Overcoming an addiction to alcohol will most likely be one of the most challenging experiences that you will ever undergo as it is not easy to eradicate that substance from your life, both physically and mentally, particularly if you had been drinking regularly for a considerable period of time. Needing to do so alone is a hurdle that many find too difficult to overcome while on this journey.
For that reason, sober communities, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, play a pivotal role in the recovery process for many. However, some may not want to utilize AA for one reason for another. That is okay. There are several other similar but different organizations that provide the types of benefits that you are looking for, so you should be able to find one or more sober communities that fit you.
Most importantly, note that even though AA does help and work for many, what you should be focusing on is finding the community that best fits your culture, your personality, your beliefs and your learning and recovery styles.
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First, do consider what AA has to offer and how it may or may not fit your needs.
AA, which was founded in 1935, provides an opportunity to participate in a structured environment that consists of people struggling with alcohol addiction supporting each other. It holds meetings throughout the world, and some place high value on its “Twelve Steps” program and have pointed towards that as having served as an important leg in their journey towards recovery.
However, others are uncomfortable with those same steps, and it should be pointed out that the religious aspect of AA can be a notable pro to some and a significant con for others. Also, the time commitment that is recommended by AA may not fit with what works best for you. In addition, AA oftentimes incorporates reprimands when someone relapses as opposed to the continued support that they may have been looking for.
Other Sober Communities
If AA is not what you are looking for or if it is, but you are wanting to combine that sober community with others, consider taking advantage of what these AA alternatives have to offer you.
SMART Recovery’s focus is much more so on cognitive behavioral therapy, self-directed action and science-based recovery tools. It also offers access to in-person meetings that are run throughout the world although those offerings are focused much more so on the United States and Canada. That said, if you are not near one or you prefer online gatherings, you can take advantage of its online meetings.
And even if you do not want to become an active participant in any type of SMART Recovery meeting, consider browsing the tools that the organization has made available on its website. These include stand-alone tools as well as recommendations of books that may help you on your journey toward sobriety.
In essence, you would be using SMART Recovery’s resources to help you take control of your life, so if you are someone who prefers to create your own recovery path, this is a good option.
If you are looking for a recovery organization that is focused on a secular outlook, on removing all religious elements from the experience, LifeRing Secular Recovery may be what will work best for you. With that said, do note that about 40% of its participants attend a place of worship at least annually, so you will still be more than welcome here if you would be included in that 40%.
LifeRing is also a group that is more so focused on helping others help themselves. In fact, the organization explicitly states that “we encourage each participant to work out their own particular path.” Connected with that, there are no sponsors like in AA. Instead, in a sense, everyone here sponsors and supports everyone else.
Meetings are offered in numerous formats, including in-person and online. You can also take advantage of the LifeRing Forum if you want to participate here but not in a meeting format.
Also consider utilizing LifeRing’s online tools and browsing the LifeRing Press bookstore for additional resources.
If you are a woman who is looking to become involved in a support group that has women as its focus and caters specifically to women’s needs, Women for Sobriety may be the organization that will most assist you on your path. It has been helping women achieve sobriety since its founding in 1975.
In addition to in-person and online meetings, Women for Sobriety provides one-on-one phone support, thanks to the time and energy that volunteers provide while offering that service. However, if you are not in North America and prefer in-person meetings, do note that it focuses on U.S. and Canadian locales.
Women for Sobriety’s New Life Program was designed to help women overcome the depression, guilt and lack of self-esteem that may have caused an addiction or that may have resulted from it. In other words, this organization focuses on the deeper recovery that is necessary to fully overcome an addiction like this.
If you are not only looking for a more secular type of recovery resource but also one that is locally focused, consider the recovery resources that Secular Organizations for Sobriety has to offer. Amongst these is information about numerous autonomous organizations that are local – i.e. not national or international in scale. However, note that its selection of in-person meetings is limited.
This network of local groups was featured in a documentary, “No God at the Bottom of a Glass,” which was awarded a Telly Award in 2014. At the beginning of it, a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is shown, “Two great European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity,” which exemplifies how much its founder, James Christopher, had been turned off of what AA specifically and religion in general had to offer him.
If you are also suffering from a compulsive eating disorder, note that SOS offers support for that as well as alcohol and drug addictions.
Refuge Recovery may serve as a pivotal role in your recovery if you are looking for a religiously focused setting that is not connected with Christianity.
Its guiding philosophy is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama – i.e. Buddhism. In doing so, it helps participants reduce and remove cravings for and addictions to a variety of substances and experiences, not only including alcohol but even influences such as people and experiences. As a result, this can be a good support system for those looking to recover from various forms of addiction.
Although its in-person meetings are focused on U.S. communities, international ones are offered in some countries as are online gatherings. A 20-minute meditation period usually takes place during these meetings. That said, there is no requirement to be a Buddhist or to even believe in any type of god or higher power to participate, just to understand and accept the Buddhist influences on the recovery methods that are taught here.
Finding What Works For You
A significant period of trial-and-error may be necessary to determine which recovery support group or groups work best for you. For many people, the preferred way to do so is to consider one or a few groups and attend one or a few of the meetings that they offer to help you learn the best fit for you. As you go through this process, make sure to incorporate your beliefs, values and personal preferences.
Also take into account whether in-person meetings, online gatherings or a combination of the two would work best for you. Or perhaps you do not want to take part in any sort of get-togethers and would simply like to see what types of resources have been made available by these organizations. Although most do recommend not experiencing this journey alone, that method might work best for you.
In addition, note the value of professional therapy and how that will blend with your journey, and take into account that its benefits are different in numerous ways as compared to support groups, such as the ones mentioned here. That is because although it can prove invaluable to have professional support, it can also be invaluable to experience peer support. Many need both.
Regardless of what your individual path towards recovery ends up being, be persistent and adaptable in finding what will work for you, whether that includes AA or not, and be open to changing that path down the line.
Regardless, most believe that experiencing some sort of sober community is necessary to have a more thorough, effective recovery process, so it is recommended that you consider at least one of them as you craft your path.