When people decide to quit drinking, there’s usually one answer - from friends, family, employers, or counselors: go to Alcoholics Anonymous.
It’s the largest, oldest, and best-known program that helps people fight drinking problems. However, it has some features that might make people hesitate to join or stick with it, and so we’ve compiled a list of alternatives to AA that people can consider, and why they might be attractive.
To be clear, we consider Drinker’s Helper (our app which provides a personalized support group in your pocket, helps with drink and urge tracking, provides insights on your progress over time, and provides motivational exercises) to be a complement to any of these programs, rather than a substitute. Many of our members use multiple approaches as they attempt to quit or cut back on drinking.
First, why might people find AA not to their liking? Here are some of the most common reasons:
It has a religious component. Several of the twelve steps rely on giving up control to a higher power. Non-religious people may find it difficult to start the twelve steps if they don’t believe in a higher power of any kind.
It is perceived to be for people with very serious alcohol problems, who have let their entire lives fall apart due to alcohol. People with milder issues, who still have their jobs and their family life, may be turned off by socializing with people in very different circumstances.
It has a heavy focus on the past. You make amends for past wrongs. You make a real inventory of who you are as a person. This may turn off people who are more action-oriented or who want to stay positive by focusing on the changes they’re making.
It requires a person to admit that they are powerless over their addiction. While it can help some people to realize how out of control their drinking has become, some people (who are more individual responsibility oriented) might be turned off by the idea that they can’t help themselves. At Drinker’s Helper, we certainly believe that a person can do quite a bit to help themselves get free of addiction to alcohol.
Here are some alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous that also offer in person anonymous support groups dedicated to quitting drinking that we think can be very helpful to people:
Women for Sobriety: This one is obviously for women only, but the differences don’t stop there. The other two biggest differences with Alcoholics Anonymous are: 1) They focus on the future, not the past, which can be empowering and 2) rather than admitting powerlessness, they seek to make their members feel empowered.
Smart Recovery: We particularly love this option because it uses so much of cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the two therapies we drew from in creating Drinker’s Helper. It heavily emphasizes developing your skills and strategies to deal with urges to drink.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety: As the name suggests, this organization is not religious. They also heavily emphasize helping yourself through addiction, and sharing stories of how you have managed to stay sober to help others by sharing useful tactics.
LifeRing Secular Recovery: This is a very similar group to SOS that heavily emphasizes building up your mental skills to counteract urges to drink.
We hope you find these suggestions helpful, and if you want additional help on top of what these groups can provide in person at set times, we hope you’ll give the Drinker’s Helper app a try! We provide a personalized support group in your pocket, plus over 75 exercises you can do to motivate yourself to keep going with your goal of quitting or cutting back on drinking.