Can Recovery Without 12 Steps Work?

Twelve-step programs are shown to help improve the chances of successful long-term recovery, but can you enjoy successful recovery without 12 steps?

Participation in a 12-step program is often a central part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Twelve-step programs offer a high level of peer support and accountability, but they’re not necessarily right for everyone. For some, 12-step programs are problematic for a variety of reasons. Here’s how to enjoy successful recovery without 12 steps.

Many Pathways to Recovery

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that there are many pathways to recovery, and what works for some people won’t necessarily work for others. A holistic approach to addiction treatment¬†involves choosing a variety of pathways that work for you, and this is essential for success.

Twelve-step programs are just one pathway. The 12 steps provide a clear, actionable guide to recovery that leads to greater self-awareness, improved relationships, and a higher level of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-compassion.

But many people have a problem with some of the steps, such as those that require you to admit powerlessness over your addiction and turn your life over to a higher power. For these individuals, successful recovery without 12 steps involves finding alternatives to Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

That’s because while 12-step support groups aren’t essential for success, successful recovery does require a high level of social support. While support from friends and family goes a long way toward helping you stay sober for the long-term, support from peers in recovery offers an added layer of personal accountability, and it can help you develop healthy relationships with other non-users. Support groups for people in recovery undoubtedly help improve your chances of success in a variety of ways, including:

  • Preventing or reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Providing a safe place to vent frustration, anger, and other negative emotions.
  • Making it easier to ask for help.
  • Sharing experiences, tips, and advice.
  • Offering a deeper perspective on a variety of problems and issues.

The good news is that for those who want a high level of support in recovery without 12 steps, there are a number of alternatives to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. These can offer the same benefits as 12-step programs, but without the religious undertones.

Here are four support groups that offer support in recovery without 12 steps.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a popular and effective support group that’s based on four essential points. This program helps you:

  1. Build and maintain motivation to continue on the path of recovery.
  2. Effectively cope with cravings and other triggers.
  3. Manage negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  4. Live a healthy, balanced life.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

The Secular Organizations for Sobriety is a non-profit support group with chapters all over the world. SOS provides a science-based approach to recovery that focuses on self-empowerment. SOS operates on the belief that sobriety is separate from religion and spirituality, and successful sobriety doesn’t require you to turn your life over to–or even believe in–a higher power.

LifeRing Secular Recovery

Similar to SOS, LifeRing Secular Recovery doesn’t require belief in a higher power. Its meetings are focused on helping you develop and refine the tools, skills, and strategies that promote ongoing abstinence and find purpose and meaning in life apart from drugs or alcohol.

HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol

HAMS is an acronym for “harm reduction, abstinence, and moderation support.” HAMS is based on 17 Elements that help you develop skills and strategies for making positive changes in your life based on where you are now and where you hope to go. You can pick and choose the Elements that work for you, and you can move through them in any order. The Elements include:

  • Goal setting.
  • Identifying your risks.
  • Developing an action plan to help you achieve your goals.
  • Developing coping skills to help you with cravings and high-risk situations.
  • Learning to believe in yourself.
  • Developing a higher level of self-awareness.

A holistic approach to addiction treatment will ideally involve a support group of some kind, and choosing a support group that aligns with your beliefs, values, and preferences will help ensure a successful recovery for the long-term.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.