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Non 12-Step Recovery Program

picture of Joe Gilmore
Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

August 20, 2021 (Originally Published)

May 18, 2023 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Non 12-step recovery programs might not get as much press as 12-step programs like AA and NA, but you have many options once you decide to move from addiction into ongoing recovery.

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), addiction is a chronic and progressive disease with high relapse rates of between 40% and 60%.

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Data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health recently published – NSDUH 2020 – shows a disturbing spike in both alcoholism and drug addiction. 28.5 million adults in the United States have alcohol use disorder, and 40 million adults meet the criteria for substance use disorder.

With addiction becoming more widespread than ever, it has never been more crucial to ensure that everyone in need has access to addiction treatment, aftercare services, and support groups, whether 12-step or non 12-step rehab

Research shows that remaining abstinent from alcohol and drugs for five years reduces the risk of relapse to just 15%. Peer-support groups, whether 12-step or non 12-step recovery programs, can be valuable for many people looking to stay sober despite the challenges of transitioning from recovery into the real world.

What is 12-Step?

A 12-step program utilizes a framework of principles – the 12 steps outlined below – to help those struggling with alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) or substance use disorder (drug addiction). These steps upon which the program is grounded provide you with action steps you undertake to help you maintain sobriety.

All 12-step programs share two unique features:

  1. Group setting: You work through the steps outlined below in a recovery group of peers.
  2. Sponsorship: A sponsor performs a mentor-like role. Sponsors are at a more advanced stage of their recovery journey, and they can help guide new group members.

Founded in 1935, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) was the first program launched using the 12-step methodology.

Other 12-step programs inspired by AA include:

  • NA (Narcotics Anonymous): For those addicted to drugs
  • CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous): For those in unhealthy or toxic codependent relationships
  • GA (Gambling Anonymous): For those addicted to gambling
  • SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous): For those addicted to sex
  • EDA (Eating Disorders Anonymous): For those with anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders

AA serves as a support group for those in recovery from alcohol use disorder. By attending local meetings, you can connect with others struggling with alcohol addiction. Sharing a common goal, you work together to support each other through potential flashpoints on your recovery journeys. For many people engaged with AA, it can be the difference between relapse and ongoing recovery.

Alcoholics Anonymous is predicated on a 12-step methodology that invites members to admit to a lack of control over alcohol with the aim of achieving spiritual awakening through handing themselves over to a higher power.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Admit powerlessness over alcohol and admit that life has become unmanageable.
  2. Find hope in power greater than yourself to restore your health.
  3. Surrender your will and your life to the care of the higher power as you define it.
  4. Take a frank and honest self-inventory.
  5. Admit to yourself, your higher power, and another person the precise nature of your wrongdoings.
  6. Become ready to have these aspects of your character removed by the higher power.
  7. Ask your higher power to remove these shortcomings.
  8. List those you have harmed.
  9. Make direct amends to all those you have harmed, unless doing so would harm them or others.
  10. Continue to take self-inventory and make corrections as necessary.
  11. Pray and meditate.
  12.  Help others when you have achieved a spiritual awakening through the 12 steps by carrying the AA message and by continuing to practice the principles.

While AA is not based on any specific religion, the spiritual component is not ideal for everyone, even if the higher power can be self-defined.

While 12-step groups were the only viable option for those in recovery until the 1970s, since then, various non 12 step drug rehab programs have emerged. These alternatives function similarly to 12-step programs, with members running local meetings. Some 12-step alternatives offer online meetings in addition to in-person meetings.

A 12-step group is not a one-size-fits-all solution for addiction for many reasons, including:

  • Wanting a treatment route with a less sharply spiritual focus
  • Feeling addiction is within your control or not wanting to submit yourself to a higher power in any form whatsoever
  • Previous and unsuccessful engagement with 12-steps

What options exist for non-12-step recovery, then?

Non 12-Step Recovery

There are several alternatives to 12-step recovery that are more secular than AA or NA. Most alternatives to regular 12-step programs are evidence-based, evolving in the light of new research.

Typically, 12-step alternatives ask you to find the motivation to stay sober from within, learning to exercise internal control rather than seeking power from an external power.

Finding a Non 12-Step Drug Rehab

Alternatives to 12-step groups use the same power of peer support, and they also provide you with tools to minimize the risk of relapse.

Most of these programs are free. The only requirement is that you want to achieve and maintain abstinence from drink and drugs.

Search for some of the most common alternatives in your area online. Look for:

  • SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training)
  • SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety)
  • Women for Sobriety
  • Moderation Management

You can also look for local therapists offering evidence-based treatments for addiction recovery, as well as those offering holistic and experiential therapies.

Crucially, though, you should view either 12-step programs or 12-step alternatives as one component of an overarching treatment plan. That’s where we come in here at Renaissance Recovery.

Renaissance Recovery’s Alternative to 12-Step Recovery

While many people find support groups invaluable, 12-step or otherwise, data indicates that support groups are most effective when combined with formal addiction treatment.

Our non-12-step holistic drug rehab and alcohol rehab allows you to benefit from an evidence-based framework for recovery, including:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): FDA-approved medications can help ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Psychotherapy: Through sessions of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), you learn what triggers you to abuse drink or drugs, and you also learn how to implement healthier coping strategies so you stay sober without relapsing.
  • Counseling: Take advantage of both individual and group counseling to learn more about addiction and recovery.

When you complete one of our outpatient programs for addiction, you’ll have the aftercare and relapse prevention plan you need in place, giving you the strongest foundation for sober living.

To get started on your own recovery journey, reach out to Renaissance today at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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