Recommended Articles

5 Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 8/18/2022

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is an organization that sponsors meetings for recovering alcoholics. Meetings are typically free (or cost very little) and help people bond with other recovering alcoholics. While Alcoholics Anonymous is effective, the 12-Step principles taught during A.A. meetings are not for everyone. In these cases, alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous can help people recover from alcoholism. 

There are dozens of alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous. The best alternatives are similar to A.A. and cost less than inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. Therefore, it’s important to consider the 5 options below before choosing an alcoholism treatment method.

1. LifeRing

The platform LifeRing Secular Recovery, is a non-spiritual alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s primarily an online community but there are several in-person meeting locations around the United States. The primary treatment principle of LifeRing is that it doesn’t encourage people to place their lives in the hands of a higher power. Instead, LifeRing teaches people that recovery is possible and within their own hands. For people that dislike the spiritual component of Alcoholics Anonymous, this is a huge benefit.

Another core principle of LifeRing is based on ridding oneself of their “Addict Self.” The organization teaches people to focus more on their “Sober Self” as the addict persona weakens. Keeping this in mind, LifeRing is about looking inward instead of outward. The success rate for LifeRing is about 70 to 80 percent, which is about the same as Alcoholics Anonymous.

While LifeRing is a great alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s not perfect. One of the drawbacks is that the in-person network is not as consistent as Alcoholics Anonymous. So, there are fewer meetings to attend. The structure is also looser, which makes it easier for people to relapse.

Like Alcoholics Anonymous, it is also a peer-focused treatment modality.

2. SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a non-profit organization that spans several countries around the world. It was founded in 1994 and has in-person and online meetings. SMART Recovery is a well-rounded program that focuses on research-based treatment modalities. Some common treatment methods include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivation methods. It also differs from Alcoholics Anonymous because it’s secular and doesn’t include spiritual teachings.

The primary proponent of SMART Recovery is the 4-Point Program. The program focuses on Building Motivation, Coping with Urges, Lifestyle Balance, and Problem Solving. There is also a SMART toolbox, which includes behavioral therapy techniques. These include MET, emotive behavioral therapy (EBT), CBT, and REBT. All of the tools are used to address the 4-Point Program. SMART Recovery has a success rate that’s about the same as Alcoholics Anonymous, which is 70 to 80 percent.

While SMART Recovery is effective, it comes with a few drawbacks. It’s cheaper than traditional outpatient and inpatient treatment modalities but medications and counseling can have fees. Another limiting factor is that it’s more structured than something like LifeRing or Alcoholics Anonymous. This means that people need to follow up with meetings and engage with professionals to ensure that treatment is working.

3. Women for Sobriety (WFS)

Women for Sobriety is a non-profit organization. It’s an organization that helps women recover from alcoholism in ways that are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. The primary difference is that Women for Sobriety is designed for women. For this reason, the programs are organized around women’s recovery. It was founded in 1975 and includes women from all backgrounds. So, it doesn’t matter what religion someone is, how much money someone has, or what racial background someone comes from.

Women for Sobriety uses a New Life Program to help women recover from alcoholism. While it doesn’t have as many in-person options as Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a functioning website with online resources. The New Life Program is also unique and teaches women to look within for empowerment against alcohol addiction. The program also has a high success rate for women when compared to Alcoholics Anonymous. The average success rate is about 80%.

While WFS is well-rounded, the resources are limited and require payment (in some cases). For example, podcasts and webinars cost between $10 and $50. For people without a lot of money, the cost can add up. However, WFS is still cheaper than most professional alcoholism treatment methods.

4. SOS. (Secular Organizations for Sobriety)

SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety) is an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous that’s based on non-secular practices. SOS was founded in 1985 by James Christopher. Christopher became sober in the 1970s but wanted to create an approach for maintaining sobriety that didn’t include spiritual teachings.

While SOS is effective for alcoholism, it’s also unique because the program is for all types of addiction. People who struggle with food addiction, gambling addiction, and drug addiction can also participate in SOS programs. SOS meetings are held in-person and online, which makes it a flexible option. Some other benefits include documentaries, ebooks, and other types of literature for people to use to recover from alcohol addiction.

SOS is effective and maintains a strong success rate of about 70%. That said, it does have a few flaws. The biggest problem is that SOS requires people to purchase ebooks and other types of literature to make the most out of the program. While people don’t have to spend money, it helps with recovery because books have a lot of value.

5. Moderation Management (MM)

Moderation Management is a non-profit alcoholism treatment organization. While it teaches similar principles as Alcoholics Anonymous, albeit secular, there are a few key differences and unique benefits. The first unique benefit is that Moderation Management does not require abstinence from alcohol to be successful. Instead, the organization focuses on teaching people to manage their alcohol addiction with literature and meetings.

For these reasons, Moderation Management doesn’t help people quit alcohol. The main goal is to reduce the harms caused by alcoholism and alcohol abuse, which reduces the amount of alcohol that’s consumed. Compared to Alcoholics Anonymous, it has a success rate that’s close to 80 or 90 percent. It’s more effective than Alcoholics Anonymous because it’s easier to maintain moderation than it is to quit drinking entirely.

While Moderation Management is effective, it has a few drawbacks. The most notable drawback is that it doesn’t help people quit alcohol. Individuals who want to quit alcohol and remain sober for the rest of their lives find more success with programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous is a multinational fellowship designed to aid recovering alcoholics. The organization teaches the 12-Step principles, which are based on spiritual teachings and healing methods. It’s for this reason that Alcoholics Anonymous is associated with Christian and faith-based treatment methods for alcoholism.

Alcoholics Anonymous also has some notable features that separate it from other treatment modalities. First and foremost, A.A. is a non-profit organization and people of all ages and backgrounds can attend meetings. Meetings don’t cost any money to attend either, which separates them from professional alcoholism treatment methods.

While Alcoholics Anonymous is effective, it’s not a professional form of treatment. It’s more about bonding and forming relationships with other alcoholics who are in recovery. Additionally, people work with sponsors to help with accountability.

How Do the Alternatives of Alcoholics Anonymous Work?

The alternatives of Alcoholics Anonymous work differently depending on the treatment modality. Alcoholics Anonymous uses spiritual teachings, which is why many people choose to use alternatives. Therefore, most treatment alternatives don’t use spiritual teachings. Instead, they use evidence-based programs and tactics like behavioral therapy, which is the major proponent of SMART Recovery.

There are also alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous that use similar methods but without therapy. One example is LifeRing, which is almost identical to Alcoholics Anonymous but without the faith-based component. There are also methods like Moderation Management that help people control their alcohol consumption as opposed to helping people remain sober. 

What is the Success Rate of Recovery in Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous?

The success rate of recovery in alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous varies based on the alternative method. To provide perspective, Alcoholics Anonymous has a success rate of about 70% (for maintaining sobriety). 

Most alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous have a similar success rate. For example, LifeRing has a success rate that’s almost identical to Alcoholics Anonymous. It has a similar success rate because it helps people maintain sobriety but without using spiritual teachings.

On the other hand, alternative methods like Moderation Management have a higher success rate than Alcoholics Anonymous. Moderation Management has a success rate that’s almost 90% because it doesn’t strive to help people maintain sobriety. Instead, it helps people manage their alcohol consumption to reduce the risks associated with alcohol abuse.

Other methods like Women For Sobriety also have high success rates when compared to Alcoholics Anonymous. Women For Sobriety has a slightly higher success rate because it focuses on the unique struggles that women face during the recovery process.

Which Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous Are for Beginners?

Every alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous is effective for beginners. That said, some methods have a higher success rate than others. For example, Moderation Management (MM) helps people reduce their drinking. Reducing alcohol consumption is easier than quitting alcohol and remaining sober, which is why Moderation Management is a great choice for beginners.

Another effective alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous for beginners is LifeRing. LifeRing is a great choice because it doesn’t include spiritual teachings, which can be hard to overcome for some individuals. LifeRing is also a good choice because it allows people to manage their addiction at their own pace with online and in-person communities.

Are there Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous for a Successful Recovery?

Yes, there are alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous for a successful recovery. Alternatives like LifeRing and SMART Recovery are two examples of successful alternatives with a high success rate. Some additional methods like the Sinclair Method are also effective for alcoholism treatment but the goal of abstinence varies. In fact, the Sinclair Method has a success rate of over 80%.

Ultimately, Alcoholics Anonymous is not the only affordable alcoholism treatment modality. There are several options to choose from, especially if professional help is required. For example, people can choose inpatient or outpatient treatment options, which are more structured and professional. Outpatient and inpatient treatment methods typically have a success rate that’s upwards of 70 to 90 percent.

People who are opposed to the structure of Alcoholics Anonymous benefit the most from alternative treatment methods. Individuals who don’t want to participate in the religious aspect of the 12-Step philosophy also benefit from alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous.