Multiple Paths

Plain cardboard box with beautiful paint colors bursting from the top to represent LifeRing meetings supporting multiple paths to recoveryOut of the Box

Recovery + Peer Support does not always = 12 steps.

When it comes to addiction recovery, the traditional 12-step program has been the go-to approach for many rehabilitation centers. But is it really the only path to recovery? We voice an emphatic NO. Recovery is an intensely personal voyage, and all beneficial support avenues should be accessible to individuals embarking on this journey.

Mary Beth O’Connor, LifeRing BOD member and Speakers Bureau manager, takes up the mantle in her recently published article for Recovered, formerly

When I got sober in 1994, my rehab insisted, vehemently and adamantly, that the only path to recovery was the 12-step program. They repeatedly said that if I didn’t comply with every aspect of that approach, I would fail.

This article delves into the experiences of an individual who found success through alternative peer support groups, shedding light on the fact that the 12-step program may not be the right fit for everyone.

Mary Beth shares her personal journey of overcoming addiction and the challenges faced when rehab insisted on the 12-step program as the sole path to recovery. Feeling limited by the program's emphasis on a higher power, powerlessness, and a focus on defects, Mary Beth sought alternative methods to support her sobriety. This led to the discovery of other peer support groups such as Rational Recovery (now SMART Recovery), Secular Organization for Sobriety, and Women for Sobriety.

The article emphasizes the importance of informing individuals seeking recovery about secular peer support groups, especially in a society where a growing percentage of the population identifies as atheist, agnostic, or without a religious affiliation. It challenges the notion that the 12-step program is the superior option by highlighting the findings of the Peer Alternatives Study, which revealed that various peer support groups, including AA, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, and SMART, are equally effective.

To provide a comprehensive overview, the article introduces six of the largest peer support groups, showcasing their unique approaches to recovery:

  • 12-Steps: Emphasizing powerlessness, a higher power, and a structured 12-step program, with various meeting formats catering to different demographics.

  • LifeRing Secular Recovery: Focused on sobriety, secularity, and self-help, with an emphasis on self-empowerment and individualized recovery plans.
  • SMART Recovery: Utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and catering to a wide range of behavioral disorders, not exclusively abstinence-based.
  • She Recovers Foundation: Supporting women in recovery from various challenges, promoting individualized pathways to recovery without criticizing any approach.

  • Women for Sobriety: Empowering women to take charge of their lives, create new self-images, and utilize positive reinforcement techniques.

  • Recovery Dharma: A Buddhist-based approach emphasizing inner wisdom, self-empowerment, and compassion, with a focus on both substance use and process addictions.

By presenting these diverse peer support options, the article aims to empower individuals to find the right fit for their recovery journey, ultimately increasing their chances of success.

In conclusion, the article advocates for a more inclusive approach to addiction recovery, recognizing that the 12-step program may not resonate with everyone. It encourages readers to explore the multitude of peer support groups available, emphasizing that recovery is a deeply personal journey with a variety of paths to healing and growth.