Resisting 12-Step Coercion

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Appendix B: Secular Self-Help Groups

There are five important alternative (to AA) self-help groups in the United States. Unfortunately, none of them have been subjected to controlled studies, so there is no proof yet of their efficacy. We surmise that all of them are more effective than AA (if for no other reasons than that attendance at them is overwhelmingly voluntary and because they do not inculcate the harmful 12-step "powerless," "disease," and "loss of control" concepts); but, at present, there is no scientific evidence to support this belief.

For those coerced into AA, NA, MA, or CA participation, however, there is some good news: at various places in the United States attendance at the groups listed here is considered an acceptable alternative to 12-step group participation. Unfortunately, this situation varies widely from locale to locale, and alternative group meetings are not available in many places. Still, it's easy to find out if there are meetings in your area, and it's sometimes possible to persuade probation or parole officers that attending one of the alternatives is an acceptable substitute for 12-step group participation. Contact the following groups directly for information on meeting locations.

A brief description of the alternative groups, in alphabetical order, follows:

Moderation Management: MM, founded in 1994, suggests guidelines and limits for moderate drinking, and provides professionally advised meetings for those attempting to moderate. MM provides a sup- portive mutual-help environment that encourages people who are concerned about their drinking to cut back or quit drinking before their drinking problems become severe. For more information, or for groups in your area, call (425) 844-8228, or write to Moderation Management, P.O. Box 27558, Golden Valley, MN 55427. Web site:

Rational Recovery: RR, founded in 1986, is based on Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT), and is a total abstinence program. RR advises that participation in recovery groups is not necessary for those who learn AVRT. For more information, or for groups in your area, call (530) 621-2667, or write to Rational Recovery, P.O. Box 800, Lotus, CA 95651. Web site:

Secular Organizations for Sobriety: SOS, founded in 1985, believes that alcoholism is a disease, and thus takes a strict abstinence ap- proach. Its program consists largely of the "Sobriety Priority," which is a daily acknowledgment that staying sober is one's highest priority. For more information, or for groups in your area, call (310) 821- 8430, or write to SOS, 5521 Grosvenor Blvd., Marina del Rey, CA 90066. Web site:

SMART Recovery (Self-Management And Recovery Training): SMART was incorporated as a non-profit in 1992, and states that its teachings "are based on scientific knowledge, and evolve as scientific knowledge evolves." SMART is a time-limited, free, professionally advised abstinence program that views addictive behavior as learned behavior that can be unlearned by correcting inaccurate and self- defeating thinking. For more information or for groups in your area call (216) 292-0220, or write to SMART Recovery, 24000 Mercantile Road #11, Beachwood, OH, 44122. Web site:

Women for Sobriety: WFS is the oldest founded in 1975 of the modern (non-12-step) programs, and is dedicated to helping women overcome alcoholism and other addictions. WFS accepts the disease model and is an abstinence program. Its "New Life" program is specifically designed for women. For more information or for groups in your area call (215) 536-8026, or write to Women for Sobriety, P.O. Box 618, Quakertown, PA 18951. Web site:

Recovery Alternatives: An on-line clearinghouse for alternatives to AA, including these primary alternative groups as well as other groups and web sites. Web site:

For a more thorough discussion of the alternatives to AA, see Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?, (2nd Ed.) (Bufe, 1998), which contains detailed descriptions (in most cases self-descriptions) of the self-help groups listed here.