I believe that the first step in recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism should be to see a doctor. There are medical treatments and psychological tools that can help you to overcome your addiction and achieve sobriety. Nevertheless, support groups can be a helpful and important component of your recovery process.
Unfortunately, until recently, the only options available were 12-step groups based on the Alcoholics Anonymous program. While these programs do not require you to follow a specific religion, they do involve prayer and having a connection with a higher power. Many people who have attended 12-step meetings have found themselves alienated by the religious component.
LifeRing is a modern organization with the goal of helping its members to overcome their addiction. If you are an alcoholic or you are struggling with drug addiction, you may find LifeRing Secular Recovery to be a good place to find support beyond your medical treatment from your doctor.
One excellent aspect of LifeRing is that each individual is able to develop a program that works best for them. A member is considered to be maintaining abstinence if you do not take drugs or alcohol or if you are following a doctor-prescribed medical program. This means that members who practice moderate drinking with The Sinclair Method, for example, would be considered sober. Or, members who are prescribed Suboxone, ZubSolv, Subutex or receive the Sublocade or Brixadi injections or have the probuphine implant would be considered to be clean and sober. Additionally, individuals who attend methadone clinics and abstain from drugs and alcohol would also be considered to be clean and in recovery.
The LifeRing Secular Recovery group can meet in person at a meeting place or it can occur in an online meeting group. There is no sponsor involved as in the 12-step fellowships. However, you are encouraged to get to know other members and communicate with them. The idea is that your sober self will communicate with the sober self of another member and you will help each other to stay clean and sober.
So, does LifeRing really help problem drinkers and people struggling with addiction? How does LifeRing compare to AA, NA or other groups? In limited studies of the success rates of LifeRing compared to Alcoholics Anonymous, individuals who wanted to achieve abstinence did equally well in either program. Again, it is important to work with a psychologist and doctor if you have addiction problems or alcohol problems.
Are there other secular organizations besides LifeRing that support sobriety? Another option is to attend SMART Recovery. Fortunately, secular organizations that do not require prayer and belief in a higher power are becoming more commonplace. It is important for people to have choices when seeking sobriety. This is particularly true when people who suffer from problem drinking are interested in a moderation program. Additionally, the C Three Foundation provides support and meeting programs specifically for members who follow The Sinclair Method which is a moderation management program using naltrexone to pharmacologically extinguish alcohol cravings over time.
For patients who are prescribed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine or methadone, the issue may not be finding a non-religious program. In the new recovery, sobriety and abstinence definitions have changed. If a doctor prescribes medication to treat opioid addiction, the patient should be considered to be in sobriety if they are free of street drugs and non-prescribed drugs. Celebrate Recovery is another option for people in MAT programs who do not want to be excluded from group activities, yet they do not mind having religion as a part of their recovery.
What about Narcotics Anonymous? NA is an organization that is modeled after AA, yet it is a distinct and different program with its own literature. Unlike other non-AA, 12-step programs, NA does not use the AA Big Book. While NA can provide support for many types of drug addiction, the program has an official position against the medication-assisted treatment of addiction. Fortunately, we do have alternatives and many other recovery programs. However, for individuals who are interested in NA, it may be a good support program for people who have completed MAT and have tapered off of treatment medications.
While it is important to have secular organizations in addition to spiritual and religious programs for peer support in overcoming addiction, we must still emphasize the importance of psychological and medical treatment. In the distant past, the approach to treating alcoholism and addiction in the medical field was inadequate. Currently, psychologists, medical doctors, and osteopathic physicians have many tools to offer that have high success rates. Going to support group meetings without psychological and medical support will not provide you with the best chance of success.
However, if you are looking for a good support group where you can find like-minded new friends who will support your goals of sobriety, LifeRing Secular Recovery is excellent in that the program is not at odds with medical treatment. The most important aspect of a support program is that it does not conflict with successful medical and psychological treatment. LifeRing meetings are available online so you can use your computer or phone to try it out right away.