Are There Non-12 Step programs?

AA isn’t for everybody. I’ve known addicts who couldn’t get past their objections to key parts of the program, chief among them the reliance on a higher power and a spiritual solution. They cringe and roll their eyes at every mention of God, just as I did once. They also object to: the admission of powerlessness; having to label themselves as an “addict” or “alcoholic;” the sponsorship model; and what they see as intolerance of those who don’t share the “group think.” Indeed, some object to the disease model of addiction itself. While these objections are common among reluctant newcomers, over time many addicts get over some objections and learn to live with others like I did. But some never do.

It’s hardly surprising. What institution or program is for everybody? What behavioral-treatment regimen is 100% successful for all people all the time?

For those who reject the AA model, non-12-Step alternatives incorporate some of the mind-retraining strategies employed by treatment programs, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and related treatments. These include: S.O.S. (Secular Organizations for Sobriety); LifeRing Secular Recovery; SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training); and Women for Sobriety, to name a few. They reject the 12-Step spiritual component and focus on a non-spiritual approach.

What’s most important is to find the best fit, the one that works for the individual addict. If at first you don’t find a program that suits you, keep looking until you do. Whatever the treatment approach, however, mind retraining that results in making the revolutionary transition from thinking drugs are the solution to internalizing that they’re the biggest problem — attaining both intellectual and emotional acceptance — is essential to making the attitudinal and behavioral adjustments required for long-term sobriety.


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