By Ryan Sawicki
Seventy-five percent of people who could be diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder end up giving up substances or other unhealthy activities on their own. For the other 25%, treatment or mutual support groups are often other options for them to begin their recovery. We’ve come a long way since Bill Wilson founded AA in a dusty church basement in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. 12-step groups were the bulk of treatment options that were available for most of the 80+ years since AA was founded, and other pathways to recovery have started blooming in cities all around the world. We now have options for a larger variety of people, and we often find that we dabble and mix these pathways together into a hodgepodge of recovery that works for the individual. Your journey in recovery is your own, whether it be science-based, spirituality, or religion. Experimenting with different groups to find what works for you may be the solution.
Refuge Recovery is a non-profit organization grounded in the belief that Buddhist principles and practices create strong foundations for a path to freedom from addiction.” Refuge Recovery uses meditation and spirituality as well as group support to maintain recovery from their Substance Use Disorder. The group typically starts with a guided meditation, followed by a reading of the Refuge Recovery book and then an open discussion where members can speak on how they related to the reading. While sponsorship is not an official part of Refuge Recovery, some groups have started what are called “mentors”, who can help guide newer members on the principals of Buddhism, as well as following the Refuge Recovery book and The Four Noble Truths. Many people who work the Refuge Recovery pathway also find it easy to combine a mix of both 12-step and meditation to their own recovery journey as well.
SMART Recovery was founded in 1994 by Dr. Joe Gerstein, and is a recovery pathway based on the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Approach (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). These groups have cross-talk, which allows for feedback and suggestions of other members, instead of the traditional style of one person speaking and no interaction between sharing of stories. SMART Recovery focuses on choice and self-empowerment and uses a science based approach to combat urges and cravings as well as irrational thinking. Due to it’s science-based approach, SMART Recovery is always updating as new information related to Substance Use Disorder becomes available. Behavioral issues, such as gambling or eating disorders, are also a focus of SMART Recovery, so people dealing with these issues may find more help than other recovery pathways.
LifeRing Secular Recovery is a secular, non-profit organization providing peer-run addiction recovery groups. It is an abstinence based recovery program with three fundamental principles: sobriety, secularity, and self-empowerment. LifeRing puts forward the idea that recovery can be achieved through a personal recovery program and peer support. Similar to SMART Recovery, these meetings also include cross-talk. While there is no official material that is followed for LifeRing, members are free to incorporate ideas from any source they find useful, including other addiction recovery groups. Members are encouraged to see inside themselves a “sober self and an addict self”, which are fighting for dominance: one side is trying to sober and well, while the other is obsessed with the drug and wants to keep drinking or using.
If you find that none of the recovery pathways above have not worked for you, don’t give up! There are still many other pathways available and you will find what works for you. Whether it be a different approach or a mix of them all, it is your own journey in recovery and only you can decide what works best for you.
First published in The Recovery Advocate, Vol. 4, May, 2019