Alternatives to AA and Twelve-Step Programs

By December 4, 2018Recovery
recovery programs

Alcoholics Anonymous is by far the most popular recovery program out there. There are also dozens and dozens of other twelve-step programs created off the original steps of AA. Millions of people are members of Anonymous groups, and 12 step support groups have proven helpful for many. However, the program isn’t for everyone, and there are other ways to recover. These alternatives to AA may not be as popular or well-known, but offer powerful ways to recover from addiction.

Although there are many different programs and ways to get sober without twelve-step, we’re going to cover five recovery-oriented support groups and programs:

    1. SMART Recovery
    2. Celebrate Recovery
    3. Refuge Recovery
    4. Secular Organizations for Sobriety
    5. LifeRing

SMART Recovery

SMART recoverySMART is a popular alternative to twelve-step programs. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART is based on research rather than spiritual principles. Rooted in Motivational Enhancement Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, SMART avoids labels like alcoholic and addict. The program focuses on looking at the destruction from abusing drugs and alcohol, building healthy coping mechanisms, and cultivating a supportive community.

SMART meetings can be found in person across the United States and world, and they also have many online meetings. Much like twelve-step, going to meetings and engaging with the community is an important part of the program.

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate is a recovery program that is based in the Christian faith. The program uses a foundation of the twelve steps from anonymous programs, but focuses more on God, Jesus, and Christian ideals. If twelve step is not religious or god-centered enough for you, you may find a home in Celebrate meetings.

There are tons of Celebrate meetings around the United States. Like twelve-step programs, Celebrate stresses the importance of community or fellowship. You can find meetings in person, support online, or download their mobile app to have support with you wherever you go.

Refuge Recovery

alternatives to aaRefuge Recovery is a program for recovery built off Buddhist meditation and ideas. Similar to twelve-step, Refuge Recovery has meetings, a community, and a program found in the book. However, the program does not focus on turning ourselves over to a power greater than ourselves. Instead, Refuge encourages members to use meditation, mindfulness, and compassion to grow from within.

Refuge meetings may be found across the world, and online. There are also active online communities on social media for support. As the newest program on this list, Refuge Recovery is still growing, so expect new meetings to pop up!

Note: Due to changes in the Refuge Recovery program and issues with how it is run, we recommend checking out One Mind Dharma’s online classes and meditation courses instead!

Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety, or SOS, is not a single program. Rather, it is a collection of different organizations and programs. As the name suggests, the organizations seek to offer a way to recover from addiction that does not involve religion or spirituality.

You can find meetings in your local area, or find support online through their website. Each group and organization is autonomous, and SOS simply acts as a bulletin board for the different opportunities out there.


LifeRing is another alternative to twelve-step programs that really focuses on offering a secular path to recovery. Instead of looking outside oneself to a higher power, the program encourages individuals to find their “sober self” within. This is done through building coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, strengthening healthy habits, and looking at underlying issues.

LifeRing has a thriving online community and in-person meetings around the country. The focus of the group is not on the past, but on the present and what we can do. Support from the community and peer groups is important, and there isn’t a huge emphasis on going over war stories or ways in which we’ve caused harm that you might find in 12 step groups.


Author VitalityGroup

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