The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are so dominant in addiction recovery culture that it can be easy to forget there are other ways to get sober.
If AA or NA works for you, that’s wonderful. If not, there are plenty of alternative tools and methods you could try.
1. Moderation Management
Moderation Management is aimed at people in the early stages of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol: “problem drinkers” rather than “alcoholics.” It’s a behavioral change program and network of support groups for people looking to make positive lifestyle changes and, as the name suggests, it’s a moderation- rather than abstinence-based program.
It has its own steps—nine of them—which the organization says can help followers to achieve balance and moderation in all aspects of their lives. The organization is upfront about the fact that 30 percent of its members go on to abstinence-based programs, if moderation didn’t work for them. If you’re worried but haven’t yet reached your bottom, it could be worth checking them out.
2. Smart Recovery
The SMART in SMART Recovery stands for Self Management and Recovery Training. It’s a worldwide support network and arguably the leading alternative to AA. It espouses a four-point program based on abstinence, the ultimate goal of which is to help followers to lead more balanced lives. SMART Recovery is all about empowerment; it diverges from AA on its first step—that “powerless over alcohol” thing—and makes use of techniques from motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy. Secularity and non-confrontation are central to its ethos, and the organization says it’s perfectly acceptable to use SMART alongside other sobriety aids, even including 12-Step societies.
Ibogaine is a psychedelic substance that’s illegal in the U.S., though in other countries it’s used to treat addiction to opiates, alcohol, and other drugs. It’s thought to work by dampening the brain’s “reward pathway,” and can be particularly effective in lessening the effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal, though its illegal status in the U.S. means there’s limited research on its functioning and effects.
4. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Also known as “tapping,” this technique involves just that: tapping on a series of pressure points while talking your way through whatever challenge you’re facing—for example, an addictive urge. EFT combines Eastern acupressure knowledge with the techniques of Western psychotherapy. Beyond responding to urges, tapping can also address the root causes of addiction.
5. Online Support Groups
For addicts, meetings in church basements used to be the only surefire way to find people who knew what you were going through. But today there are hundreds of people sharing their stories just a few clicks away. Search Google for “sober blogger” and thousands of entries will come up; there’s a little sober community of writers, readers, and commenters around each of these blogs. This is a great way to find fellowship and accountability if you don’t like the sound of face-to-face interaction. And if you need a little more accountability than that, try the hundred-day sober challenge at TiredofThinkingAboutDrinking.wordpress.com. Comes with its own free penpal!
Neurofeedback allows you to see your own brain waves on a computer screen, in real-time, and thus learn to alter certain brainrhythms through continuousfeedback. It’s traditionally been used for sufferers of PTSD, though in recent years it’s been incorporated into a few rehab centers and a growing number of psychological clinics. Neurofeedback is still relatively new and the research on its effects are mixed, although accumulatingevidence supports its effectiveness in conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
LifeRing is another abstinence-based support network with face-to-face meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, in addition to online support for those who live elsewhere. It’s secular and built on peer-to-peer support: recovering addicts offer fellowship and personal strategies for staying sober and living a rewarding life in recovery. The focus is on the individual’s current life, rather than past difficulties. Members of LifeRing are free to attend other support groups.
It’s an unorthodox method, but some researchers (and enthusiasts) claim that hallucinogens can be effective in treating addiction. The above-mentioned Ibogaine is one such example; also worth mentioning are magic mushrooms and ayahuasca, a healing brew traditionally used by indigenous peoples in the Amazon. The research is ongoing and controversial, but the thinking is that hallucinogens can affect the brain cell receptors that control addiction because they’re similar to the brain’s natural neurotransmitters. On a less scientific level, the healing or even holy experiences people report after a good trip are thought to have lasting effects on mood.
HAMS stands for Harm Reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support. As the name suggests, the organization doesn’t dictate either abstinence or moderation, it simply encourages people to be safe and responsible in their attitudes to alcohol. It does this through a book, online community resources, live meetings, and its “17 elements”—recommendations that can be completed in any order, none of which is compulsory. Elements include charting your drinking behavior and learning to have fun without booze.
10. Thamkrabok Monastery
Thailand’s Thamkrabok Monastery has been called “the toughest drug rehabilitation regime in the world.” It doesn’t accept re-entry—one strike and you’re out. The program is based on a Sajja, or sacred vow, not to use intoxicating substances, along with a herbal medicinal treatment that offers what’s worryingly referred to as “very real and very rapid detoxification.” There’s no cost for treatment, but you have to pay for your own food, drink, and cigarettes. Treatment usually lasts between ten and twenty-eight days.
NAD’s full name is Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It’s a coenzyme that plays an important part in the body’s production of energy, and when injected at high doses it’s thought to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It’s been found to help with rapid detox from substances including opiates, alcohol, cocaine, methadone and benzos.
In the last few years, mindfulness has emerged as a hot ticket in mental health care, and a fact long known by followers of Eastern spirituality has become common knowledge: meditation is remarkably effective at treating an enormous range of mental health problems, including substance abuse.
Plenty of studies have shown that a regular meditation practice can be just as effective as a traditional relapse prevention program, if not more so. Here’s one particularly pleasing bit of science: neuroscientists have found that after just five 20-minute sessions of mindfulness meditation, people had increased blood flow to the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain that’s crucial in self control. The same study showed that the same area of the brain had physically changed after 11 hours of meditation practice.
13. Rational Recovery
Rational Recovery is an abstinence-based program based on a method called AVRT—the Addictive Voice Recognition Technique. There are no groups or support centers; the organization holds that these are unnecessary and actually encourage relapse. This method is all about isolating your Beast—the internal voice that makes you want to drink or use drugs—and vanquishing it, alone. The method’s simple but smart ideology has you taking joy in the pain of quitting as evidence of the death of your Beast.
14. Women For Sobriety
Women for Sobriety is another sobriety support group and program. Its “New Life” program is founded on thirteen affirmations based on the principles of positivity and responsibility for one’s own life—things like, “enthusiasm is my daily exercise,” and “I am responsible for myself and for my actions.” The efficacy of the program relies on followers spending time with these thirteen affirmations every morning and selecting one as their focus each day. Support is available in self-help groups across the U.S. and abroad, as well as in an online forum.
Topamax is an anticonvulsant drug traditionally used to prevent seizures and migraine headaches. It’s not yet federally approved as an addiction treatment, but studies show that it can partially reverse the damage done to neurotransmitters by extended alcohol abuse, rebalancing brain chemistry and so lessening cravings for alcohol.
16. Refuge Recovery
Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist path to addiction recovery, spearheaded by Buddhist teacher Noah Levine as an alternative to 12-Step programs. It’s built around Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, and draws on Levine’s own struggle with addiction. Levine proposes that Buddhism is ideally suited to target addiction, since transcending suffering and “nonattachment” are at its core. Levine published the book Refuge Recovery in 2014, and since then groups and meetings have been popping up all over the U.S. as well as in Canada, Denmark, Finland, and the UK. There are also online and phone-in meetings for those who can’t make it to any of the physical locations.
Levine proposes that Buddhism is ideally suited to target addiction, since transcending suffering and “nonattachment” are at its core.
17. Neuro-Linguistic Programming
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) was developed in the 1970s. It focuses on the interplay of an individual’s physical, linguistic, and cognitive behavior, and aims to help people to understand the way their brain works and so change negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Benefits include an increased understanding of self and others and better communication, and addiction therapy is just one of many suggested uses. Proponents of NLP argue that the best way to treat an addiction is to change the way the sufferer thinks—and NLP claims to do just that.
How to Find Help for Drug or Alcohol Misuse
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional treatment programs can put anyone battling addiction on the path to a better life. To learn more about treatment options, contact an admissions advisor with American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at . You can also check your insurance coverage online now.
Addiction Treatment Levels of Care
- Inpatient Rehab Programs
- Outpatient Rehab Programs
- 3-Day, 5-Day and 7-Day Detox Programs
- Sober Living Housing
- Aftercare Programs
Recommended Alternative Rehab-Related Articles
The first week of sobriety is often the most difficult. You may experience withdrawal symptoms that last for a few days or weeks. These symptoms are uncomfortable, and the risk of relapse can be high.What do you realize when you get sober? ›
When you finally get sober, you make the bold decision to hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your actions. It doesn't happen overnight, but as you work to make changes, you'll gain massive amounts of self-respect and learn how to trust yourself. You can be a morning person and be productive.What happens after 1 year of no alcohol? ›
Without alcohol in your life, you'll get better sleep, and wake up without a hangover. This can lead to more energy and productivity. You'll also experience long-term improvements in your health and reduced risk of alcohol-related conditions, like heart and liver complications.What is the first rule of sobriety? ›
Rule 1: Change Your Life
Recovery involves creating a new life in which it is easier to not use. When individuals do not change their lives, then all the factors that contributed to their addiction will eventually catch up with them.
The first 30 days of sobriety might be the hardest. Depending on how you decide to stop using alcohol, you may be going through detox, attending addiction treatment, or participating in AA or NA meetings.What are the three P's of sobriety? ›
3 “P's” for Recovery: Passion, Power and Purpose.Does sobriety change your life? ›
You will learn how to handle your own emotions, set healthy boundaries and form true connections with others. Sobriety helps prevent you from saying things you don't mean, acting in ways you normally wouldn't and making poor decisions that negatively impact your relationships.What to expect after 6 months of sobriety? ›
In the first 6 months of your sobriety, your body will start getting rid of toxins in order to become healthier. By the 6 month mark, your skin appears healthier. People around you notice your eyes are clearer. You've been taking care of yourself and bathing regularly, so your hygiene has improved.Why being sober is so good? ›
When you're sober, you'll have more time to focus on yourself and your well-being. You can engage in physically and mentally healthy activities, such as regular exercise, eating nutritious meals, and taking care of your mental health. You'll also be able to regulate your emotions better without drugs or alcohol.What a month of no alcohol can do? ›
Across the month, your body is likely to have benefitted greatly from giving up alcohol. Better hydration and improved sleep will have increased your productivity and daily wellbeing. Your liver, stomach and skin will also have benefitted from not dealing with alcohol.
However, by day 4 without alcohol, most people will have got beyond any initial withdrawal symptoms. All the alcohol will have left your system by now, and your body will begin to bounce back. If you're not as focused on alcohol, you may be eating better, drinking water, moving more, and perhaps sleeping more deeply.How likely is it to relapse after 1 year sober? ›
For those who achieve a year of sobriety, less than half will relapse. If you can make it to 5 years of sobriety, your chance of relapse is less than 15 percent.Why is it called Rule 62 in AA? ›
Rule 62 comes from the rules and regulations that were determined when the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous was created to try and inspire the people in recovery to have a common values, beliefs and lifestyles that they were working towards. The main takeaway from Rule 62 is “don't take life too seriously.”What to expect after 7 days of sobriety? ›
Towards the end of one week sober from alcohol, it's likely that you will see improvements to your sleep cycle, energy levels, mental clarity, anxiety levels, and overall well-being. You will also discover that without drinking, you have more time and money.What happens after 3 months of no alcohol? ›
Although positive changes may appear earlier, 3 months of not drinking can not only improve your mood, energy, sleep, weight, skin health, immune health, and heart health. It can even reduce your risk of cancer.What month is best to go sober? ›
People all across the country use the month of October to dedicate 31 days to being alcohol-free. Not only do participants experience the general clarity that comes with being sober, but many also see some physical and mental health benefits as well.What happens 5 days sober? ›
When you are 5 days sober, one of the main symptoms that you might be having is alcohol cravings. One of the major reasons why people relapse when in alcohol addiction recovery is due to the moderate to severe cravings they are having. Some mild cravings can even cause a person to relapse.Is it good to count days of sobriety? ›
If you love waking up in the morning to see the number on your sobriety counter go up, if you're committed to abstinence and have a clear vision of what that means to you, and if you have a plan to survive a slip without losing your self-esteem, then by all means, count.What are the 4 absolutes alcoholics? ›
The outer circle represents healthy behaviors, the middle circle represents behaviors that may lead an addict to pursue addictive behaviors, and the inner circle represents absolute “deal breakers,” putting an addict back into a slip or relapse.
The triangle describes the roles individuals play in conflict, but in a family touched by addiction, it's common to see these roles play out in daily life. The three roles are the Persecutor, the Rescuer, and the Victim.What are the odds of staying sober? ›
Approximately 18% of recovering alcoholics achieved low-risk drinking after a year. About 18% of recovering alcoholics were able to abstain from drinking completely one year later. Recovery rates are less than 36% for people with a severe or lifetime alcohol dependence.Can you enjoy life without alcohol? ›
You may have relied on alcohol or other substances to relax in social settings, and you might wonder if all the fun and exciting times of your life are behind you. It's possible to learn to enjoy yourself without alcohol, but it may take time and practice.Can sobriety be lonely? ›
In recovery, feelings of loneliness are not a sign that there's something wrong with you. Instead, these emotions are often a natural outcome of walking away from the people and places associated with your addiction. The chaotic world you became comfortable with has been stripped away.What does pink clouding mean? ›
Sometimes referred to as pink clouding or the honeymoon phase, pink cloud syndrome involves feelings of exhilaration or euphoria. The person is overjoyed with their recovery. They feel successful and confident they will remain sober in the future.How long after quitting alcohol does anxiety go away? ›
It's common to feel anxious or cranky. Your mood should get better within 3 to 6 weeks. Tell your doctor if it doesn't. You may need treatment for long-term symptoms or an undiagnosed mental health condition.What I noticed when I stopped drinking? ›
Improved energy levels and better sleep
If you stop drinking completely, one of the first things you notice should be improved energy levels, better sleep and finding it easier to wake up in the morning. Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep making you feel tired and sluggish during the day.
Recovery doesn't disqualify you from going to a party, game or concert, if those are activities you enjoy. However, it's important to create a new definition of what's fun for you when substance use isn't involved. “People need to remember that we can still have fun even though we're sober,” Campbell said.What are 5 benefits of being sober? ›
- Improved Physical Health. ...
- Improved Mental Health. ...
- Improved Relationships. ...
- Improved Financial Stability. ...
- Increased Sense of Accomplishment.
How Sobriety Affects Mental Health. Most people find that when they spend 30 days sober and have a chance to give their brains and bodies a break from drugs or alcohol, their mental health improves. They experience less brain fog, they're less depressed or anxious, and they have a more positive outlook on life.
If heavier drinkers remove alcohol for a longer period of time, they might see weight loss, improvement in body composition, less stomach fat, improvement in triglycerides (one of the fat particles in the blood),” she said.What does 7 days of no alcohol do? ›
Reduced anxiety and improved mental health
Going even 7 days alcohol free can help reduce your anxiety and depression levels and help your brain chemicals come back in balance. It leads to an overall improvement in brain function and mental health, even if you haven't experienced issues before.
- Soda and fresh lime. Proof that simple is still the best.
- Berries in iced water. This summery drink will keep you refreshed and revitalised.
- Kombucha. ...
- Virgin bloody Mary. ...
- Virgin Mojito. ...
- Half soda/half cranberry juice and muddled lime. ...
- Soda and fresh fruit. ...
- Weight loss.
- Clear skin.
- More energy.
- Improved gym performance.
- Reduced anxiety and improved mood.
- Saved money.
- Feelings of accomplishment.
- Better sleep.
Day 2 isn't without physical symptoms, either, but instead of a hangover, these will be the beginnings of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some symptoms, like nausea, headaches, and fatigue, are similar to a hangover. It's not unusual on Day 2 to be experiencing shakes, sweating, and insomnia as part of alcohol withdrawal.What does wine face look like? ›
Alcohol dehydrates your body, including the skin – and this happens every time you drink. When you drink, the dehydrating (or 'diuretic') effect of alcohol means your skin loses fluid and nutrients that are vital for healthy-looking skin. This can make your skin look wrinkled, dull and grey, or bloated and puffy.What is the most common time of relapse? ›
First Steps to Take After A Relapse
An article in Psychology Today cites studies that show most relapses happen within the first 90 days of abstinence, which is why attending a rehab program lasting at least 3 months may be most beneficial.
The Connection Between Summertime & Relapse
While many of us are familiar with higher relapse rates around winter holidays such as Christmas and New Years, relapse rates also experience a spike during the summertime.
An alcohol detox program is an imperative first step of recovery, and with it comes a mix of unavoidable physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms. Generally, these symptoms will become less severe as the month goes on, but they may include shaking, sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, disorientation, and more.What is the Rule 69 in AA? ›
Rule 69 Agreement – Under Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Procedure, an agreement is binding on the parties if it is in writing and signed by both parties. An email signature counts as a signature for purposes of this rule.
These rules are: Don't talk, don't trust, and don't feel. People within the system follow these rules to maintain the status quo. “Everyone in the system often begins to believe that their needs no longer matter,” says Rachel Evans, Family Therapist at the Center for Recovering Families.What is the golden rule in AA? ›
I must treat everyone with respect, and that goes for the smallest, innocent child to the most errant rogue that I might encounter.What is the hardest part of sobriety? ›
- Change Can be Uncomfortable. Change can be scary, no matter the circumstances. ...
- Facing Peer Pressure and Triggers. This challenge in your sober journey goes hand in hand with the fear of change. ...
- Dealing with Stress and Emotions. ...
- The Misconception that Sober = Boring.
When you push your way through the most difficult parts of life, things eventually begin to look up again. Sure, recovery still ebbs and flows. Some days are harder than others, but for the most part, it's gotten easier to be a person living a sober life.What are the benefits of 17 days without alcohol? ›
In general, you may start to experience physical benefits such as increased energy, reduced anxiety, and improved liver health. You might also notice positive changes in your personal life, such as improved relationships and more free time for hobbies.Do wrinkles go away when you quit drinking? ›
Within a few weeks of quitting drinking, your hydrated skin will thank you with: Diminished puffiness. Reduced dryness. Fewer wrinkles.What happens after 17 days no alcohol? ›
Day 17. Many people report less intense alcohol cravings during this timeframe. However, it's worth mentioning that alcohol cravings can be replaced with cravings for sugar. Many alcoholic beverages are high in sugar, and your body is still in recovery mode.What is the hardest step in the AA? ›
Some people call it confession. Others call it the most difficult rung on the 12-step ladder to sobriety. Whatever they call it, step five asks recovering alcoholics to admit the precise nature of their faults, first to themselves, then to a higher power, and finally to someone else.When sobriety loses its priority? ›
When sobriety loses its priority, or you “slip,” you're beginning to walk the road that leads to relapse. You're not focused on recovery. Often, you find yourself in high risk situations. You may be picking up your old, bad habits or hanging out with friends that you know don't support your recovery.What percent of people fail at AA? ›
Some addiction specialists have claimed that AA has a 5 to 10 percent success rate. A study showed a 35% abstinence rate when participants continued to attend AA meetings for 2-3 years.
Step 1: Honesty
Coming to terms with an addiction is the first step towards recovery, but it is also the hardest step of the process. Whether it be guilt, humiliation, or general uneasiness with accepting the results of admitting to having a substance addiction, admitting to a dependency is not an easy process.
The first few months of recovery from addiction are some of the most difficult. Insomnia, triggers, drug cravings, and the need to deal with emotions that were previously numbed with drugs make early recovery a period of enormous adjustment.What happens after 2 weeks of no alcohol? ›
After two weeks off alcohol, you will continue to reap the benefits of better sleep and hydration. As alcohol is an irritant to the stomach lining, after a fortnight you will also see a reduction in symptoms such as reflux where the stomach acid burns your throat.At what point do most people relapse? ›
An article in Psychology Today cites studies that show most relapses happen within the first 90 days of abstinence, which is why attending a rehab program lasting at least 3 months may be most beneficial.Does a slip reset sobriety? ›
Dr. Charlotte Kasl writes, “A slip does not erase the days of sobriety that preceded it. You can never take away a sober day. Some people think they have to start counting the days and months of sobriety all over if they relapse or have a slip.Do you start over when you relapse? ›
The simple answer to this question is no, not exactly. Although a relapse is a setback during a person's recovery, relapse does not necessarily send a person all the way back to where they started. Some people find it valuable to count how many days they have been sober from drugs and alcohol and some do not.