Treating Addiction Outside of 12-Step Programs

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For centuries, alcohol addiction eluded treatment. The primary reason no one seemed able to develop a cure for alcohol addiction is that it wasn’t even recognized as a disease. When Alcoholics Anonymous emerged in the 20th century, the prevailing ways of thinking about addiction changed. 

Now many treatment modalities for treating addiction exist. The most common approach remains 12-step programs, but many alternatives are out there as well, some modeled after the 12-step approach and some entirely different. If you or someone you know is interested in dealing with treating an alcohol abuse problem, it is crucial to become educated about the different options available.

What is a 12-step Program?

12-step programs are programs modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith. Their approach involves one alcoholic talking to and lending support to another alcoholic. The program emphasizes belief in a “higher power.” The idea behind this is to deemphasize the role of the addict’s own willpower in maintaining sobriety. 

Recovering addicts in AA attend regular meetings where they can listen to and share stories about addiction and recovery, find resources and solutions for common life problems and develop a sober social community. It is common for members of Alcoholics Anonymous to select a “sponsor,” a kind of informal mentor who has worked the 12 steps of AA and is available and willing to help a newcomer do the same.

The 12 Steps in a 12-step Program

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been adapted to many other 12 step programs to help with other addictions aside from alcohol. The steps of the program are as follows:

  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Drawbacks of 12-Step Groups

While 12-step groups remain the most well-known method for getting sober, they remain divisive. Many would-be recovering alcoholics find that the program’s focus on the recovering addict finding a “higher power” is off-putting. 

Atheists and other secular-minded people complain that there is too much religious-sounding talk in meetings. It is by design that AA uses the vague language “higher power” — the term is meant to be as inclusive as possible — but people who find religion unacceptable may conclude that 12-step groups are not for them.

There are also many people with alcohol and drug addictions who live outside of major metropolitan areas. Recovering addicts who live in rural zones might find it difficult to get to meetings. For these people, it is still possible to follow a 12-step program and have phone calls with sponsors, but they may find it preferable to look into other options.

Best Alternatives To 12 Step Programs

SMART Recovery

The “SMART” in Smart Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. This program, which is conducted via online meetings, is secular and science-based. It implements cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to empower addicts to quit any substance or behavior they may have a problem with. SMART Recovery emphasizes a 4-point recovery program:

  • Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation
  • Point 2: Coping with Urges
  • Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
  • Point 4: Living a Balanced Life

Women for Sobriety (SFS)

Women for Recovery was designed by sociologist Jean Kirkpatrick as a secular alternative to AA. Only women are allowed to join. While Women for Sobriety is secular, it does encourage both emotional and spiritual growth.

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is another secular recovery program. LifeRing’s philosophy is that there are two personas inside an addict: the sober self and the addict self. LifeRing’s approach, via its meetings and literature, involves attempts to weaken the addict and strengthen the sober self.

Moderation Management

Moderation Management was founded in 1994 and was designed to provide tools for addicts who want to reduce harms associated with their addiction without becoming entirely abstinent. While the program still exists to some extent, it suffered a major blow when the founder, Audrey Conn, admitted that she was still suffering from addiction, decided to enter AA, and subsequently killed a father and daughter while drunk driving.

Long-term Benefits of Choosing Sober Living

While these disparate treatment methodologies all have their merits, it is important to remember that they are not mutually exclusive. Design for Recovery, like many sober living programs, is based on many 12-step principles. 

Design for Recovery, a structured sober living program in West Los Angeles, provides young men with a safe and supportive environment to develop a strong program of sobriety. Young men at Design for Recovery work daily to develop the tools and skills they require to avoid relapsing. As a community, they also take steps toward building lives for themselves in sobriety that surpass any expectations they might have previously had. Design for Recovery offers a guide for living, and residents strive to cultivate character traits such as responsibility, honesty, accountability. At Design for Recovery, residents achieve far more than long-term sobriety, they build lives for themselves that are prosperous, joyous, and free. If you are interested in finding out more about what it takes to  the plunge, contact Design for Recovery today!

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