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If you’re thinking about joining a self-help recovery, you may be responding to a suggestion from your therapist. Or you may be bravely taking this step on your own accord. 

Whatever your circumstance, you should first know that you’re doing the right thing. Reams of studies show that individuals who attend peer support meetings have higher rates of recovery and abstinence than people in recovery who don’t. Some studies even indicate that you’re more likely to remain abstinent than someone who is receiving medication only or undergoing outpatient treatment only.  

Now that you’re ready to join a self-help recovery group, how do you find the right one for you? Following are some thoughts to consider. 

Spiritual-based vs. Secular Groups

You may be aware that 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) include spiritual principles based on the existence of God. However, use of the term “God” is not a requirement for joining AA or any other 12-step program. In fact, in its publication called The “God” Word, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services states that many of its members are atheist or agnostic. If God is not a term you’re comfortable with, you can try substituting it with the term “higher power.” 

If relating to a higher power isn’t your thing, you can also find recovery support groups based on secular principles. 

  • SMART Recovery bases its program on cognitive-behavioral approaches to treating addiction. Meetings are geared to help members maintain their motivation, develop coping skills. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for self-empowered addiction recovery is also an important aspect.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery encourages members to develop their own personal path to recovery with the support of positive social reinforcement. The organization provides a workbook with tools to help you build your personal recovery plan. 
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) has members focus on sobriety as their number one priority in life.  Employing the precepts of personal responsibility and self-reliance is key.

Interest-Specific Groups

Joining a peer recovery group where you have something in common with others can feel comfortable and welcoming. Whatever your demographic or interest, you’re sure to find a group where you feel you fit in, such as:

You can also find recovery groups dedicated exclusively to women, men, youth, seniors, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and even specific professions, such as doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, and professional athletes. 

Family members and significant others can also find support for living with a loved one in recovery through groups such as Adult Children of Alcoholics, Families Anonymous, and Nar-Anon

In-Person vs Online Groups

Whether to join an online group or in-person group is another point to consider. Attending face-to-face meetings offers undisputed advantages. It’s easier to get to know people in person, to read emotions and body language, and your peers can better interpret how you’re feeling, too. 

But if attending an in-person group isn’t feasible, an online recovery group also can provide you a source of connection, support, and personal development. With an online group, you can easily expand your social circle, and if you don’t like one group, you can try another. 

Online groups can vary a lot in format and quality, so here are some things to look for when choosing a group to join:

  • Does the format of the group work for you? Some groups offer “synchronous” or live meetings at scheduled times to encourage consistent participation. Others are “asynchronous,” meaning you can post and receive communications at any time of your choosing. 
  • Does the group have a facilitator; if so, what are their qualifications? Facilitators with addiction and mental health expertise will be able to offer sound guidance and education. 
  • Are there established ground rules for participants to ensure respectful communications?
  • Are there regular topics discussed to provide some structure and ongoing interest, or are people just left to share what they want? 

The Bottom Line

Whether you join an online or in-person group, you should be able to notice some personal benefits from your participation over time. These gains may include: 

  • Feeling supported by others also focused on a healthy life in recovery
  • Staying motivated to continue your recovery
  • Improving your skills to cope with life challenges
  • Learning more about addiction and treatment options
  • Noticing improvements in depression and anxiety

The path to lasting recovery isn’t easy. But having the ongoing support of others who understand your challenges can make all the difference in the world. If you’re ready to take the first step towards your recovery, consider talking to a treatment specialist at (888) 401-1241 and know your options.


Diana Lomont has 20 years of experience in healthcare as a communications professional. With a BA in Journalism and MS in Writing, Diana enjoys researching and sharing evidence-based strategies to help others achieve wellness. Her background includes developing content on topics ranging from addiction recovery and mental health to state-of-the-art medical treatments. At the time of this writing, she is affiliated with Rehab Media Network.


  1. The right AA Group for me was the one I went to for a court paper to be signed that had a lot of loose women around that I(Mr. GoodLooking) ended up messing around with! “Practice these principles in all your affairs” Yea Bill W as written by the original 13TH Stepper!
    There were some sick people in the group like the real 13TH Steppers who would push themselves on Newcomers under the guise of helping them, when their intention was bedding them.There were people there with agendas, not alcohol problems looking to use people like those who had a lot of money and were vulnerable because of their addictions.There were the local community snoops who would got to a meeting to see and hear who was an alcoholic in the neighborhood and listen in for some gossip material. There was the ex con who sobered up and found God who everyone took under their wing who relapsed and went around and broke into the houses of all that helped him and proceeded to rip these people off.
    The right group is like a Circus in Town!.Welcome to The Jungle

  2. Yes finding the right group is so important I personally group all the 12 based groups as one because of the spiritual bases and then you have the other groups. I run a dharma recovery group and also attend a secular AA group. I got into recovery because of the AA program. So I am 12 step person.
    My view of recovery is like a garden you have a vegetable garden a flower garden and herb garden. Are they any less gardens. If some growing something there garden that I find use I going to plant it my garden.
    Even in the Big Book said they don’t have all the answers and feel free to barrow stuff from science and religion if it helps.

  3. Axel, I hope you are doing better and have found a path to recovery that works for you. If you found another way please share it so we can learn about other options that are effective. I haven’t heard about many other options that work long term so I’m honestly curious and that’s why I read this article.

    That group sounds like a great example of people not “practicing the principles” in ANY of their affairs. Did you try any other groups? I’d run for the hills too if I saw that kind of hypocrisy, chaos and dishonesty.

    All AA groups are not perfect. I started in a beginner’s group and it was helpful but not very focused on the solution. I started looking for a group with more experienced and healthy group members and with way less drama and war stories. The new group I found actually talked about the solution! It helped me learn how to apply the principles of recovery in my life on a daily basis and develop emotional recovery so I wouldn’t just be a “dry drunk”.

    12 Steps is not for everyone but, in my experience, most people don’t try the 12 step programs due to misunderstandings about them. If people would just work to find a healthy, positive group they could have their misunderstandings addressed and gain access to a very effective program. Plus 12 step groups are free of charge, they are available all over the world anytime of the day and provide opportunities for us to help others escape the prisons of their addictions.


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