Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous

When you’re looking to stop drinking it can be easy to fall into the belief that you should go with the program that is most well known. It’s not a one size fits all thing though, there are alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous that might be a better fit for you. Here’s our round up of the best ones!

alternatives to alcoholics anonymous

Try these Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous


SMART recovery started in 1994. SMART is an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training, emphasizing “self”or your role in recovery. It is a nonprofit, science based program that targets all addictive behaviors (alcohol, smoking, drugs, gambling, eating, sex, shopping or self-harm).

It works by using techniques from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and the program guides individuals through a 4-point program. 1) Building and Maintaining Motivation. 2) Coping with Urges 3) Managing Thoughts, Feelings & Behaviors 4) Living a Balanced Life.

You are encouraged to attend SMART meetings although you can choose to pursue recovery without attending meetings.

You can stay in SMART as long as you wish, you aren’t making a lifetime commitment to the program.

They focus on the present rather than the past and discourage the use of labels such as “alcoholic,” “addicts,” etc. They believe these labels interfere with a healthy self image. Instead they focus on behaviors and how to change them.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety (WFS) began in the mid-1970s. Jean Kirkpatrick, held a doctorate in sociology and also had a severe alcohol problem that she ultimately overcame herself by changing her thoughts. WFS works under the premise that women need a different approach than men to a drinking problem.  It’s an abstinence-based program for women, taking the position that drinking begins as a way of dealing with emotional issues and then evolves into addiction.

Rather than focus on humility and limiting self-centeredness like AA, WFS wants to empower women and increase their self-value. Members are encouraged to learn how to better manage their issues by sharing with and encouraging one another. They strongly work on substituting negative, self-destructive thoughts with positive, self-affirming ones. WFS uses 13 statements or affirmations that emphasize increased self-worth, emotional and spiritual growth, not focusing on the past, personal responsibility, problem solving, and attending to physical health.


HAMS, Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support, is a peer-led and free-of-charge support and informational group for anyone who wants to change their drinking habits for the better. HAMS Harm Reduction strategies are based upon the 17 elements of HAMS which include making a plan to achieve your drinking goal, using alcohol-free time to reset your drinking and learning to cope without booze. HAMS offers an online forum, a chat room, an email group, a facebook group, and live meetings. HAMS supports every positive change. You choose your own goal – safe drinking, reduced drinking, or quitting alcohol altogether.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) was founded in 1985. SOS advocates taking responsibility for problem drinking and handling it as a separate issue, distinct from any religious or spiritual beliefs.

SOS doesn’t follow a structured program, but it does offer guidelines for sobriety. The most important is is the “sobriety priority” – SOS feels that when one is using alcohol or drugs become the main focus in life. So in order to become free from substance sobriety must become your priority, and you “cannot and do not use, no matter what.”

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery (CR) was founded by Rick Warren, author of the bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life,  in 1990. It is aimed at all “hurts, habits, and hang-ups”, including drug and alcohol addictions, sex addiction, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and people who have been sexually abused. Celebrate Recovery is Christ Centered. It utilizes eight Recovery Principles that are based upon the biblical beatitudes each is translated into a principle of personal recovery. It also a 12 Step program although they have added a scripture verse to each step in order to keep the program Christ based. Celebrate Recovery has its own curriculum and is based in local churches with weekly support group meetings.

The Sinclair Method

The Sinclair Method is the standard treatment protocol for alcohol dependence in Finland. Developed by Dr. David Sinclair of Finland, The Sinclair Method uses a technique called pharmacological extinction—the use of an opiate blocker to turn habit-forming behaviors into habit erasing behaviors. This effect returns a person’s craving for alcohol to its pre-dependent state.

With the Sinclair Method you take Naltrexone or Nalmefene one hour before your first drink of the day daily for as long as you continue to drink. The drug is designed to chemically disrupt your body’s behavior/reward cycle in turn causing you to want to drink less instead of more.

The Sinclair Method has a 78% long-term success rate.*

The Sinclair Method has been shown to be equally effective with or without therapy. This method typically take 3-4 months to reach full effect. About one quarter of those using The Sinclair Method become 100% abstinent.

Treatment Centers

Many treatment centers rely on a 12 step approach similar to Alcoholics Anonymous however there are those who do not. The Center for Motivation and Change relies on evidence based treatment and uses two approaches – cognitive-behavioral therapy –  a practical real world approach that helps in identifying risks, stressors and areas that are in need of behavioral change, as well as actively working on developing a more sustaining life along with motivational therapy – an approach that allows each client to truly figure out what changes are important to them personally, so that these changes can be sustained in the long run. Cost and length of treatment will vary based upon the individual. Inpatient and outpatient treatment options are available along with groups for family and friends to support those in treatment.

This Naked Mind

This Naked Mind addresses the “why” of alcohol consumption and offers a unique scientific approach to help curb or eliminate drinking. The program offers the most latest research on alcohol in the worlds of psychology and neurology; and also examines the influence that alcohol has on our culture and society.

This Naked Mind also explores the roles of the conscious and unconscious mind in alcohol addiction, suggesting that a person’s unconscious mind has been subjected to a lifetime of conditioning about the benefits of alcohol. Using Liminal Thinking – participants will focus on understanding how we construct and change our beliefs to help gain freedom from alcohol. In addition to the book, there is an audio program along with an online community to help others in their journey to regain control.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it does offer you alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous that you may not have been aware existed. Don’t be afraid to try different methods until you find the one that is right for you. The importance is not in which method you use- it is in finding the success and happiness you deserve!

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