Advise Me

12 Options for Recovery if a 12-Step Program Isn’t the Right Fit for You

For a lot of people, 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), are lifesaving. They support people throughout their recovery as they face the challenges that come with addiction. However, some people find that 12-step programs aren’t the right fit for them. 

“Twelve-step programs can be very effective, but may not be the best fit for everyone,” said Anita Karnik, MD, a psychiatrist with The University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix Addiction Medicine Fellowship. “For example, some people may not relate to concepts of relying on a higher power — a message that is often given in 12-step programs. Also, while many people seek 12-step programs that are led by peer support, other people feel they benefit from programs that incorporate professionals to help address mental health and medical concerns.”  

The good news is there are many options for people who have substance use disorders, and everyone can choose the approach that works best for them. “Recovery is a personal experience, and there are many tools you can incorporate into your journey,” Dr. Karnik said. “I focus on education for my patients, their families and other medical colleagues to destigmatize addiction treatment, and work with each patient from a whole-person approach.”
Here are some other methods and strategies that can help you overcome addiction and live a healthier life.

1. Professional counseling and therapy

Talking to an addiction and recovery specialist can give you a safe, supportive place to explore the issues that underlie your addiction. A professional counselor can help you develop the coping skills you need to manage your triggers and cravings. 

2. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you ways to change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to addiction. With it, you can learn how to build healthier habits and strong coping mechanisms as you work towards recovery. 

3. Support groups

You can get help from others who are in recovery in support groups that aren’t structured like 12-step programs. In-person and online groups can help you connect with the assistance you need. 

You may want to look into SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Moderation Management or Women for Sobriety to see if their structure and philosophies match your needs. “Each of these groups has a different approach to recovery,” Dr. Karnik said.

4. Holistic approaches

Many people find holistic approaches such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices and art therapy support their recovery efforts. These activities can help you manage stress, improve emotional well-being and find purpose. 

5. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

Medicines such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone can help you reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Combining medication with counseling or therapy is a powerful way to move toward recovery and may be the right fit for certain people.

6. Online resources and apps

You can find a lot of online resources, recovery apps and virtual communities that can provide you with support, education and motivation on your recovery journey. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a lot of options.

7. Self-help books and workbooks

Books and workbooks that focus on addiction recovery and personal growth can give you valuable tools and insights so you can independently work on your recovery. 

8. Individualized treatment plans

It’s crucial to tailor your treatment plan to your needs and circumstances. By working with a health care provider, you can create a comprehensive plan that addresses your specific challenges.

9. Dual diagnosis treatment

Many people with addiction also struggle with other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Treating both conditions at the same time can be effective and make your recovery more sustainable.

10. Engaging in healthy activities

Recovery may leave you with a void that used to be filled by substance use. Exploring healthy activities and hobbies such as physical exercise, volunteering or pursuing creative interests such as music, art or writing can support your recovery efforts and enhance your overall well-being. 

11. Moving toward your goals

On the path to recovery, it is important to move towards other healthy goals. Examples might include interacting more effectively with your family, managing workplace stressors or learning to cope with negative emotions. “These are all factors that can have an impact on your overall sense of wellness in your recovery,” Dr. Karnik said.

12. Finding what works best

Recovery is a personal journey. In the same way that 12-step programs don’t work for everyone, these approaches may work for some people but not for others. By exploring different options and trying new methods, you’ll find the strategy that resonates best with you. 

“The best path for overcoming addiction is the one that works for you. Everyone’s path will look different. You may need to explore various options before you find what works best,” Dr. Karnik said. It can be helpful to navigate your options with your health care providers and other addiction specialists to learn about different methods. 

The bottom line

While 12-step programs help many people on their recovery journeys, they aren’t the right fit for everyone. Seeking support is a brave and important step toward a healthier and happier life, and exploring different options can move you in that direction. Recovery is a journey worth taking, and you don’t need to do it alone.

Professional support can help you recover from addiction. To connect with an expert who can help you find the approaches that work best for you, reach out to Banner Health.

Other useful articles

Behavioral Health Rehabilitation