Alternatives to AA

I think that it's fair to assume that for the majority of people, Alcoholic Anonymous is the first recovery group that comes to mind when someone you know quits drinking. I know that when I got sober, it was for me!

Alcoholics Anonymous has been around since the 1930's, and was one of the first recovery groups of its kind. Because of its long history and its widespread accessibility, AA has been a dominant group in the world of recovery.

I personally don't resonate with AA since I don't adhere to Christian values or the term "alcoholic," but by no means do I think that AA is an inherently bad resource. If AA resonates with you, that's great! If it's not your cup of tea, no sweat! There are other options available. The most important thing is finding a group that works for you. That is, if you want to join a group in the first place!

One of the things that I regret in my sobriety is that I didn't join a sober group in the early stages of my recovery. From the get-go, I knew that AA wasn't for me, but I never looked into joining a different recovery group. For the most part it was because I didn't know what was out there.

I figured that I had enough support as it was... Plenty of people in my life had gotten sober, and I felt like that was enough. I could talk to my high school best friend, my aunt, my boyfriend, and my Dad about sobriety. Plus, my other friends and family who still drank were still supportive of my decision to quit. I was good! Or so I thought.

It wasn't until I attended a SMART recovery meeting that I realized the benefits of joining a sober group. Sure, I had support in my life from my friends and family, but they didn't completely understand what I was going through.

Don't get me wrong, having people genuinely listen to you is extremely therapeutic and important. Yet, it's a completely different story when you're talking to people who resonate and understand what you're experiencing. Sobriety is hard, and it's good to have people to talk to who get what you're going through.

I think it's important to discuss alternative options to AA, because the recovery world can feel a bit isolating if you don't know what resources are out there. Hopefully this list can provide you different ideas on different directions you can take:

  • SMART Recovery: This group is open to anyone interested in science based and self-empowered recovery. SMART stands for "Smart Management and Recovery Training," and meetings are available globally. This group does not focus solely on alcohol as it focuses on all forms of addiction, such as gambling, overeating, or other drug addictions. SMART Recovery uses a 4 point program, offering tools to work through 1) building and maintaining motivation, 2) coping with urges, 3) managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and 4) living a balanced life. Meetings are available in-person or online depending on your location.

  • Recovery Dharma: This program offers an approach to recovery based on Buddhist principles, is peer led and non-theistic. In addition to attending meetings and abstaining from alcohol, this group also incorporates meditation and journaling in their recovery. The program abides by Buddhist incorporation of the 4 noble truths and an eightfold path of practice and study. Recovery Dharma hosts events such as town hall meetings, summits, and more. You can find a meeting in-person or online by specifying the type of meeting you're looking for by: type of meeting, location, cultural affinity, and topic.

  • Moderation Management: This recovery group focuses on moderating and addressing problem-drinking for those who aren't ready to quit completely. However, Moderation Management offers abstinence support for those who do choose to go alcohol-free. Their resources include a month program for moderation, an online drink tracker, and blood alcohol content information. MM offers support in face-to-face meetings, video and phone meetings, online chats and private online support communities. Therapists are also listed as a resource on their website.

  • HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol: HAMS stands for Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support. It's a peer led, informational group for anyone who wants to change their drinking habits. This program has 17 strategies for harm reduction. This recovery group meets in person in certain location, has a Facebook and email group, a chat room and online forums for support.

  • SOS Sobriety: Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is a network of autonomous, non-professional local groups dedicated to helping individuals maintain and achieve sobriety from alcohol, drug, food, and other addictions. Plenty of resources can be found on the website, such as books to buy, and free printable pamphlets such as the "Sobriety Priority" approach and the "Sobriety Toolkit." SOS Sobriety has a Facebook page, and they host online and in-person meetings.

Among the five recovery groups I've listed, all of them are free to attend. There are plenty of other options available, but this list hopefully serves as a starting point in your research for recovery groups.

Gender inclusive groups are also available, such as the group Women For Sobriety and Real Recovery for younger men. Additionally, if you have the funds, paid recovery groups are available, such as This Naked Mind, Tempest, and more.

I hope that this list provides you with reassurance that there are a variety of recovery groups available that can fit your specific needs. Thankfully, in todays world you can decide which group you'd like to join based on ideology, approach, and cultural affiliations.

Most importantly, make sure you surround yourself with people who whole-heartedly support your recovery. Remember... you don't have to do this alone.

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