Should You Use a 12 Step Recovery Program or Seek an Alternative?

Should You Use a 12 Step Recovery Program or Seek an Alternative?


People have asked me: “Should I seek an alternative to the 12 step recovery program?”  Others have struggled in AA or NA and wondered if they should try a new approach.

After all, many people who finally “get it” in the 12 step program were once people who chronically relapsed, going in and out of the program for years.  One day they finally surrendered, and now they stay clean and sober while working the program successfully.  Such people never fault the 12 step program, they only fault themselves, and then they sing high praises to the program for saving their life.  No one is allowed to give credit to themselves over the 12 program, even though the program does fail for many people and send them to an early grave.  It is a subtle double standard but one that deserves some consideration.

No, you should realize that the program does not actually save anyone’s life.  They saved their own life when they got the discipline and the level of surrender that was needed to walk away from their old life.  There is no magic in the steps themselves.  There is no magic in 12 step support over other forms of fellowship of support.  Yes, it helps to have a common purpose.  Yes, it helps to get support and exchange ideas with others in recovery.  But no, the 12 steps are not a direct recipe for overcoming addiction.

I am not bashing 12 step programs.  Believe me I am not.  There is definitely some benefit to 12 step programs, and if they work as a solution for you, then that is excellent.  You have your solution–leave this website and go run with it.  But I see many people who keep coming back, keep coming back, and then they relapse and die.  What a shame.  Had they tried another recovery strategy, they might still be alive.  But the 12 step program, in all of its arrogance, believes that it is the best solution for every single alcoholic on the planet.

Think about that level of arrogance for a moment.  The fellowship in AA and NA have so much pride that they hide from themselves that they actually believe they have the market cornered on helping addicts and alcoholics.  They actually say to people “if you stop coming to meetings you will die.”

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Again, I am not bashing.  The reason the fellowship does this is out of fear.  It is fear based thinking that keeps people in this mindset of “this is the only possible solution that works.”

But my message to you is this: if you have given the 12 step program a fair shake, and it did not work for you, then do not be afraid to move on.  Do not be afraid to find your own path in recovery.  Do not listen to the fear-crazed 12 steppers who are afraid that someone might recover without using the exact method that they are using.  They see this as a threat to their recovery, when in fact it is just an opportunity for your recovery.

I have found an alternative path in recovery and I do not begrudge the 12 steppers.  I don’t go back to meetings and say “See, I found another path.  I have been clean and sober for over a decade and I don’t come to meetings every day and treat this like a religion like you folks do.”  But perhaps I should do that.  Because they actually use the fact that people don’t do this as evidence that their way is the only way that works.  Sometimes, a person will come back to AA after a relapse, and then they all rejoice, because it reinforces the idea that their way is the only way that works.  They are vindicated.

The idea is to rise above this level of fear, and simply find what works for you in recovery, and do it.  That is what this website is actually about.  Creating your own life in recovery.


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