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Blog > But… 12-step Recovery Doesn’t Work for Me

But… 12-step Recovery Doesn’t Work for Me

Abby Foster
| February 25, 2017

If you went to a treatment center, chances are high that you were introduced to 12-step based recovery and encouraged to attend those meetings after you left. I know that was the case for me. It makes sense due to the familiarity and widespread availability of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings. Plus, the format has been adapted for many other substances and behaviors.

These mutual aid groups offer a community or fellowship where members share their experience, strength, and hope with each other. They are guided through the steps toward recovery by looking to a higher power. This type of program has been a perfect fit for many people who have achieved sustained recovery through the steps.

But what about those who say, “12-step just isn’t for me”? Is it fair to assume that they just didn’t “work the program hard enough” or believe “they just didn’t want it enough”? Now, while I will admit there are times when people do not give any form of recovery an honest effort I don’t think it holds true all of the time.

We openly accept the idea that people have different learning styles. Some people are visual learners while others learn best by doing. Does it not make sense that the same principle could hold true for recovery? What works well for one may not work well for another. I believe that recovery is not “one-size fits all”. After all, in the forward to the second edition, the book Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Upon therapy of the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly.” And that was in 1955.

Sometimes people join 12-step meetings and it fits like a glove. This was the case for me. But, being passionate about my chosen method of recovery doesn’t give me the right to dismiss all others as ineffective. It only evidence that I have found what was right for me.

If 12-step didn’t work for you, it’s important to not give up or assume you are out of options. This just isn’t true. There are multiple ways to find recovery. Some people utilize just one program and have their one path. Others may employ different approaches at the same time. People may initiate recovery within one framework and choose to migrate to another later on. To me, there is no right way or wrong way. Who am I to judge? Each of us must find what keeps us challenged and continue to grow in order to achieve long-term recovery.

If you have found your path—congratulations! I encourage you to remain open-minded and supportive of those who choose another way. Remain open to the idea that there is more than just one “right” way. For those of you that may still be searching, I encourage you to never give up, but find what works for you. Below, I have listed a few of the diverse pathways to recovery. If you know of any I have not listed, PLEASE list them in the comment space available below!

Mutual Aid Groups (12-step based): Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Alanon, Alateen, Naranon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Overeaters Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Double Trouble in Recovery, Heroin Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Methadone Anonymous Support

Mutual Aid Groups (Non-12 step based): Women for Sobriety, SMART Recovery, LifeRing

Secular, or non-religion/spiritual base: SMART Recovery, LifeRing, Secular Sobriety, Rational Recovery

Faith-Based Recovery: Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Victorious, Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant others

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