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by Roxanne Allen, with SMART Recovery, speaker at RRNA’s Topical Evening:  Addiction, on February 18th, 2014

New Options for Addiction Recovery 

In the 1730s Native Americans organized the first abstinence-based  recovery circles. Since that time, a variety of groups have come and  gone, but the efficacy of self-help meetings for addiction recovery has  been well researched and proven to be effective in many ways.

In the 20th century the most well known mutual support groups were  based on the 12-step model, the most widely available of these being  Alcoholics Anonymous. For many years, the 12-step model was an integral  part of the treatment program for many of those who sought professional  assistance to help them quit an addiction.  Over time, the public grew  to perceive that regular attendance and participation in 12-step  meetings was a requirement of recovery.  However, as addiction research has progressed, we now know that there is not one program that is helpful for everyone.  People are different and have different needs. For example, many  people do better with a model that does not involve a spiritual  component; many people do better with a self-empowering approach.  We  also know that people seeking recovery from addiction have a better  outcome when they are able to make informed choices about the mutual  support groups they attend.

Many paths to recovery

There are a number of support groups and alternatives to 12-step  recovery that stand ready to help people overcome their addiction to  substances and behaviors. Each program has merit, and the best outcome  occurs when an individual selects a program that best matches their  needs and beliefs. (Note: some people find that a combination of  programs is more helpful to them than a single program.)

SMART Recovery® 

SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training) is the leading  self-empowering addiction support group. SMART participants learn tools  for recovery based on the latest scientific research.

SMART provides a 4-Point Program:1. Building and Maintaining Motivation; 2. Coping with Urges; 3.  Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors; and 4. Living a Balanced  life. Tools  include Stages of Change, Change Plan Worksheet,  Cost-Benefit Analysis, Hierarchy of Values, ABCs of REBT for Urge Coping and Emotional Upsets, DISARM (Destructive Imagery and  Self-talk  Awareness & Refusal Method), Role-playing and Rehearsing ,  Brainstorming, and more.  Tools can be found on their website.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety (WFS) is the first and only self-help program  accounting for the special problems women have in recovery, specifically the need for feelings of self-value and self-worth, and the need to  expatiate feelings of guilt and humiliation. Their purpose is to help  all women with addiction through the discovery of self, gained by  sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women in similar circumstances. The

“New Life” Acceptance Program includes thirteen statements to aid those participating in the program, and can be found on their website.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Ourselves

SOS takes a self-empowerment approach to recovery, and addresses sobriety (abstinence) as “Priority One, no matter what!”  The program credits the individual for achieving and maintaining  his/her own sobriety, and respects recovery in any form. There are six  suggested guidelines for sobriety, including “Sobriety is our priority”,  and “We are each responsible for our lives and our sobriety”.  The  others can be found on their website.


LifeRing offers sober, secular self-help to abstain from alcohol and  non-medically-indicated drugs by “relying on our own power and the  support of others”. The program operates according to the “3S” Philosophy: 1. Sobriety, 2. Secularity, 3. Self-Help. Meetings are friendly, confidential, non-judgmental gatherings of  peers, and the atmosphere is relaxed, practical and positive.

Moderation Management

Moderation Management (MM) offers education, behavioral change  techniques and peer support for problem drinkers seeking to decrease  their drinking — whether to moderate levels or to total abstinence. MM  offers a variety of behavioral methods for change, guidelines for  responsible drinking, and tools to measure progress. The program follows  9 Steps Toward Moderation and Positive Lifestyle Changes which can be found on their website.

While these programs may not be as widely available geographically as the 12-step programs, they are available to anyone with an internet  connection. Each program offers online services in addition to  face-to-face meetings.

Addiction can create huge health, legal and personal problems for  those afflicted. The good news is that there are many pathways to  recovery, many options available, and each individual deserves to find  what works best for them.