What AA Alternatives Are Available to People in Recovery?

Addiction and alcoholism are extremely common, affecting millions of Americans every year. One of the most popular recovery methods for individuals struggling with addiction is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This is a 12-step program that is essentially a support group for addiction and alcoholism.

AA helps people create a network of peers who are working towards the same goal of lifelong sobriety. However, Alcoholics Anonymous is not for everyone. This program relies heavily on the belief in a higher power, causing non-religious people to seek out other forms of support.

With that being said, AA pretty much dominates the recovery community. This can make it difficult for individuals to find alternative support groups when they need them. As a result, it is important to spread awareness of the alternatives to AA for people in recovery.

What Are the Alternatives to AA and Other 12-Step Programs?

While Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs are successful for some people, others require a different form of support.

Individuals may choose to attend an alternative program for several reasons, including:

  • Experience with 12-step programs and past relapses
  • Wanting a less religious/spiritual form of support
  • Believing that addiction is within your control and not wanting to hand it over to a higher power

Some popular AA alternatives include:

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a non-profit organization that believes self-empowerment can help individuals overcome addiction and addictive behaviors. This program is good for individuals who do not like the idea of powerlessness over addiction that Alcoholics Anonymous promotes.

This program offers face-to-face, a 24/7 online chat room, and online meetings to ensure accessibility to everyone. SMART Recovery is research-based and provides people with tools to help them change negative or self-defeating thoughts to enhance their recovery.[1]

Rather than using 12 steps, SMART Recovery is a 4-point program. The 4 points of SMART Recovery include:

  • Obtaining and maintaining motivation
  • Learning to manage drug cravings
  • Coping with thoughts, emotions, and behaviors
  • Finding and striking balance in life

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety is a non-profit organization that was the first women’s-only recovery program. Created in 1975, this program is great for women who struggle with trauma that is related to men, as it provides them with a safe space to gain support.

The Women for Sobriety program acknowledges that addiction is not a moral failing, but a serious disorder that requires rigorous attention to healing. The program believes that “guilt, depression, and low (or no) self-esteem are common problems women experience for which substances have become the primary coping mechanism.”[2]

According to their website, WFS helps women recover from addiction by using the following methods:[2]

  • Positive reinforcement (approval and encouragement)
  • Cognitive strategies (positive thinking)
  • Letting the body help (relaxation techniques, meditation, nutrition, and physical exercise)
  • Dynamic group involvement.

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is a program that promotes everyone’s individual power to overcome addiction. Additionally, this program believes that each person who struggles with addiction has two people within them; the “addict self” and the “sober self”. The goal of this program is to weaken the addict self and strengthen the sober self by finding the strength and self-control that is within each person.

This program has 3 principles: sobriety, secularity, and self-help.

While everyone has a different definition of sobriety, this program believes in complete abstinence. Regarding secularity, LifeRing believes in everyone’s right to their own religion, spirituality, or lack of. And lastly, this program promotes self-help by providing individuals with the tools and support they need to help themselves recover from addiction.[3]

Moderation Management

While almost every recovery program for addiction requires complete abstinence, Moderation Management does not. This program is designed to help target problem drinking early on by changing risky drinking habits and promoting a healthy relationship with alcohol.

It is important to note that this method of recovery does not work for everyone, as some people cannot moderate their drinking. Additionally, individuals who use illicit drugs should consider complete abstinence to avoid experiencing a drug overdose. However, moderation is extremely beneficial for some people as a form of harm reduction and lifestyle change.

According to their website, “MM empowers individuals to accept personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether in moderation or abstinence. We promote early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking may be an achievable goal.”[4]

Additionally, this group recommends their participants undergo 30 days of abstinence. This is thought to help individuals gain a healthy relationship with alcohol before they begin learning how to moderate.

Find an Alcohol Rehab Center Near You Today

Whether you are thinking about attending AA or one of the above-mentioned alternatives, you must go to professional addiction treatment first. If you or a loved one struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction, Addiction Intervention Services can help you find the treatment you need.

Contact Addiction Intervention today for a free and confidential consultation regarding addiction treatment.


  1. https://www.smartrecovery.org/about-us/
  2. https://womenforsobriety.org/new-life-program/
  3. https://lifering.org/lifering-recovery-menu/the-three-s-philosophy/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *