What are the Alternatives to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and other Twelve Step Programing can be a great way to maintain sobriety, connect with other people in recovery from substance abuse, and continue to emotionally and spiritually grow in life after addiction. Still, they are not for everyone. While these recovery programs can be highly effective for some people in overcoming addiction, others find they do not resonate with the 12 Step model, particularly those who take issue with the 12 Step’s spiritually focused programming. The 12 Step program is what we call a “community fellowship,” or a non-clinical, community-based program designed to bring people together, offering inspiration and hope to people in recovery or who are curious about recovery.
Most community-based fellowships are peer-led and provide programming free of charge. While not a form of therapy in and of themselves, fellowships can be an excellent addition to therapeutic programming such as clinical addiction treatment and will continue to provide support long after rehab is over, which is why we strongly encourage our clients to become involved in a fellowship that resonates with them. Here are some alternative fellowships designed to support people in recovery:
SMART Recovery, short for Self-Management and Recovery Training, has become an increasingly popular addiction recovery program. SMART Recovery is not a religious or spirituality-based program, which is why it can often be a good fit for someone who feels uncomfortable with the spiritual component of the 12 Step model. SMART Recovery focuses on empowerment and positive change through a science-based program. SMART Recovery places a heavy emphasis on learning positive coping strategies to replace addiction as a maladaptive coping strategy. The program also emphasizes goal setting and investigating thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.
Recovery Dharma is a Buddhist-based addiction recovery program that uses meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhist philosophy as guiding principles in finding and maintaining sobriety from drug and alcohol addiction. Recovery Dharma takes a very individualized approach to addiction recovery by adapting the philosophy that each person can has the wisdom within to find their own path to sobriety. Recovery Dharma places a heavy focus on the support of community (Sangha) as a key in successful recovery. Flatirons Recovery currently hosts the only in-person Recovery Dharma meeting in Boulder County. For a full list of meetings, visit their website.
Mindfulness in Recovery
Mindfulness in Recovery is a program designed by John Bruna and runs as an eight-week course. While different from ongoing, no-cost community fellowships in this way, Mindfulness in Recovery nevertheless provides a structured support to sobriety through teaching mindfulness skills in the areas of attention, values, wisdom, equanimity, loving-kindness, compassion, and action. Mindfulness in Recovery can be a compatible supplement with other recovery fellowships and clinical programs.
LifeRing is a secular and abstinence-based program of addiction recovery that uses peer-to-peer support as its cornerstone of maintaining sobriety. LifeRing is guided by the three principles of Sobriety, Secularity, and Self Help. The LifeRing program approaches recovery through looking at the relationship between one’s “Sober Self” and “Addicted Self,” helping to empower and uplift the sober self while weakening the addicted self. LifeRing is present-focused and places great emphasis on community support through virtual and in-person meetings.
Women for Sobriety
Women for Sobriety (WFS) is a group that offers a self-help program also known as “New Life.” The New Life Program brings women together to share their experiences of recovery while also supporting them in their own individual growth and self-discovery. Women for Sobriety’s programming addresses recovery by taking into account common women-specific experiences such as issues surrounding self-worth, shame, and guilt. Women for Sobriety is guided by the principle, “Release the past – plan for tomorrow – live for today.”
Flatirons Recovery is considered a “multi-pathway” treatment center, meaning that we support clients in finding the long-term recovery program that best fits their individual needs, beliefs, and journey. While we introduce the Twelve Step model, we also facilitate clients learning about and participating in the recovery community fellowship that works best for them, giving each client the option of creating and pursuing an individualized plan for community involvement in long-term recovery. Our program is clinically-focused and is built on evidence based treatment modalities such as mindfulness, EMDR, DBT, CBT, ACT, MI, biofeedback, nutritional counseling, and experiential therapies such as art therapy, equine therapy, yoga, and nature/adventure therapy. Those who participate in our higher levels of care and live in our sober living residence are required to engage in a community fellowship so that they can find their “tribe” and build a strong foundation of community support that they will be able to lean on in long-term sobriety.