This material is for information and support; not a substitute for professional advice.
Self-Help Groups for Alcohol Addiction
AA and Other Alcohol Addiction Support Groups
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most well-known and widely available self-help group for alcoholics in treatment and recovery. AA uses fellowship and a set of guided principles—the 12 steps—to help members achieve and maintain sobriety. The goal is total abstinence from drinking.
A key part of a 12-step program is choosing a sponsor, a former alcoholic who has time and experience remaining sober. A good sponsor helps you understand and work the steps to alcohol recovery and provides support when you are feeling the urge to drink.
AA members attend group meetings facilitated by other members—all recovering alcoholics. Meetings take place on a regular basis, at various times, and in many different locations around the world. Members are free to attend any of the many meetings held each week.
The 12 steps
The twelve-step process involves:
- admitting that you are powerless to control your addiction or compulsion
- recognizing a higher power “as you understand it” that can give strength
- reviewing the mistakes you’ve made in the past, with the help of your sponsor
- making amends for past mistakes and wrongs
- learning how to live a new life, free from old unhealthy habits and ways of behaving
- helping fellow alcoholics
Other self-help support groups for alcoholics
There are also several alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous for those who have other interests or special needs. These groups have different philosophies about drug addiction treatment and recovery, yet offer the same benefits of group support.
12-step groups for co-occurring substance abuse and mental health problems
Co-occurring disorders, also referred to as dual diagnosis, is a term used when you have both a mental health disorder—such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder—and a drug or alcohol problem.
Both the mental health issue and the addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. Whether your mental health issue or addiction came first, recovery depends on treating both problems.
The following 12-step groups address both substance abuse problems and co-occurring mental health disorders:
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is an international organization that takes a science-based, self-empowerment approach to abstinence and recovery from alcoholism.
- A network of independent meetings with an alternative recovery method
- Promotes abstinence and provides support from others struggling with the same issues
- Encourages self-empowerment approaches to recovery for those who are uncomfortable with the spiritual content of AA
- Takes the approach that sobriety is a separate issue from religion or spirituality
- Credits the individual for achieving and maintaining his or her own sobriety, without reliance on any Higher Power
SMART Recovery (Self-Management And Recovery Training)
SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a program that aims for abstinence from alcohol or drugs through self-empowerment and self-directed change.
- Emphasizes self-empowerment, self-reliance, and self-directed change
- Based on principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Teaches specific tools and techniques within a 4-point program:
- Enhancing and maintaining motivation to abstain
- Coping with urges
- Problem solving (managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors)
- Lifestyle balance (balancing momentary and enduring satisfactions)
Women for Sobriety (WFS)
Founded in 1976, Women for Sobriety (WFS) is the only national organization focusing specifically on the needs of alcoholic women, whose recovery in AA was found to be less successful than for men.
Women for Sobriety is based on the New Life Program, a series of 13 statements (such as: I have a life-threatening problem that once had me. I now take charge of my life. I accept the responsibility. I am what I think. I am a capable, competent, caring, compassionate woman.)
Premises and structure of WFS:
- The psychological needs of female alcoholics are different than for males
- Weekly meetings in small groups of 6-10 women, with a structured format for confidential discussion
- Based on thirteen positive statements to encourage emotional and spiritual growth, with emphasis on:
- Positive reinforcement (approval and encouragement)
- Cognitive strategies (positive thinking)
- Letting the body help (relaxation techniques, meditation, diet, and physical exercise)