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AA The Only Way? Part 2


Is AA the only way?For those who are struggling with 12-Step programs or have not found 12-Step programs useful in their own lives, there are a small number of alternative support systems with varying approaches towards addiction and recovery.

LifeRing:  A network of support groups that promotes abstinence and the power of the individual to recover from addiction. LifeRing employs positive social reinforcement through the meeting process which in turn fosters growth and strength that they find is an inextricable component of each person. The “3-S” philosophy of LifeRing is short for Sobriety (maintaining complete abstinence), Secularity (emphasis on human efforts rather than reliance on the divine) and Self-Help (recovery being a product of each person’s own motivation and effort).

Moderation Management:  A behavioral modification program and network of support groups for those who are concerned about their drinking and wish to take action in order to limit their drinking or abstain completely. MM incorporates a comprehensive nine-step program which provides information about alcohol, moderate drinking guidelines and limits, drink monitoring exercises, goal setting techniques and self-management strategies. Members also find ways of incorporating the nine-steps into other facets of their lives that they feel need balance or moderation.

Rational Recovery:  A universally accessible source of information, counseling, guidance and direct instruction on individual recovery. Rational Recovery promotes abstinence and uses a method called AVRT (Addiction Voice Recognition Technique) which seeks to recognize and then diminish the sort of thinking that encourages the future use of mind-altering substances. There are no Rational Recovery groups or treatment centers; rather, it encourages an entirely Self-Help process without the facilitation of groups, institutions or doctors.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety:  A secular, alternative approach for those who find themselves uncomfortable with the religious/spiritual dynamic and language of 12-Step programs. SOS sees recovery and spirituality as being two unrelated matters that need not be intertwined to aid someone in their new way of life. The SOS website provides links to online meetings throughout the globe.

SMART Recovery:  A self-empowering recovery group that offers help to anyone suffering from any form of addiction (drug, alcohol, gambling, etc.) by incorporating free information backed by scientific studies and face-to-face meetings. SMART incorporates a “4-Point Program” that provides tools to aid in 1. Building and Maintaining Motivation, 2. Coping with Urges, 3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors, 4. Living A Balanced Life. SMART understands that an individual’s religious/spiritual beliefs are entirely up to them and promotes a secular approach to recovery.

It is obvious where the split between 12-Step programs and the alternatives resides. Firstly, 12-Steps programs vehemently insist that the idea of an alcoholic or addict recovering through their own commitment, earnest desire and hard work is not only dangerous, but potentially life-threatening. While 12-Steps promote the idea of powerlessness, the alternatives promote empowerment.  12-Step programs also demand, though often labeled as being “suggested,” that the individual surrender their lives and addictions to a higher power and adopt a spiritual way of life. For some, including myself, these expectations are not only patently absurd, but equally impossible to truly embrace. The alternatives acknowledge that spirituality is a matter of individual belief and preference. There are no demands to find a higher power or spiritual life, but there are also no demands to change or abandon the beliefs one may already have.


By Cameron C.


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