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Alternative Options Outside the AA Program

Alternative Options Outside the AA Program

Alcoholism is a pervasive and chronic disease that affects over 15 million people, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  And while there is no cure, many individuals have been able to maintain long-term sobriety through participation in specialized programs.

One of the most popular forms of recovery support is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a Step-based, peer recovery program that has more than 2 million members worldwide in over 100,000 locally supported groups.  The program is spiritual in nature and requires complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol, calling on its members to turn their lives over to a higher power. Members are also encouraged to complete 12 guidelines – or Steps – to help them overcome alcoholism, which are outlined in the Big Book of AA. These Steps include submitting to a higher power, addressing “defects of character,” taking a moral inventory and making amends for past wrongdoings.

What are my other options?

For some people, the AA program has not resonated, mainly due to its spiritual component.  Others have found its framework too rigid, especially the complete abstinence part.  The good news is that AA isn’t the only option for recovering addicts to turn to.  In fact, there are several alternatives that may work better for some individuals.

SMART Recovery:

Short for Self-Management and Recovery Training, SMART Recovery is a secular program that focuses on empowering the individual to abstain from drugs and alcohol and to develop a more positive lifestyle.

Refuge Recovery:

This peer-led recovery program uses Buddhist principles and practices to create a strong foundation to recovery from addiction.


This is an abstinence-based secular program, where individuals offer peer-to-peer support in ways that encourage personal growth and continued learning through personal empowerment.

Women for Sobriety:

This abstinence-based self-help program helps women find their individual path to recovery through discovery of self, gained by shared experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women in similar circumstances.

Harm Reduction:

Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself.  It focuses on self-accountability, as well as utilizes meetings, peer support and online services to self-report alcohol use.

Choosing the Right Program

Though Alcoholics Anonymous may be one of the most common addiction recovery programs out there, it is by no means the only one available.  While AA has been shown to be effective in maintaining sobriety for individuals who actively participate, not everyone will feel comfortable with its spiritual philosophy and 12-Step program.  After all, addiction is a personal disease, and recovery can be supported in a number of ways.  Therefore, it is important to find what works for you, and then stick with it.


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