The Importance of 12 Step Alternatives

12 step program
Photo by glegorly/

When most people think of addiction recovery the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional twelve-step model. While this approach has certainly helped some people regain control of their lives, it is important to note that it is not the best approach for every person. Some people have tried the 12 steps and simply did not like them or find them to be beneficial, which is okay. Many different types of people have different needs which is why it is important for people to have options when it comes to addiction recovery.

I don’t want to bash the 12 step method. I have friends who have benefited from this approach, but it is important for families out there to know that there are other options available. Being in long-term addiction recovery myself, I know first hand the benefits of having options for treatment. Prior to going through the Narconon Program eight years ago I tried going the traditional 12 step route and there were some things about it that just didn’t work for me.

Meetings are not always helpful

Before I went to Narconon I tried going to several meetings. Something about them made me feel really uncomfortable and about halfway through I couldn’t wait to leave so I could go drink. Some people find meetings to be of great benefit, for me personally they just made me want to drink even more. I didn’t like the idea of having to go to them for the rest of my life in order to stay sober.

Self-identifying as an addict on a daily basis can be harmful

Another aspect of meetings I didn’t like was having to call myself an alcoholic at the start of every meeting. While I know that when I am drinking I am an alcoholic, I personally do not like thinking of myself this way. The longer that I have been sober, the less I think of myself as an alcoholic. Sure, I had an alcohol addiction in the past and because of that I have made the choice to never drink again, but it’s not something I think about on a daily basis anymore. I now just think of myself as someone who is in long-term recovery, not an alcoholic that is white-knuckling it through sobriety every day.

Not everyone wants to feel “powerless” over their addiction

A sad teenage girl looking thoughtful about troubles
                                 Photo by Brasil2/

The last thing that really didn’t sit well with me was the idea that I was powerless over my addiction. It’s true that when I drank I was unable to control myself, hence the addiction. But in my opinion, I do have power over my addiction. I have the power to not drink anymore, and I have the power to create a better life for myself which is exactly what I did.

On May 23rd 2012 I checked into the Narconon Program and have been completely clean and sober ever since. I found several aspects of this program, as listed below, to be beneficial to my long term sobriety.

The opportunity to get sober in a safe environment

In order for me to actually stop drinking I needed to get away from my everyday life. I had tried and failed several times to stop drinking on my own. Countless times I would wake up in the morning with the resolve to never drink again, but by the time 5 p.m. rolled around, I found myself at the liquor store on my way home from work. I needed to be in a place where I wasn’t able to get alcohol until I became strong enough to say no.

The Sauna Detox Program

The sauna detox program is one of the many things that sets the Narconon program apart. In many ways doing this portion of the program helped me feel like I was able to hit the reset button on my body. By the time I was done I was sleeping better, thinking more clearly, and just felt better physically than I had in years. While it was certainly challenging, I attribute a lot of my success during the first year of my recovery to the opportunity I had to really cleanse my body.

Self-realizations through the Objectives course

The objectives course provided me with the opportunity to come up with several realizations about my past and present situations in life. I began to understand myself on a much deeper level and I gained a level of patience and self-control that I had not experienced prior to doing this course.

Learning to confront one’s problems and being comfortable sober

One of many major realizations I had during my time at Narconon was that I had spent years of my life running away from my problems. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin unless I was under the influence of some type of substance. Through doing various aspects of the Narconon program I was finally able to address these issues and lay a firm foundation for my sobriety.

Accepting responsibility for past mistakes

Another major contributing factor to my drinking problem was the guilt and shame I carried around because of mistakes I had made in my past. When I was finally able to sit down and acknowledge my past mistakes and take responsibility for them I was able to finally learn from them and leave them all behind.

Recognizing destructive patterns and learning from them

Yong sportswoman drinking fruit juice she made in a blender at home.
Photo by Drazen Zigic/

By analyzing my past mistakes I was able to see my self-destructive patterns and how they played out through my life. Once I finally did this I was able to put an end to all of the madness that had become my life. I no longer sabotage myself on a consistent basis and I have developed healthier habits for living my life.

Gaining new life skills to help me stay sober

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of doing the Narconon program was the opportunity I had to develop new life skills. I realized that a major aspect of my drinking was that it had become an attempt to self-medicate in response to the stress in my life. By learning new life skills I was finally able to develop healthier coping mechanisms and establish constructive habits in my life. Anybody can stop drinking or using for a period of time but if they don’t learn better ways to deal with things it is, unfortunately, only a matter of time before they pick up again.

So while there is nothing wrong with the traditional 12-step model, I myself am grateful that there are alternatives out there for people who are looking for something different to help them gain control over their lives. On a personal level, the Narconon Program has helped me to not only get sober but maintain my sobriety over the course of the past eight years. If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction and would like to explore alternative options to “traditional treatment” I would highly recommend giving Narconon a call.

Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.