Arguably the best known of mutual help groups, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem. In addition to meetings in which members share their experiences, each member is encouraged to complete “step work”, which means meditating and acting upon each of the Twelve Steps. New members are typically assigned a sponsor, a veteran member who acts as a mentor and source of support.
The primary purpose of participation in AA is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. The twelve steps are intended to help a person achieve the following four phases: admission that you have an addiction and need to abstain from drinking, submission to a higher power, restitution or making amends with individuals you have harmed in any way and spreading the message of AA.
The Twelve Steps:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) is a mutual help group for people with co-occurring addiction and behavioral health issues, meaning they are engaged in problematic use of drugs and/or alcohol and they have a behavioral health condition such as depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, or others. The group is non-professional and moderated by peers. It is abstinence-based, and utilizes the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Dual Recovery Anonymous aims to address the ways in which the combination of substance use disorders and psychiatric illness affects all areas of life. It focuses on preventing relapse and proactively working to improve members’ quality of life. There are only two requirements for membership: a desire to stop using alcohol or other intoxicating drugs, and a desire to manage emotional or psychiatric illness in a healthy and constructive way.
HAMS (Harm Reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support) provides information and support for people who wish to reduce the harm in their lives caused by the use of alcohol or drugs. HAMS neither encourages nor condemns alcohol use or alcohol intoxication. HAMS supports goals of safer drinking, reduced drinking, or quitting, and offers numerous evidence-based tools to help drinkers achieve their chosen recovery goal. These include a cost/benefit analysis, drink-tracking worksheets and risk-tracking worksheets. HAMS members support one another in taking small steps toward their goal. The focus of HAMS is alcohol harm reduction, but users of any substance are welcome.
HAMS offers a few in-person meetings. Most activities are conducted online, via an online forum, a chat room, a Facebook group and an email support group that currently has over 1000 members. HAMS also offers daily real-time chats at 9 pm (EST).
An abstinence-based program founded in 2001, LifeRing offers confidential, non-spiritual, peer-based support to encourage personal growth and empowerment through face-to-face group meetings and participation in online communities. LifeRing has no prescribed steps to follow, is open to all addictions (no separate meetings for different addictions), and welcomes significant others to meetings. Religious beliefs are a non-issue at LifeRing meetings and are not discussed.
LifeRing’s principles are: Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Help. Their motto is “We do not drink or use, no matter what.” Members of LifeRing believe that people struggling with addiction have an inner conflict between the “addict voice” and the “sober voice” and that the answer to recovery lies within every addicted person.
The goal of the LifeRing program is to create and refine a personal strategy for recovery. LifeRing uses positive social reinforcement to empower the “Sober Self.” Most meetings, which can be in person or online, begin with a check-in in the form of the question “How was your week?” This gives participants a chance to report on the highs and lows of the week and to plan ahead for upcoming decisions. LifeRing encourages conversation (“cross-talk”) but discourages personal stories about drug and alcohol abuse (which they call “drunkalogues”).
In-person LifeRing meetings convene for about an hour a week and are peer-moderated. LifeRing is free to attend and operates on member donations and the sale of supporting materials such as books, brochures, wristbands and tote bags.
Moderation Management (MM) is a moderation-based support group and behavioral change program for people who want to change their drinking habits. MM is not based in abstinence but instead is geared towards those who are in the early stages of problem drinking and wish to control the role of alcohol in their lives. Moderation Management believes that through early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, individuals are able to moderate their drinking, or, ultimately, to choose to abstain.
MM uses a program called “Steps of Change” which helps members analyze their relationship with alcohol, set goals for moderate drinking, and develop self-management strategies.
What, according to MM, is a moderate drinker? Someone who usually: considers having an occasional drink to be a small, but pleasant, part of life; has enjoyable hobbies and interests that do not involve alcohol; has friends who are nondrinkers or moderate drinkers; does not drink for more than an hour or two at any one time; does not drink secretly and does not spend a lot of time thinking about drinking or making plans to drink; does not drink more than one drink per half-hour.
Some people who attempt the MM program (about 30%) are unable to moderate their drinking and may seek help from abstinence groups instead. If you are unsure where you fall, MM suggests you try to remain abstinent for 30 days and then attempt to drink in moderation. If you are unable to stop drinking for this period then MM may not be the right fit for you. MM has meetings throughout the U.S but not yet in all states. They offer tools for their program online and have an online mailing list that they say is like “a group meeting in slow motion.” Membership is free, and voluntary donations are accepted at in-person meetings.
A related website, ModerateDrinking.com, is an online program that incorporates the principles of Moderation Management. SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices says of ModerateDrinking.com, “ModerateDrinking.com and Moderation Management are complementary online interventions designed for non-dependent, heavy-drinking adults who want to reduce the number of days on which they drink, their peak alcohol use on days they drink, and their alcohol-related problems. ModerateDrinking.com (MD) is a Web-based behavioral self-control skills training program, and Moderation Management (MM) is an online support group network.” There is a fee to access ModerateDrinking.com, paid as a monthly or annual subscription.
Note: PGDF is not affiliated with and does not endorse this or any program. Please investigate any paid service for yourself before subscribing.
Rational Recovery (RR) is an abstinence-based program that is a direct counterpoint to Alcoholics Anonymous. RR views alcoholism as a voluntary behavior, not a disease. The program asserts that subscribing to a religion (or a higher power) is a personal choice and is in no way crucial to recovery. RR no longer holds group meetings and instead emphasizes self-recovery.
RR’s central philosophy is described in their “Big Plan.” It is: “a principled commitment to lifetime abstinence from alcohol and other pleasure-producing drugs, with no allowance for relapses, i.e., ‘I will never drink/use again.'”
One of the main features of RR is the Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT). The Addictive Voice (AV) is “any thinking that supports or suggests the possible future use of alcohol or other drugs.” RR calls addictive desire The Beast. The idea is to see The Beast (or AV) as a separate entity from yourself so that you can control it. AVRT-based recovery is family-centered and based on individual responsibility.
The program is delivered through an online platform and includes the use of books, videos and lectures. They offer free materials as well as an online membership subscription and an online bookstore where you can buy additional materials and receive support.
The Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS) is a nonprofit network of autonomous, non-professional local support groups dedicated to helping individuals achieve and maintain sobriety. It utilizes an abstinence-based recovery method for those who are uncomfortable with the spiritual or religious content of other programs. Both religious and nonreligious people are welcome at their meetings, and religion is not used as part of the treatment protocol. SOS believes that reliance on a “Higher Power” is not necessary to achieve sobriety.
In SOS, members share experiences, insights, information, strength, and encouragement in anonymous and supportive group meetings. The group states that “honest, clear, and direct communication of feelings, thoughts, and knowledge aids in recovery and in choosing nondestructive, non-delusional, and rational approaches to living sober and rewarding lives.”
In SOS, sobriety is a separate issue from religion and spirituality; it is the individual who achieves and maintains their own sobriety and deserves the credit for doing so. The group asserts that while the individual is ultimately responsible for their recovery, addiction thrives in isolation. Facing addiction alone is unnecessary, support from others is important, therefore group interaction can help with recovery.
There is no judgment on the form of recovery a person chooses; staying sober is the priority. The Twelve Steps used in Alcoholics Anonymous are not used in SOS meetings. Meetings are free, but voluntary member contributions support the group. Books are available for purchase on topics related to addiction as well as printed and video materials to help new groups that want to form according to SOS principles. SOS claims to be the largest non-Twelve-Step addiction recovery program in the world. Meetings are held across the U.S. and internationally.
SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is an abstinence-based support group that teaches tools for recovery and emphasizes self-empowerment and self-reliance. They sponsor in-person meetings and daily online meetings.
SMART Recovery neither encourages nor discourages spirituality or religion. The group operates a teen and youth program that includes online message board discussions. Online meetings are run by experienced volunteers who help guide discussion. There is no cost for meetings but reading materials can be purchased through their online bookstore. In-person meetings are offered throughout the United States and internationally.
The program is based on four main objectives:
1. Building and Maintaining Motivation
2. Coping with Urges
3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
4. Living a Balanced Life
OvercomingAddictions.net is an online program that incorporates the principles of SMART Recovery. There is a fee to access the site, paid as a quarterly or annual subscription. Note: PGDF is not affiliated with and does not endorse this or any program. Please investigate any paid service for yourself before subscribing.
Women for Sobriety (WFS) is the first national self-help recovery program specifically for women. Founded in 1976, its goal is to help women overcome alcohol and other addictions through their “New Life” program. WFS believes that addiction often begins in order to overcome stress, loneliness, frustration, or emotional deprivation in daily life and that women have special needs in recovery, including the need to discard feelings of shame and guilt. Influenced by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and other metaphysical writers, the central principle of this program is: ‘Change your thoughts, change yourself’.
The WFS program is based on thirteen acceptance statements. WFS asks members to get up 15 minutes earlier than usual each day in order to read and think about the thirteen statements of acceptance. Members choose one statement and use it consciously all day, reviewing it at the end of the day to see how it affected the member and her actions. The group asserts that negative thinking can lead to destructive behavior and that it is up to the individual to change her thinking in order to change her behavior. WFS members strive to view sobriety as more than abstinence from alcohol, but as a positive learning experience.
WFS holds a small number of group meetings and includes instructions for moderating one’s own meeting on their website. A small donation ($2 or more) is requested from those attending in-person meetings but no one is turned away if they are unable to donate. The “New Life” Acceptance Program can be found online, where one can also sign up for the group’s free e-newsletter, participate in chat rooms and get information about the WFS annual conference. There is no cost to access the program online but additional materials may be purchased from the WFS website.
In addition to the groups listed below, many places of worship have their own faith-based support for addiction. Contact your local church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship to find out what they offer.
Alcoholics Victorious: Founded in 1948, Alcoholics Victorious uses AA’s Twelve Steps, prayer, and the Bible to support groups of people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, recognizing Jesus Christ as the Higher Power.
Celebrate Recovery: Finding the “Higher Power” of AA to be too vague a term, Celebrate Recovery holds in-person support meetings focused on the Word of Christ for those wanting to overcome addictions of all kinds.
Alcoholics for Christ: An interdenominational Christian fellowship led by “Born Again” Christians that ministers to people with alcohol and substance issues, their family members, and adult children of alcoholics.
Lifeline NYC: A weekly recovery gathering for people of all faiths or no particular faith who help each other develop and maintain conscious contact with God as part of recovery from addiction and codependency.
Overcomers Outreach: An international network of Christ-centered Twelve Step support groups that ministers to individuals, their families, and loved ones who suffer from the consequences of any addictive behavior.
Calix Society (Catholic): An association of Catholic alcoholics who maintain their sobriety through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous but also seek spiritual development in their recovery geared specifically to Catholics.
JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others): Encouraging and assisting Jewish alcoholics, chemically dependent persons and their families, friends and associates to explore recovery in a nurturing Jewish environment.
Jews In the Rooms: Part of the In the Rooms social networking site, Jews in the Rooms is an online group for sharing experiences, strength, and hope with other people in recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders.
Jewish Recovery on Chabad.org: A web resource that includes recovery prayers, articles on Jewish spirituality and recovery, daily readings for reflection, and a resource directory of Jewish recovery communities and treatment centers.
Buddhist Recovery Network: Supports the use of Buddhist teachings, traditions, and practices by people of all faiths to help people recover from the suffering caused by addictive behaviors and strengthen their sobriety.
Refuge Recovery: A mindfulness-based addiction recovery community that practices and utilizes Buddhist philosophy as the foundation of the recovery process, emphasizing knowledge and empathy as a means for overcoming addiction.
Millati Islami: A fellowship of men and women who incorporate Islamic principles in a modified version of the Twelve Steps to recover from addiction to mind and mood altering substances on the “Path of Peace.”
Online communities that offer peer support in a conversational environment can help connect people in recovery to others who share similar experiences. The below is a list of online forums that are currently active. Please let us know if any listing is out of date by contacting us.
Recovery.org: This article lists and describes “15 Online Forums, Discussion Boards and Support Groups”, including:
Reddit.com/r/StopDrinking: This “subreddit” forum on Reddit.com is a popular forum with nearly 28,000 users who support each other in the recovery process.
We Quit Drinking (WQD): WQD is a community of many people who share the following goals: “To quit, to stay quit, to help others stay quit, and to keep in contact with those who were with us along the way. WQD is a large community with many regular posters and is not affiliated with any one particular recovery philosophy.”
The Sinclair Method: An alcohol forum whose primary focus is on the Sinclair Method.
HealthfulChat.org : ‘HealthfulChat wishes to increase your chances of staying in recovery by offering you an online peer support network which features an Alcohol and Drugs Addiction Peer Support Chat Room, alcohol and drug addiction peer support forums, and an alcohol and drug addiction peer support social network to share your successes and have a shoulder to lean on when you need it.”
Sober Village: “Sober Village is a sober community for people looking for a way to reach out to other sober people and 12 step fellowships.”
Alcoholics Anonymous forum: This is a forum where Alcoholics Anonymous members can gather on the web.
Alcoholics Anonymous Grapevine forum: “Grapevine’s chat forum where you can discuss different topics with other alcoholics and Grapevine readers. The AA Grapevine, Inc. is publisher of the International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous. Its primary purpose is to carry the AA message to everyone interested in alcoholism through its magazines, websites, and related items, which reflect the experience, strength, and hope of its members and friends on topics related to recovery, unity and service. It strives in all its activities to operate in accordance with the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, and the Twelve Concepts of AA, without soliciting monetary contributions from AA members or groups to fund operating expenses.”
The site provides alternate, secular versions of AA’s Twelve Steps, as well as listings of non-religious AA meetings, and information on how to start one’s own secular AA meeting. They also provide information and reviews on books and materials that support a secular view of AA methodology, and post weekly articles online.
Non-religious AA meetings listed on the AA Agnostica site do not recite prayers at the start or finish of meetings and believe that sobriety is achievable without a belief in a higher power. The goal of AA Agnostica is to “ensure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in AA without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or having to deny their own.”
Experience Project: I Am An Alcoholic: Personal Stories, Advice, and Support; Over 1600 People
Experience Project: I Want to Stop Drinking: Personal Stories, Advice, and Support; Over 700 people
Step12.com forum: “Miracles In Progress 12 Step Recovery Forums offers online Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon Family Group, Adult Children Anonymous (ACA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Childhood Abuse Survivors (CAS) 12 Step meetings and general 12 Step support chat.”
Patient.co.uk forum on substance misuse: UK-based. Forums on alcohol consumption, disulfiram, and other topics.
Netmums.com forum on addiction support: UK-based. Alcohol, Drugs and Addiction support: “Advice and support for members affected by alcohol or drug issues. So whether you are finding alcohol or drugs is starting to affect your life and you want to cut down, or whether you are a member who is, or has been adversely affected by the alcohol or drug use of someone close to them, you can pop in here for support. This forum allows anonymous posting.”
This article from AlcoholRehab.com offers “netiquette” advice for those who are new to online forums.
PGDF is not affiliated with any of the sites listed; please use these sites at your own risk.
Increasingly, interactive smartphone applications are being developed to support people recovering from alcohol addiction.
Step Away: Previously featured on the PGDF site, Step Away offers a self-directed program of support to help users reduce or abstain from heavy drinking.
Sober Grid: Using GPS technology to connect sober people to one another on-the-go, Sober Grid is available as a free iOS or Android app with premium features.
Clean Fun Network (CFN): CFN offers a free app to connect people who are committed to sober living and seeking opportunities for fun activities and outings. The CFN App delivers CFN Travel, CFN Events and CFN Dating to mobile and tablet devices. The app, as well as the CFN website, provide opportunities for members to plan organized or spontaneous meet-ups, connect with singles, learn about upcoming events, and join travel groups. Events include music, entertainment, sports, cuisine, yoga, travel, and more.
Sober – Social Network: Sober is a free iPhone app developed to help people living in sobriety meet, socialize with, and date other like-minded individuals nearby.
iRecover: Developed by recovering addict Jack Kelly, iRecover is a free iOS and Android app that helps app users to connect with other people in recovery. In a two-month beta test, Kelly found that people used the app not only to find local resources, meetings, and social support, but also to find inspiration. BizJournal article about iRecover>
My Sober Roommate: MySoberRoommate.com is an online community for sober people looking to meet likeminded roommates. Members can search, match, and message with potential roommates for free. The site allows members to select how much rent they are looking to pay, their age, how long they have been sober (or if they are not in sobriety but just prefer a roommate who does not drink or do drugs), whether they are looking for a room or have a room to rent, and other information of their choosing. There is also an accompanying iOS app, also free. Both allow users to anonymously find roommates and communicate through the MySoberRoommate’s messaging system.
There are a number of apps that offer 12-step based daily inspiration, mindfulness, blood alcohol calculators, and other recovery-related services. Search for ‘recovery,’ ‘mindfulness,’ ‘alcohol,’ or ‘AA’ in your app store.
A-CHESS (in testing): Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System: This program, developed by Dr. David Gustafson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is offered as a smartphone application and, “provides monitoring, information, communication, and support services to patients, including ways for patients and counselors to stay in contact.” A May 2014 clinical trial showed that the application helped users significantly reduce the number of days they engaged in risky drinking behavior.
This app is not yet available to the general public, but is undergoing rigorous testing through a consortium of healthcare organizations.
Please note that PGDF is not affiliated with the developers of these applications, and provides this listing as an educational service. Download and use of these applications is at user’s own risk.