5 Alternatives to 12-Step Programs for Sober Support

5 Alternatives to 12-Step Programs for Sober Support

12-step programs have been helping alcoholics and drug addicts recover from their substance use disorders for years. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the most common 12-step programs, offering support and a step-by-step program for their members to achieve long-term sobriety. While they can be incredibly effective for the right person, some people might not do well in this type of support group.

12-step programs often use spirituality to overcome addiction and daily stressors.[1] In these programs, you are asked to look for guidance from a higher power. While this can be extremely cathartic, not everyone believes in religions or spiritualities.

If you are recovering from a substance use disorder and are not interested in a spiritual support group, there are alternatives out there to consider. For example, you could try SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, S.O.S., and more.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The importance of joining an addiction support group
  • What the top 5 alternatives to 12-step programs are
  • How each alternative support group works

The 5 Most Common 12-Step Alternatives

Many people in the recovery community believe that 12-step programs are the end-all-be-all. While they can be incredibly helpful in maintaining long-term sobriety, there are other options out there that have similar success rates.

In fact, a study found that alternatives to 12-step programs are just as effective. They also found that “members of all the 12-step alternatives showed equivalent activity involvement and higher levels of satisfaction and cohesion, compared to 12-step members.”[2]

The 5 most common alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs include:

1. SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a non-profit organization that believes you have the power to make the changes necessary to remain sober from drugs and alcohol. Instead of relying on a higher power, members of this group participate in tools and techniques borrowed from evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).[3]

This program has a four-point program that focuses on:

  • Learning how to create and maintain motivation for sobriety
  • Learning how to manage urges in a healthy way
  • Teaching yourself to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors
  • Finding balance in life to allow self-care, fun, and happiness as a sober individual

2. Women for Sobriety (WFS)

As the name suggests, Women for Sobriety was created as a recovery support group solely for women. This program is incredibly helpful if you are a woman who has trauma related to men, offering a safe space for you to maintain your sobriety and share your struggles without fear.

This abstinence-based program focuses on making positive changes in your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The idea is that changing your thoughts to reflect a positive outlook will make you happier and healthier in addiction recovery.[4] It is also important to note that this support group focuses on recovering from the societal factors that lead to women developing an addiction, such as gender bias, trauma, and more.

3. Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety was created as a non-religious alternative to 12-step programs. This support group is open to anyone who wants to be sober from drugs and alcohol and only requires that you maintain abstinence. S.O.S. believes that by taking personal responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you can avoid relapsing on drugs or alcohol.

This program has a 3-point system to help you recover from addiction, which includes:

  • Acknowledging that you have a substance use disorder
  • Accepting that you struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Making sobriety the number one priority in your life

4. Moderation Management

Most recovery support groups require you to stay completely abstinent from all psychoactive substances. Usually, this is the best way to ensure that you remain in recovery from addiction. However, some people might benefit from learning how to moderate their substance abuse.

If you have tried abstinence and continue relapsing, it might be time to attempt a program like Moderation Management. This program is designed to help you target problem drinking by learning how to have a healthier relationship with alcohol.[5] Moderation management promotes a healthier lifestyle, developing responsible habits, and preventing problematic behaviors or cycles of addiction.

You do not have to engage in moderation to be a part of this program. This support group allows its members to choose either moderation or abstinence. In other words, you could start by learning how to moderate your drinking before becoming completely sober.

5. LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is another program ideal for people who are not interested in spirituality or religion. Instead of relying on a higher power to solve your addiction, this program asks you to find the strength and self-control within yourself to overcome substance abuse.

LifeRing believes that addicts have two separate people within them: the “addict self” and the “sober self.” This program works by helping you strengthen your sober self with the belief that doing so will weaken the addict within you. You will also work on managing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to create a more positive pattern in your life.

Get Connected to a Sober Living Program

Whatever path to recovery you choose, you should receive support from a sober living home. Sober living can ease the transition from an addiction treatment program to independent living. While you are in a sober living home, you will have plenty of opportunities to participate in recovery support meetings like SMART Recovery or Women for Sobriety.

Contact New You Sober Living today to learn more about how we can help.


  1. Researchgate.net: Spirituality as a Change Mechanism in 12-Step Programs: A Replication, Extension, and Refinement
  2. Sciencedirect.com: Comparison of 12-step Groups to Mutual Help Alternatives for AUD in a Large, National Study: Differences in Membership Characteristics and Group Participation, Cohesion, and Satisfaction
  3. Bmjopen.bmj.com: An investigation of SMART Recovery: protocol for a longitudinal cohort study of individuals making a new recovery attempt from alcohol use disorder
  4. Journals.sagepub.com: A Road Less Traveled: Choosing the “Women for Sobriety” Program
  5. Psycnet.apa.org: Moderation management: A mutual-help organization for problem drinkers who are not alcohol-dependent
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