The 12 Steps have a wide following across the USA, and a meeting is found in virtually every community as well as online, but what if the steps or the dogma that go along with Bill W's programs are not a good match? While AA and NA have helped many people over the years, there are countless others who for one reason or another could not manage the steps and were left without direction and perhaps a sober community of supports. In the past, people who rejected the 12-steps had to find her own way in the world, which reduced the likelihood of achieving long-term sobriety. However, in recent years there have been a proliferation of alternatives to the 12-step model from Secular Organizations for Sobriety and Women for Sobriety to Celebrate Recovery. However two self-help programs seem to have caught on and garnered a following that is noteworthy, Smart Recovery and Refuge Recovery.
Smart Recovery and Refuge Recovery are not nearly as widely accessible as 12-step meetings, are, but they are popping up across the country from Smithville, NC to Murray, Utah. They also offer online or phone meetings for those who do not have a local meeting in their area. In addition to relative ease of access to a support system, these programs are based are firmly based in evidence-based practices that have shown effectiveness in behavioral change.
Smart recovery is based in the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a psychological theory that uses scientifically proven strategies to create change. Smart Recovery employs tools to empower people to being active agents of their own recovery. It uses a group model to teach skills and promotes a community in which people can connect in their journey towards sobriety. Smart recovery posits that the person who is abusing alcohol or other substances ultimately has to power create change their life.
Refuge Recovery uses the concepts of knowledge and self-compassion as an approach to assist in overcoming addiction. Based in Buddhist philosophy, meditation, empathy, and self-reflection are core components of this program. Meditation is a well-researched tool that has shown to be successful in managing intense emotions, decision-making, and stress management. Refuge Recovery groups offer a solid base in which one can embark in the journey of sobriety.
As research on addiction treatment emerges, we realize there is no “one right way” to be sober. While all aspects of a 12-step program may not be a good fit for everyone, some the principles are universal. Forgiveness, self-awareness, and connection to others are the core in components necessary to establish long-term recovery used in most peer led recovery programs. Whether someone takes the stairs, an elevator, the escalator, or scales the building is not as important as is creating and healthy and meaningful life in recovery.