Other Programs Besides 12-Step Programs

You may be aware of the two most popular 12-Step programs—Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These programs have helped millions of people get sober and stay sober since the founding of AA. Although, just because something works for millions of people does not mean it is the only way to do it.

Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process. Everyone's journey is unique. There are many other recovery support group options outside of 12-Step programs that you can consider. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the 12-Steps. Again, what works in recovery is unique to you. If you have tried AA or NA and find that it is not for you, there are other options available.

Where to Start

When looking for a new recovery program to try out, Google offers a helpful webpage to get you started. Here, you will find a variety of resources, including ones to discover support groups in your area or online. You can enter your zip code if you are looking for in-person meetings, and many of these programs offer virtual meetings as well.

SMART Recovery

SMART stands for self-management and recovery training. SMART Recovery is a support program for you while in recovery from substance abuse as well as other behaviors that might be harmful. This includes things like sex addictions, relationship dysfunctions, eating disorders, and self-injury. 

SMART takes a fairly scientific approach to recovery. They rely on self-empowerment and self-reliance as tools for growth and overcoming addiction. They focus on a four-point program of tools and techniques to achieve this. These points are:

  • Building and maintaining motivation
  • Coping with urges
  • Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Living a balanced life

SMART is a secular program, so it is a great choice if you are looking for something that does not rely on a higher power the way 12-Step programs do. 

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based program that relies on creating safe spaces to have non-judgemental conversations about recovery with peers. The program follows a 3-S philosophy: sobriety, secularity, and self-help. Similar to AA, the program relies on building strength by having two sober people who struggle with addiction talk to each other to build a stronger “sober self.” This is done by sharing advice, understanding, and encouragement.  

Recovery Dharma

Recovery Dharma is an approach to recovery using Buddhist principles, though it is a non-theistic program. That means you do not have to believe in a higher power to participate, but you are welcome even if you do. 

Similar to an Anonymous program, all groups are peer-led. The program focuses on efforts to promote kindness, generosity, and peer-to-peer support. The principles used in this program are the four noble truths and the eightfold path in Buddhist traditions. They offer global virtual meetings and meditation sessions so you can always find a meeting regardless of your timezone.   

Refuge Recovery

Refuge Recovery is another Buddhist-based recovery program. It too is non-theist because they believe in empowering yourself rather than finding empowerment through a higher power. They believe that recovery is based on three principles. The three principles are awakening (Buddha), truth (Dharma), and community (Sangha). Refuge Recovery offers both in-person and online meetings. Their website provides pre-recorded audio meditations so you can practice whenever you want to. 


Alongside treatment programs, there are also therapeutic treatments you can use to aid your recovery journey. The two most predominant techniques are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). There are differences between these two treatments, so look into both before deciding which, if either, will be most beneficial to you.

Both programs have shown positive results when it comes to treating addiction. CBT has been used for longer but DBT can be more effective for long-term success. Regardless of what option you choose, research what you need to know before starting each therapy. 

Empowering Yourself

You may have noticed that all of the programs mentioned above have something in common: they all believe in empowering you. When considering recovery, you may not have a high value of yourself. That may even be why you started using substances in the first place.

Whatever the reason, substance use disorder (SUD) lowers your sense of self. In recovery, you have to rebuild that self back up and empower yourself. It can be difficult to imagine loving yourself when you first get sober, but by engaging in any of these programs, your opinion of yourself can change and grow until you learn to be content with who you are. If you decide to try one or more of these programs and you still approach a challenge, keep in mind that you deserve to love yourself no matter what.

There are many programs out there designed to help you if you are struggling with SUD. There are several different groups you can try out once you have completed treatment but need to stay connected to a strong community and support group. NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO, is a great place to start or continue your treatment journey, and we can connect you with support groups. We have an experienced staff that is here to help you no matter what stage of recovery you are in, whether you are trying to recover from a relapse or you are still in active addiction and need help and guidance. If you or someone you know is in need of treatment, you want to do all that you can to help. You can take the first steps by calling us today at (303) 558-6400.

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