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Ask Chicagoist: Alternatives to AA?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Apr 11, 2008 7:33PM

2008_04_askalcohol.jpg Why is AA the only model of recovery we ever hear about/see anything about on television? Is that really the only way people "get sober"? Are there other sobriety programs active in Chicago that appeal to, say, atheists?

There are other programs around, they just don't have the far-reaching impact of AA. But everyone's different, so we don't see why that has to be the end-all-be-all of sobriety programs. Huge caveat here though: We would never deign ourselves worthy of making recommendations on something as serious as dealing with alcoholism. We think the best course of action would be to discuss options realistically one-on-one with a counselor to figure out what will work best for you, before staking your sobriety and chances for recovery on any program, be it AA or something else. You could pull up google and wikipedia and find any number of studies and first-hand accounts that discuss the attrition or failure rates, as well as the remarkable successes of Alcoholics Anonymous.

As for the "God" aspect to the program, we think that too would likely all depend on you personally, and shouldn't be discounted when determining a recovery program. Many self-professed atheists seem to do fine in AA programs -- although apparently more do drop out than those who hold spiritual beliefs. We're not sure how we would handle it, but thankfully, we don't have to. All something to discuss with a trained professional.

That all said, there are some alternatives out there in Chicago.

SMART Recovery (Self-Management And Recovery Training) is a group recovery program for all types of addictive behaviors, that does not have a religious aspect to it. The program does advocate abstaining, and says it "teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance," "evolves as scientific knowledge evolves," promotes "tools and techniques for self-directed change," and "advocates the appropriate use of prescribed medications and psychological treatments." It strikes us as a secular, scientific version of 12-step programs. There are online meetings, and one face-to-face meeting in the city.

Women for Sobriety is a program "dedicated to helping women overcome alcoholism and other addictions." It was founded in response to a study that showed that traditional treatment programs worked better for men than for women. Their specific focus is a "New Life Program" which is "based upon a Thirteen Statement Program of positivity that encourages emotional and spiritual growth." It strikes us as AA with a focus on women -- so keep in mind the spiritual aspect is there in this program as well. Meetings are confidential, and they will only give out the information if you contact them.

Moderation Management is all about moderation, not abstinence. They do not claim to be a program for an alcoholic, however. They are for a problem drinker at the beginning stages of alcoholism, who may be starting to exhibit signs of having a drinking problem, to hopefully deal with the issue before it explodes. They believe that more people will join a program like theirs in the beginning because they will not label them as alcoholics. As for meetings, there is one in Evanston, and another starting soon in the city.

These seem to be the "big three" alternative programs, but there are even more out there. Read SoberRecovery and AA Not The Only Way for links to even more treatment options. And also, don't forget about looking into Alcoholics Anonymous itself. It may be the perfect program for you. Whatever someone decides, we think having choices and knowing yourself enough to make those choices is likely the most important step of all.

Image by monstershaq2000

Six too many drinks last night? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.