There are millions of people who have found recovery in twelve-step rooms in over 200 different fellowships. You may be familiar with some of the more well-known fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon. Although twelve-step programs have helped many and continue to help those struggling, it’s important to know that there are alternatives. Twelve-step recovery is certainly one of the most common ways that people find recovery, but the truth is that recovery is possible via other modalities. People get sober in many ways, utilizing many different modalities. Whether you’re using personalized horoscopes from The Online Medium, recent neuroscience, or the practice of mindfulness, there are many ways to grow in recovery.
I got sober in twelve-step rooms, and am incredibly grateful for all I was offered. I met a sponsor, went through the steps, took service commitments, and built lasting friendships. I don’t know where I would be had I not found AA, but I do know that my life immediately took a turn for the better when I began engaging with the program and fellowship. I went to meetings every day, spoke on panels at hospitals and institutions, and sponsored other people in the program.
However, at about two years sober, I found myself looking for something more. I tried taking on everything I could in the program, but it just wasn’t landing with me. It wasn’t necessarily a problem with twelve-step programs. I feel now that it had taken me as far as I could go with it, and it was a calling to investigate other paths.
I had a regular meditation practice before getting sober and into sobriety, and began investigating meditation-based recovery with Against the Stream, a meditation center in Santa Monica. I slowly stopped going to twelve-step meetings as much, as I found a new program and new fellowship with which I connected a bit more. I was told by quite a few people from AA that I needed to come back or I’d use again, and I was met with relatively little understanding. When I talked to my sponsor about this new program and how I wasn’t going to many AA meetings anymore, he supported me completely.
Now years later, I go regularly to these meditation-based recovery groups. My wife is the secretary of our local meeting, and I have a mentor and mentees. I still go to a twelve-step meeting once a month or so to support a friend, but have found a program that works much better for me. That doesn’t mean twelve-step is bad or wrong; it simply means that I found a path that I connect with a little more deeply.
There are other support groups out there. Although I am not Christian myself, I have been to quite a few Celebrate Recovery meetings with a sponsee who was a member. Even as a non-Christian, I found the meetings insightful, inspiring, and helpful. I didn’t choose to go back myself, but it was a good experience to familiarize myself with other programs. Celebrate is a Christian-based recovery program created as a response to the twelve-step community’s use of “Higher Power” being too loose. If you’re looking for a faith-based path to recovery, check it out!
The meditation-based recovery groups I attended eventually blossomed into a real recovery program called Refuge Recovery. As a Buddhist approach to recovery, Refuge is a non-theistic program. That is, there is no emphasis on any higher powers or turning our lives over to anything of the sort. Whether or not you meditate, it’s a program that offers a book, fellowship, meetings across the world, and mentorship program. You don’t need a Buddha statue and robes to investigate Refuge Recovery. Although I prefer Refuge Recovery personally to twelve-step, I must say that it isn’t too different. The main difference (in my opinion) is that the power is put in our own hands, not in the hands of a higher power.
SMART Recovery is another option that has grown in popularity in recent years. SMART stands for Self Management and Recovery Training, and is a non-theistic recovery approach that utilizes evidence-based and secular therapies and methods to address addiction. One big difference between twelve-step and SMART is that SMART views addiction as a habit, not a disease. The meetings are also fairly different. Rather than listening to a speaker and sharing, meetings are often more solution-oriented, focusing on growth and relapse prevention.
Maybe support groups aren’t your thing. Although they are of course beneficial to many seeking help, some thrive with other methods. People find recovery through one-on-one therapy sessions, meditation and mindfulness-based practices, and by finding support from friends and family. Support groups are a great way to go, as they allow you to meet other people and grow together. However, some people either don’t need or don’t benefit from the support offered.
The truth is that each person is an individual and although we may see what works in general, people have their own needs. I’ve found that people giving me a hard time about not going to twelve-step meetings very much anymore often comes from a place of care, even if it doesn’t come across that way on the receiving end. You can find what works for you, and remember to stay in tune to see what’s working and what isn’t. Sometimes we need to adjust and try something new, and sometimes we need to stick with what we’re doing if it’s working!
This post comes to us from Elevation Behavioral Health, a dual-diagnosis treatment center in Agoura Hills, California. Elevation is a dual-diagnosis treatment facility with both substance abuse and mental health licensing. They work with their clients in their luxurious setting to find the best options for treatment from yoga and meditation to CBT and equine therapy. Visit Elevation Behavioral Health at www.ElevationBehavioralHealth.com.