LifeRing Overview for Professionals

Participation in LifeRing Secular Recovery is compatible with a wide variety of abstinence-based therapeutic and counseling programs.

Empower Your Programs and Your Clients

LifeRing Secularity Recovery is a peer-to-peer nonprofit organization that honors the philosophy that there are multiple pathways to recovery. LifeRing serves as a recovery network to empower those searching for substance use support, and as a companion pairing with other recovery programs to support SUD recovery.

LifeRing groups are abstinence based and do not support moderation and controlled use approaches. That said, LifeRing does understand that everyone’s journey to recovery may not look the same, and participants may attend LifeRing meetings on their way to an abstinence-based lifestyle. LifeRing asks that participants under the influence abstain from sharing at group level, but LifeRing convenors and members can offer support to ALL participants.

LifeRing defines sobriety as abstinence from alcohol and non-medically-indicated drugs. We are supportive of members appropriately taking medically-indicated psycho-active medications prescribed by an informed professional - this includes MAT and pain management medications.

LifeRing is based on the “3-S” philosophy. The first “S” stands for “secular,” meaning there is no religious talk in LifeRing meetings. LifeRing welcomes individuals of all faiths and none. That is not to say that LifeRing members need not participate in spirituality, just that it’s not a/ part of the LifeRing foundation. The second “S” stands for “Sobriety,” and represents LifeRing’s abstinence-based approach. The third of the 3 S’s stands for “Self-Help.” This simply reinforces LifeRing’s belief that the key to recovery is an individual’s own motivation and effort. There are no “steps” to follow and each member is encouraged to create their own, personalized recovery plan.

There is no hierarchical structure within LifeRing and members are only encouraged to identify in ways that they feel comfortable identifying. LifeRing encourages members to feel empowered, and not powerless. Crosstalk is not only allowed in LifeRing meetings but is encouraged. The topic of many of LifeRing’s meetings is simply, “How was your week?” and members are encouraged to share high and low points and what they are actively doing to maintain their recovery. LifeRing offers focus meetings, including but not limited to, friends and family support, LGBTQIA+, meetings for Spanish-speakers, and a meeting for those in recovery who also struggle with related medical issues, and others.

Peer Alternatives for Addiction (PAL) Study LifeRing PublicationsConnect with a LifeRing Rep


LifeRing offers a variety of recovery support meetings

Connect with a LifeRing Representative: • 800.811.4142

LifeRing offers a variety of meeting formats and over 90 online and in-person meetings every week. Have a look:

Peer-to-Peer Meetings

LifeRing Secular Recovery offers a wide variety of online and in-person meetings throughout the world. Our meetings are anonymous and designed to strengthen your commitment and help you build a personal recovery program.

Check-in:  How Was Your Week? Focus on this and upcoming weeks

Topic:  Focus of discussion varies

Focus:  Recovery meetings for people with specific commonalities

Online:  Virtual meetings; focus on discussion varies

In-person:  On location group meetings; focus on discussion varies depending on interests of group

Hybrid:  In-person and online combined; focus of discussion varies

EGroups:  Group messaging operating much like a 24/7 online meeting

Chat Rooms:  Online text meeting space open 24 hours a day

ePals:  Volunteers work one-on-one to help you navigate LifeRing's resources

Delphi Forum:  LifeRing's anonymous online discussion board

Friends & Family:  Support meetings for people with someone in recovery they love

How Does LifeRing Work?

The LifeRing approach is compatible with a wide variety of ab­stinence-based treatment programs. The basic LifeRing therapeutic orientation is pragmatic and eclectic. The expert may readily identify elements of cognitive behaviorism, motivational interviewing, solution-focused therapy, role-playing methodology, and many other schools of thought in the LifeRing mix. There are letters of reference for LifeRing from treatment professionals. Although the LifeRing approach is different from 12-step, LifeRing has operated for years side-by-side 12-step groups without friction.

Founded in 1997, LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based, worldwide network of individuals seeking to live in recovery from substance use disorder. We offer each other peer-to-peer support in ways that embrace personal growth and continued learning through personal empowerment. Our approach is based on developing, refining, and sharing continued abstinence and crafting a rewarding life in recovery. In short, we are sober, secular, and self-directed.


LifeRing guiding principles are evidence based and evolve as new science emerges. The three fundamentals of LifeRing are sobriety, secularity and self-help. These principles are what make LifeRing Secular Recovery a healthy and accessible recovery option for everyone!

LifeRing is not a 12-step program. There’s only one “step” – Don't drink or use, no matter what.  The philosophy is equally bare-bones:  The “Three S” Philosophy:  Sobriety, Secularity, Self-Direction.

Sobriety means abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, unless medically indicated and taken as prescribed. This includes medically-assisted treatment, which LifeRing views as a decision you make with your treatment providers. LifeRing believes you succeed when you make sobriety your #1 priority. Living each day free from alcohol and other addictive drugs-living as our “sober self” is our top goal.

Out of respect for people of all faiths or none, LifeRing conducts meetings in a secular way, which means we do not use prayer or talk about religion. Our common shared belief is dedication to personal effort and the sober self through scientifically based recovery methods. We support each other in taking responsibility for our own recovery and learning the skills necessary to live a long-term sober life.

All meetings, publications and peer support activities focus on personal recovery.

Empowering your sober self means taking action and maintaining a perspective that supports living drug and alcohol free. Joining meetings and using various tools at your disposal brings recovery within your reach.

Your recovery is based on self empowerment, your motivation and your efforts. You decide what works for you and build your sobriety upon that foundation. This is your journey. We’re here for support.


LifeRing Participation in Peer Alternatives for Addiction (PAL) Study and Ongoing PAL2 Study

On May 6, 2022, The NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) released its new report Recommend Evidence-Based Treatment: Know the Options. This report reviews the benefits of mutual support groups naming LifeRing in the top three secular support groups and includes data from the Peer Alternatives for Addiction (PAL) Study detailed below:
Research suggests that three of the largest known secular groups in the U.S.—SMART Recovery, LifeRing, and Women for Sobriety—appear comparable in effectiveness to 12-step programs for people who have a goal of abstinence. People in any of these mutual help groups have greater success in achieving abstinence if they become actively involved with their group, as measured by, for example, meeting attendance, having a sponsor or close friend in the group, or volunteering for the group.



In 2018, the Alcohol Research Group published the findings from their Peer Alternatives for Addiction (PAL) Study. LifeRing played an integral part in this national study comparing 12-step groups to mutual help alternatives. Here are two abstracts based on this study published in the PubMed Central® (PMC) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM):

A longitudinal study of the comparative efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step groups for those with AUD

Conclusions:  This study makes a valuable contribution in view of the extremely limited evidence on mutual help alternatives. Results tentatively suggest that WFS, LifeRing, and SMART are as effective as 12-step groups for those with AUDs, and that this population has the best odds of success when committing to lifetime total abstinence. An optimal care plan may thus involve facilitating involvement in a broad array of mutual help groups and supporting abstinence motivation.

Zemore, Sarah E et al. “A longitudinal study of the comparative efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step groups for those with AUD.” Journal of substance abuse treatment vol. 88 (2018): 18-26. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2018.02.004
Bar graph showing bivariate associations between baseline primary group affiliation and 12-month outcomes
Comparison of 12-step groups to mutual help alternatives for AUD in a large, national study: Differences in membership characteristics and group participation, cohesion, and satisfaction

Conclusions: Results suggest differences across 12-step groups and their alternatives that may be relevant when advising clients on a choice of mutual help group. Meanwhile, findings for high levels of participation, satisfaction, and cohesion among members of the mutual help alternatives suggest promise for these groups in addressing addiction problems.

Zemore, Sarah E et al. “Comparison of 12-step groups to mutual help alternatives for AUD in a large, national study: Differences in membership characteristics and group participation, cohesion, and satisfaction.” Journal of substance abuse treatment vol. 73 (2017): 16-26. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2016.10.004
Bar Graph showing percentage endorsing each alcohol goal by primary group in the PAL sample


LifeRing Publications

Martin Nicolas, co-founder of LifeRing Secular Recovery, has published a number of engaging books for individuals seeking recovery and for service professionals wanting a greater understanding of LifeRing's core ideas and recovery support strategies. Those seeking a solution to alcohol and other drug problems and professionals assisting people with Substance Use Disorder will find great value in these books published through LifeRing Press.

Impage of Book: Empowering Your Sober Self is a great read if you're looking for a powerful alternative to 12-steps programs.Empowering Your Sober Self, 2nd Edition
The one book to read for an introduction to LifeRing. Written for the person who wants to get free of alcohol/drugs, for their friends and relations, and for the professionals who treat them.
"A sophisticated, insightful, well-documented view of the philosophy and practice that are at the heart of the LifeRing approach. This book offers a perspective on recovery that can motivate change in clinicians and researchers as well as among individuals struggling to find their sober selves."
Carlo DiClemente, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, and author, Addiction and Change
"With impressive analytical clarity and therapeutic generosity, Nicolaus presents a well-argued brief for understanding the complexities of addiction treatment and accepting the full range of diverse paths to recovery. . . . [Anyone] wanting insight and balance on a vitally important public health issue will appreciate the author's lively and respectful presentation."
Judith Herman, M.D., author, Trauma and Recovery
Image of Book: Recovery by Choice -- This is a workbook supporting freedom from SUD recovery Recovery by Choice - A Workbook, Living and Enjoying Life Free of Alcohol and Other Drugs
Effective professionals tailor the treatment to fit the client. This is as true in the treatment of addictions as in any other practice.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), after a nationwide study of addiction treatment programs, found that:
"No single treatment is appropriate for all individuals. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to each individual's particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society."
Recovery by Choice is the first workbook that applies this basic principle of effective professional treatment to the recovering person’s own self-treatment, or self-help. It provides a structure for the recovering person to build an abstinence-based recovery plan that matches his or her particular problems and needs — an abstinence-based Personal Recovery Program. Based on ten years’ work in support groups, the book presents the recovering person with a series of real-life choices.  The options are highly detailed, concrete, and knowing.
Image of Book cover. How Was Your Week is an easily grasped handbook for people facilitating LifeRing meetingsHow Was Your Week? A Convenor's Handbook, Bringing People Together in Recovery the LifeRing Way
This is a critical handbook for the core members of the LifeRing network: the people who start and lead LifeRing meetings, or perform other services that keep the organization humming.
The How Was Your Week? Handbook offers an in-depth exploration of the basic model of the LifeRing recovery process: the division of the addicted mind into an addict self (A) and a sober self (S).  It outlines the fundamental process at work in LifeRing meetings: empowerment of the sober self.
A major portion of this book focuses on the basic philosophy of LifeRing — the three S philosophy. Chapters on Sobriety (Abstinence), Secularity, and Self-Help offer the deepest and most detailed analysis of these foundations in print.  A separate chapter introduces the basics of building a personal recovery program.  Although aimed primarily at the convenor, the How Was Your Week? handbook is accessible to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of what LifeRing is about.
Image of a book cover -- Humanly Possible. This is a collection of secular recovery success storiesHumanly Possible - Stories of Secular Recovery. Kathleen Gargan, Editor; M.K. Co-editor
This powerful collection of personal stories focus on success in recovery from substance addiction. There are many such books, but what sets Humanly Possible apart is its emphasis on secular recovery.
These are the stories shared by members of LifeRing Secular Recovery and other secular recovery pathways who successfully battled their substance use disorders through self-empowerment. They are living proof that recovery without religion is not only conceivable but readily achievable. The stories offered in this volume, of individuals living free of addictions by means of purely secular ideas, tools and practices provide powerful testimony that what was not long ago thought to be possible only by means of supernatural intervention, is also “humanly” possible.
This volume was inspired by the need for such evidence. Without it, countless people whose worldview is strictly secular, have had little basis for believing that they might live according to their own conscience and be free of addiction at the same time.


For more information or to speak directly with a LifeRing Representative, please email: or call:  800.811.4142

LifeRing Secular Recovery provides an abstinence-based, secular, and self-empowered substance use recovery pathway through our network of peer-to-peer support meetings.
LifeRing is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization - EIN 94-3267919