitute for medical or mental health care. It’s simply a space to give and receive support and make connections.
Gay and Lesbians in Alcoholics Anonymous
Gay and Lesbians in Alcoholics Anonymous, or GaL-AA, is an AA fellowship that welcomes anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+. Recognized by AA as a special interest group, GaL-AA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. A search bar on the website helps you find GaL-AA meetings in your area.
Support is Central to Recovery
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) cites community as one of the four pillars of addiction recovery.4 Having relationships and social networks that offer support, friendship, love and hope is central to successful recovery.
Finding a support group that’s right for you is a matter of deciding how and with whom you want to recover and exploring the available resources. Whether you’re looking for in-person or online support, chances are, you can find a recovery community that meets your needs, supports your circumstances and makes you inspired, motivated, and right at home.