Although the 12 step approach to addiction recovery is perhaps the best-known, it is not for everyone. In fact, is is it well-documented that many people attending 12 step programs fail to achieve sobriety, with around a third of people attending giving up at some point in the journey. Fortunately, there are several non 12 step alcohol rehab programs that allow people to find their own way to recover from addiction.
The problem with 12 step is that it is not a treatment program as much as a support system for recovery. Members are required to detox themselves and be drug or alcohol-free while attending sessions before applying themselves to working through the 12 steps. Each step is based on spirituality and requires a significant degree of faith in a higher power to complete. Many people leave an AA or NA program simply because it doesn’t resonate with them or their personal beliefs.
Now that our understanding of addiction as an illness is greater than before, there are several alternatives to 12 step that offer those struggling with addiction a different path to recovery. In this article, we set out some of the non-12 step recovery programs offering a different recovery path so as to clarify some options.
Non-12 Step Rehab Center Programs:
Women for Sobriety (WFS)
Women face their own specific challenges with addiction and many prefer a gender-specific approach to recovery. Women are often caregivers or mothers and some may be pregnant while struggling with substance abuse and the common bond found in an all-female environment can provide them with a significant boost to their sense of self-worth.
WFS is a non-12 step rehab centers differ from NA and AA in that it seeks to bolster women’s sense of value and empower them to be more assertive about their needs with those close to them. Conversely, 12 steps require humility and selflessness which is why the approach contradicts the WFS philosophy.
Being within a tight circle of women who fully understand each other creates a positive and empowering environment that acts as solid motivation towards sobriety. It is this sense of “sisterhood” that is promoted by WFS that many attribute its success to.
This non-12 step recovery program incorporates approaches from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatment. CBT is designed to identify the negative thought processes and feelings that drive addictive behaviors in individuals and then seeks to change them for a more positive future. SMART Recovery recognizes that the environment and emotional factors have a direct impact on drug use, and its objective is to alter how patients respond to external stimulus so that they make healthier choices in recovery.
SMART Recovery is an abstinence-based program although people who are ambivalent about quitting drug or alcohol use are also welcome. This non-12 step rehabilitation provides participants with tools that can help them prevent relapse in recovery and encourages them to view themselves as having recovered rather than remaining “in recovery.” SMART Recovery is also a recognized resource by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).
SMART Recovery has a four-point program that guides participants in the following ways:
- Building and maintaining motivation
- Coping with cravings for substances
- Managing negative thoughts and feelings
- Learning to live a life in balance
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
SOS was founded by James Christopher in the mid-80s after he had unsuccessfully attended AA seeking to recover from alcoholism. He was mostly uncomfortable with the idea of submitting one’s will to a “higher power”, preferring to focus on self-reliance and accountability in order to treat his own addiction. His successful recovery led him to form SOS which is based upon the same tenets of individuals taking responsibility for their substance abuse.
SOS is not a structured non-12 step rehabilitation program although it does have some suggested guidelines for recovery. The group’s mantra is “sobriety priority” which draws on the idea that while a person is using, everything else falls by the wayside and so to recover, they need to reverse that mindset completely. Placing a priority on living a substance-free life takes some time to achieve although SOS requires a commitment to not using, “no matter what.”
LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSR)
LSR is a relatively new recovery group that was formed just over a decade ago when a number of SOS groups migrated to the LifeRing approach. This non-12 step recovery program advocates the following three principles:
- Sobriety priority:As with SOS groups, participants are expected not to use substances “no matter what”.
- Secularity: LSR meetings are open to anyone from any religion and also for those with none. Participants are assured that there is no pressure for them to acquire any religious beliefs.
- Self Help:Responsibility for addictive behaviors remains with the individual and human efforts
The Most Effective Rehab Is a Personalized Program
There are now plenty of alternatives to recovery support that are not faith-based. This means people with addiction can find the right kind of treatment center for their specific needs, with principles that they understand and are happy to align themselves to.
It is crucial if long-term recovery is to be achieved that rehab patients are surrounded by like-minded people. Whether attending residential or outpatient rehab or following an aftercare program, the support people get when they take their first steps into recovery can often make or break their chances of success.