12-Step vs a Non-12-Step Program

 In Resources for Loved Ones

The results are undeniable—12-step recovery programs like Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA) and Narcotic’s Anonymous (NA) have long histories of success. Despite the success of 12-step programs, it’s not the right addiction treatment for everyone, and that’s okay. Sobriety is the end goal. What matters most is finding the support that works for you. Alternatives are available to ensure everyone in recovery has access to a support system with other people at different points in their sobriety.

What Are 12-Step Programs

The 12-step program is a mutual help group where people in drug and alcohol recovery seek assistance from each other during each step. The two oldest and most-known programs are AA and NA with the AA as the founding organization. AA began in Akron, Ohio, in 1935 and by 1939, the first 12-steps book, Alcoholics Anonymous. The program’s success is clear in its extensive reach all over the world with more than 118,000 groups, and the most recent editions of AA literature are printed in dozens of languages including Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Swahili, and Vietnamese.

AA isn’t as much of an addiction treatment program as it is a support structure that accompanies and improves the success of recovery. Meetings are anonymous, and participants first accept that addiction is a disease they have no control over. Instead, alcohol or drugs are controlling their lives and achieving their goal of sobriety and surrender to a higher power (religious or non-religious) to guide them. Many addiction treatment programs include AA and NA meetings as part of recovery.

An Overview of Different 12-Step Programs

AA and NA are open to anyone that wants to stop taking harmful substances and live in sobriety. Since the founding of these 12-step programs, similar groups have formed that are more type-specific such as:

Keep in mind when looking into other groups they may not be as widespread as AA and NA meetings. If you or your loved one live in a rural or remote area, it’s possible some of these programs won’t be available. In these cases, make an alternative plan or keep information on hand about a backup location that might not meet all your requirements, but will still provide the support you need until you can get to the meeting of your choice.

Alternatives to 12-Step Programs

Substance misuse is a disease, and like most medical conditions, addiction treatment plans aren’t one-size-fits-all. Although millions of people around the world have had positive experiences with 12-step programs over the past few decades, that’s not the case for everyone. If you or a loved one is struggling with this strategy, finding one that works better is imperative. Other options include:

SMART Recovery– Since 1994, Self-Management and Recovery Training has been assisting people in addiction treatment recovery with their 4-Point Program. The approach begins with self-help strategies and involves education, empowerment, and encourages members to lead a healthy lifestyle. SMART Recovery also promotes treating concurrent conditions that can undermine recovery such as physical and psychological conditions.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)– While religion is a powerful motivator for many, the majority of the world’s religious people are non-Christians. Although AA and NA stress a higher power rather than focusing on Christian faiths, these nonprofit groups may not work as well as a secular group that doesn’t have a history rooted in nonsecular worship. SOS isn’t a single organization. Instead, it’s a network of groups to help men and women maintain their sobriety.

One of the most important steps throughout your recovery is having a support group to complement the addiction treatment that you trust and is reliable. If a 12-step program like AA or NA works for you, that’s great. However, there’s nothing wrong if that’s not the right step to help you through sobriety. Don’t settle if you’re not comfortable. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, do not be afraid to reach out. The Ajna Center is here for you. Contact us today.

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