Twelve-Step and Non-Twelve-Step Meetings: Which is Right for You?

Published On: December 20th, 2023Categories: Spectrum Corrections, Treatment & Recovery

Twelve-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are some of the most popular formats of addiction recovery meetings. These programs are based on a broad concept of spirituality and encourage members to work through a series of steps to solidify their recovery.

While many people have found long-term recovery through twelve-step programs, these meetings are far from being the only option available. It’s important to know about twelve-step options and the other pathways available to you.

What is a Twelve-Step Program?

The twelve-step program was conceived in the 1930’s with the creation of AA. AA’s twelve steps outline a process by which individuals admit they are unable to control their use of alcohol and come to believe that a higher power can help them achieve recovery. This higher power can be God—in whatever form they believe God to exist—or can take the form of a more abstract concept, such as a force of nature or the power of the group itself. The hope behind this broad definition of God is that people of both religious and non-religious backgrounds can all find meaning in the program.

In twelve-step programs, newcomers are also encouraged to work with a sponsor to complete the steps. “Sponsor” is a term for a more experienced member of the group who can guide the newcomer through the twelve steps. In this process, the newcomer, or “sponsee” is asked to reflect on their life and compile a list of resentments they hold as well as a list of people they have wronged, reaching out wherever possible to make amends for their transgressions. Once the sponsee has completed the steps, they continue to inventory their actions and offer sponsorship to newcomers entering the program.

Since the creation of AA, many similar programs such as NA, Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and Overeaters Anonymous (OA) have been started to help people find recovery from other forms of addiction. Twelve-step programs are free of cost, but members are urged to make a donation to cover expenses such as renting meeting spaces and organizing events.

Alternative Addiction Recovery Meeting Options

While there’s no doubt that twelve-step programs have helped many people find recovery, some have trouble aligning with the twelve-step approach. There are people who struggle with the belief that “God” will give them the strength to overcome their addiction. Some people disagree with the twelve-step program’s requirement that members admit they are powerless over their addiction. The following is a list of options for those in search of recovery support outside the twelve-step program:

  • Self-Management for Addiction Recovery (SMART) is a program with chapters across the world that uses an evidence-based approach to help people find recovery. SMART relies on the scientific understanding of addiction that doesn’t rely on spiritual concepts.
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is a non-profit network started in the 1980’s to provide recovery support. Like SMART, it is a secular, evidence-based program that values scientific research.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based, anonymous organization committed to non-judgmental conversation around addiction. This program focuses on self-empowerment and the support of peers to maintain long-term recovery.

There are Many Roads to Recovery

In addition to these options, there are numerous other routes people can take to find recovery. Some people utilize medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) to provide stability in their recovery. Others find that speaking with trusted peers, volunteering, practicing yoga or meditation, or any combination of self-care outlets provide the support they need to maintain recovery.

At our Everyday Miracles peer recovery support center, we host a daily “All Recovery” meeting. This meeting allows anyone in attendance to share what is working for them in their recovery but discourages attendees from telling others how to recover. With more inclusive meetings like these, we aim to make recovery more welcoming and approachable, embracing all the pathways to a better life.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab.

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