If you are anything like I was when I first made the attempt at getting sober in a program of recovery, then you probably understand the difficulty that some people have with accepting the groundwork of 12 step programs. For me, coming from an agnostic and even moderately atheist family who prized science over faith, the idea of turning my thoughts and my actions (will and life) over to the care of a higher power was impossible to digest.
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However, it has since been some time since I finally beat myself into a state of willingness where I could accept that there, in fact, was a solution in the program and fellowship that I chose to be a part of. But for many others, there are a multitude of alternatives for getting sober, besides 12 step programs, if they so choose to seek other methods of action to change their life.
The facts are, as with tides, methods are always changing. Not everyone finds the answer that they seek in the rooms of AA or NA, and that is more than alright. The purpose of this blog is in no way intended to dissuade anyone from working a 12 step program, as that is the program of recovery that has saved me and countless others from the depths of addiction.
This blog is simply intended to point out to those people who find that they might like to seek other solutions or alternatives to a 12 step program or even supplement their AA/NA based sobriety with an even stronger structure.
SMART Program of Recovery
Heavily relying on the practices of cognitive behavioral therapy, this program of recovery centers around the method of replacing harmful and addictive behaviors in relation to emotions and their external environments, with healthy and constructive patterns and actions.
SMART recovery advertises itself as being progressive with the ever-evolving scientific research that is performed in the field of addiction. They do not stress the need for the member to believe that alcoholism or addiction is a disease, and they also do not stress that their members have a desire to quit.
The program uses 4 points to guide participants into the state of being cured or recovered by
- Building and maintaining motivation
- Coping with urges
- Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
- Living a balanced life
SMART recovery largely differs from a 12 step program because they focus around the idea that they are in control of the events in their lives, rather than the other way around.
Women for Sobriety
This group was founded in the mid 1970’s by a socialist named Jean Kirkpatrick. As a doctor in her field, and one who suffered from alcoholism, she found that she could stop drinking by changing her thought patterns when she was angry or lonely or sad. The group centers around the idea that women eventually drink as a way to manage their internal emotional discord. So her method of action is to replace the common negative and self-destructive thought patterns that many women face, with positive and reaffirming ones.
WFS uses 13 statements or affirmations that emphasize increased self-worth, emotional and spiritual growth, not focusing on the past, personal responsibility, problem-solving, and attending to physical health.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety
Founded by once alcoholic James Christopher in the mid 80’s – SOS was created as a program of recovery that did not involve turning over one’s life to any sort of Higher Power. James had tried working a 12 step program and found that he never felt comfortable with this idea, so he instead found that for him, self-reliance and personal responsibility were his foundations for a life without alcohol.
SOS has no “structured” program but does have some guidelines, the first and foremost being the “sobriety priority” or in other words, the idea that when using, drugs and alcohol become the forefront of everything else in an addict’s life. So instead, the focus point is to make sobriety the person’s priority and to never pick up a drink or a drug.
CR was founded as a Christian Support group in the 1990’s, and is largely influenced by the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, this group is entirely Christ-centered and Bible-based. It focuses on 8 principles of recovery that are derived from bible beatitudes (the blessings listed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount). CR also has its own form of steps that are not so much based on drugs and alcohol, but are intended to defeat all types of addictive behaviors.
While the program was influenced by the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, one can see in the format of their steps that there is a fundamental difference between the two programs. For example, this is the format in which they work their first step;
“We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors. That our lives had become unmanageable. (I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18)
I am a firm believe that whatever works for you, stick with it. No matter which program we are discussing, they all generally follow the same underlying thought processes. That is, to get out of our own way so we can be better people. And to do this, to reach this goal of being a better person, we must be there for others.
Our addictions, no matter what line of thought you follow, can all be brought back to a lack of selflessness. When we get out of ourselves and be there for others, which is the ultimate foundation for each and every program of recovery out there, we can be relieved of our obsession and learn to live a free and beautiful life. If you have found that you would like to explore your options to stay sober, please do. Just always know that no matter where you go, there you will be.
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